I can’t do this. My thought as I watched pale washed out colors of early morning bring the first hints of dawn. I love flying. No matter how many times I do it I always appreciate the fact that in this modern age I can be in the middle of clouds and see them up close. But not that morning.
The things the Great Commission says… the principles of cross cultural work organizations teach their workers before sending them out… the expectations of what our partners thought a worker is supposed to be and do… everything we learned in college about engaging a people group… It all landed on me like a ton of bricks while I was thousands of feet in the air flying to Asia.
The end of a long process of getting my husband and myself ready to “Go” and the official beginning of our cross cultural work. And I realized even with everything I had learned and the ministry experience of a few years in the States- I had no idea how to actually do any of the Great Commission stuff in another country and culture. I couldn’t just make these things happen no matter what strategy I followed. Everything I knew seemed irrelevant.
How did all of these supposedly mature & wise mentors & teachers from our past in Christian Universities, supporting churches and our organization think we could come over here and do this?
During the years we had been preparing for this moment I felt confidence in the Lord that every aspect of my life, not just one, was ministry. Every part of my life mattered to God. I had experienced walking with Him, making disciples in my own culture, growing to know Him more. Before this moment I was convinced that my location or work wasn’t as important as being still in my soul & drawing strength from Him. I’d felt certain God would help me be faithful and intentional about the tasks in my life. Bloom where you’re planted and all of that.
But now on my way to Asia I was uncertain. Inadequate. Headed from the familiar into… who knew what?
A little ways down the road I saw some feelings about my abilities were right. There were areas I needed to grow in. Some were wrong. There were strengths from my personality and experiences God would use.
But what mattered most in that moment wasn’t being able to trust my strengths or being aware of my weaknesses. I had the heart of the matter wrong.
What if- while running through my thoughts- I had found some new confidence in my abilities to put my heart at ease? I would have been fine in the moment, but when things went wrong and my abilities weren’t enough I would have come crashing down. Or if I encountered someone who was not as strong in the same areas I may have judged them.
If I stayed paralyzed in fear of failure and insecurity I would have become ineffective. Depressed. Caught in the comparison game of why I couldn’t do things as well as someone else.
What was the heart of the matter? What were my true responsibilities? My thoughts were so clouded. I asked God to help me see Truth.
Later I read Psalm 57 in my window seat. As I took in the breaking dawn, verses seven through eleven became my theme for what I was supposed to be and do in Asia.
My wavering heart grew steadfast. I was reminded even in my new expat life my work was to Be Still.
Not to cease from all work, but to live in dependance on and bring praise to the One who created me. That had not changed just because my location was changing.
He would continue the process of conforming me to the image of His Son.
The work of building His church, drawing people to faith in Christ, creating opportunities to make His love and truth known? Changing the hearts of others? His work. Not mine.
It was impossible for late twenties, American young woman, human Chrissy Winslow to do any of that. But I could obey as I followed and get back up in forgiveness after falling. I could live my whole life before Him as an act of worship whether folding laundry, cooking, going on a walk, meeting new people, growing in friendships, learning a language, or teaching English. Simply by trusting God and living well in the situation He’d placed me in.
This became the moment God brought me back to whenever my thoughts went haywire from stress or the complications of life.
During my seven years in Asia I often had to hit the reset button. To deliberately reorganize my life and time for the priorities of abiding in Christ, focusing on the tasks He’d given me, and letting go of draining ones He’d never asked me to take on (without feeling guilty or saying sorry).
Something I didn’t understand in that moment- what the Holy Sprit had communicated to me in those verses would become a life changing shift in my view of God, life, and ministry. I didn’t understand the journey I’d just started or the depths of change God would work in me to walk in Truth and let go of what is false. But these are thoughts in hindsight. In that moment I had just what I needed.
After reading Psalm fifty seven I settled back into my window seat with a steadfast heart. Not because I thought I could go change the world, but because I knew God was capable of carrying out His plans. He would be exalted in Asia and my life.
It wasn’t an emotional moment, but it was transformative.
Outside my window I could see light growing behind a gray cloud and spreading across the sky. Instead of being clouded by false thinking, understanding finally broke through and my mind was renewed in Truth for the journey ahead.
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
Psalm 57: 7-11
John 15: 5
Ever wonder what practical steps cross cultural workers take before leaving for the field? Here is a link to an article describing a few of those decisions: