My heart is so heavy right now.
The weight in my chest is making it hard for me to sleep some nights. I wake up thinking, “I can’t do it, God! I don’t think I can do it.”
In less than three weeks, I leave for Sierra Leone for a two-week mission trip with my oldest daughter. I’m thrilled for us. I’m beyond excited to see my friends who live there. I’m giddy about being part of women’s ministry and sharing the Gospel with girls and women. I am filled with an expectation for the amazing things God will do…for them, for me, for my daughter.
But I can’t mask the sadness. I cannot explain to Tatum — my 17-month-old who is my 24/7 buddy — what’s happening. She doesn’t know I’ll be leaving soon and not returning in the morning or after a weekend. What if she cries and wants nothing to do with me when I return, as she did the first time I left for the weekend?
My heart is incredibly burdened. So I do human things….
Perhaps if I kiss her more now I’ll miss her less?
Maybe extra snuggles?
Can I make her giggle again today? All day? If I hear her giggling all day, I will surely feel less sad.
Will she let me hold her more today than yesterday?
I want to sit and smell her baby smell, cradle her in my arms and never let her go. I actually FEEL the impending pain of being separated from her in the quiet moments when I rock her before bedtime.
Maybe you understand or can empathize that horrible gut-wrenching feeling of being apart from your loved one. I will miss the others, too. I can barely sleep without my husband Dan next to me. And my “baby boy,” whose snuggles are becoming rare as his interest in his mom is being traded up for something better — junior high girls. He has his first “girlfriend.” And I wonder…will he be interested in a hug from me at all by the time I return?
It didn’t help when I got on Facebook and learned that today has been five years since Dan was sick — really sick, near death sick with pneumonia and sepsis.
What if something like that happens when I am away? I know how quickly health can become fragile. What a terrifying thought!
Have I told him how much I value him? Does he know I love him? What if he doesn’t know? What if something happens to one of us?
Why did I ever consider going in the first place?
Sometimes when I am honest with myself, I truly wonder.
And then God reminds me.
Love is…giving when you feel like taking. Love is…sacrifice. Love is…pain.
What, Lord? I mean, excuse me? Please, explain.
Remember when I sent my only Son to suffer a life of human condition? And if that weren’t enough, to be flogged, beaten, crushed, stabbed and suffer a miserable death on a cross? I love Him so much. But I did it because I love you, precious one. Even when you sin. Even when you’ve turned your back on me. Even when you’ve cursed me. Even when you’ve taken everything I’ve given you for granted. That’s how much I love you. I want to spend eternity with you, so I made a way. A way that came with sacrifice and pain.
I suppose I cannot hug Tatum and Dan and Ryker enough, try as I might. There are not enough kisses in the world to express my love.
But God gives me another way — an unexpected, slightly painful sacrificial way to love. It may not be what I would choose, but in obedience, I go. I know. I’ve been. I understand. True love lays down his life. True love picks up a cross.
No matter how many times I have done it, it hasn’t become second nature for me. It still is not easy. I think, maybe it’s because of the baby. Maybe my faith would be stronger if I wasn’t leaving her behind. But maybe she’s another way that God is building my faith. And the faith of those who are watching, my family.
I don’t know what your cross is. It might not be a two-week mission trip, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without sacrifice and palpable pain. We are all missionaries when we pick up our crosses. It doesn’t look or feel like love sometimes. It is questioned by the world. Why would anyone do such a thing? Whatever your “thing” is, dear friend, I understand. I feel your pain. I know it’s hard.
But the joy that comes from obedience cannot be matched. I stand with you in sorrow and celebration for the cross you are picking up today.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?