My Heart Aches, yet My Spirit is Fulfilled

I’ve recently returned from a mission trip, and I’m struggling with the re-entry. I love my home and my life stateside, yet that week away was remarkable. There is something about communal living with other believers that feels incredibly special and God-inspired: the amount of prayer, the deep conversations, and can I say, pure kindness that surrounded our group, I left feeling fulfilled. My heart aches now that we are home. 

I was all-in for our 10-family trip to Puerto Rico over Spring Break. We served Hunger Corp. by building, trenching, and painting, as we repurposed a mechanic’s garage into a home for Sonia and Tony. Any tension our group felt around fundraising $80,000, not knowing everyone, or living the week in all-men or all-women hostels instead of with your family, quickly melted away by the smiles and excitement each of us packed along for our adventure. Having gone on two prior mission trips (one with friends, the other with families), I knew the go-with-the-flow mentality needed for moving 38 people to each activity, and it seemed like everyone else did too.

From my past experiences, I knew re-entry would likely be difficult again. I stayed off social media, as seeing our friend’s gorgeous resort vacation pictures was prompting me to have additional feelings of conflict about our counter-cultural decision. Some emotions were around comparison. I felt sorry for myself having to stay in a bunk bed at the Casa Sur house with the yucky outdoor lounging space, and I envied others’ golden tans compared to my winter-pale legs because my job of stucco and floating was in the shade. Other emotions (and I am hesitant to share) were judgmental feeling towards others who weren’t compelled to support us.

When asked about our trip, I simply summed it up as amazing, that I missed all the conversations about God and praying in the moment, but I held off going into too much detail. I was experiencing internal conflict -my soul was filled with gratitude for our experience, but my thoughts were bouncing back and forth like a tug of war in my brain. It was exhausting and probably in everyone’s best interest that I stay silent for a few days as I sought God in these areas.

My internal conflict was the godly sorrow Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 7:10:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

The ways of the world were competing against the desires of my spirit and soul. By taking the time to journal the tension, I discovered that the things I loved about my trip are areas I want more of in my day-to-day:

*Attending church in person because the worship and community are stronger than in my family room. Even in a foreign language, the message was understood. God’s grace is sufficient. Solo Christo.

*Meeting face-to-face with people – A few of us were allowed the opportunity to meet Sonia and Tony. Later, as we apologized for taking the time, our Hunger Corp. liaison Eileen sweetly reprimanded us, “People are more important than the project. Building into Sonia and Tony’s hearts is just as important, more so really, than building their home.” What is preventing me from being with godly people each day?

*Surround myself with people who desire faith to guide them through life, marriage, and parenting. One of the women in Casa Sur has an amazing gift of prophecy and prophetic prayer. It was a joy to soak in her knowledge. These are the coffee dates and walks I want to continue at home.

*Hosting others – even though we had the least nice accommodations, Good Word Project friend Jen and I have the gift of hospitality, so we hosted the moms for ladies’ night in our ugly backyard – we even pulled together a charcuterie platter of random snacks. It was life-giving to all, and a reminder that true friends just want to be invited. They don’t judge your home or your appetizers!

Our week was a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. It felt wonderful because God created us to be drawn to Him, to desire His goodness and pureness. Think about your favorite time in nature – there is something spectacular about the sun, the lake, the mountains, etc. that we can’t quite photograph or paint. But we desperately want to tightly hold onto that feeling, that connection with our Creator. That’s the feeling I took home from my trip. And I want it to continue.

The internal conflict between my flesh and my Spirit produces growth in spiritual maturity. God will continue to refine me to desire more of His things, as well as draw me away from areas He doesn’t want me to pursue anymore. To date, I haven’t been told to sell everything and become a missionary. Nor has He permitted me to keep living life as I have. I am hopeful that the slowing down of the summer and more intentional Sabbath time with God will reveal His desires for me. The challenge for all of us is taking the time to lean into the tension and listen to God, then follow where the Holy Spirit directs us.

It has been two months since our trip and my heart still aches. It’s not a broken heart. It’s a yearning heart. The ache is soulful and Spirit-filled, as I realize the great aspects of the trip are difficult to replicate in everyday American living. You might have noticed the areas I journaled are all centered around people. God designed us to live among other followers of faith. And with that thought, my heart swells. Through our mission trip together, God has formed new friendships, sparked teenagers asking for Bible Study, Dad’s gathering around the firepit in prayer, and even renewed faith. I know God is preparing me and my family for more Kingdom work, but at this point, only God knows what will come next.

Isn’t it fun when all the puzzle pieces come together? That’s the vision God always has. We have the perspective of hindsight as our “ah-Ha!” God has had that view from the very beginning. So open-handedly we wait. We listen to where our Spirit leads and we celebrate when we get the “ah-Ha’s!” along the path.

Please pray with me …

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us glimpses of You in the world. Thank You for nudging us out of the comforts of home to help others, and to learn more about You. Thank You for the tension, so that I don’t forget about this trip and go back to my old ways. I desire more of Your goodness and to be surrounded by people of faith. Please use my family and our new mission trip friends to strengthen your Kingdom and invite more friends to life with You. Amen.