A letter to Missionary Kids
“Dear Friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7a
Dear Fellow M.K,
The other day I was watering my garden – a novel thing for me since I grew up in a concrete jungle. I really don’t know much about gardening, and I’m learning as I go! Did you know you can over water a garden? I didn’t. And I have the rotting squash to prove it! Apparently, the roots took in too much water and the ‘fruit’ couldn’t grow properly and the squash went kaput. So, I took a break from watering for a few days. I felt sorry for my plants, not getting all that wonderful nourishment, but I just envisioned those roots creeping further and deeper into the soil, causing them to get good and strong and learn to find richer nourishment from the deeper, moister soil. I decided that the best thing for my plants was no water for a little while so they could grow stronger and develop better, more wholesome ‘fruit’ (okay, I guess they’re really vegetables)!!
It made me think of my life as an M.K. I looked back on times when I was surrounded by the thrilling friendships and glories of summers spent with friends and bonding times at youth events. I remember that I ‘drank in’ those friendships – that nurture, just like a thirsty plant. And you know, I must admit, my soul was filled! I exulted in those special times and felt so nourished. For some reason, it seemed, after those times, often God would allow me to then face a time of drought. I felt parched. I felt desperate. I felt lonely. Where were my friends? My life sucked. Okay, maybe it didn’t really, but that was what I thought at the time. Back to real life. Back to school, back to misery, back to the grueling day-to-day events that often depleted my energies and left me longing for friends and a social support system.
I guess you could say I became a little depressed. The pain would become intense when I needed someone to talk to, and there was no one. Do you know what the drought did to me? It challenged me to choose. I had to decide what I would do with these empty feelings, with the problems in my life.
Psalm 1 tells us about the person who is blessed: “His delight is in the law of the Lord…He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” During those parched times of loneliness my roots were needing water – the water of God’s Word, the water of His presence. More than my need for friends and a social support system, I needed Him, and His allowing drought was, in effect, to force my roots to dig deeper to find the better, richer nourishment that He provides in knowing Him, in walking with Him, in seeking Him daily.
I hope that doesn’t sound trite. I get really annoyed when people tell me to just ‘read and pray more,’ as if that could solve all my inner and outer problems so simply! It doesn’t solve problems, not most of them anyways. But I will tell you this: it is one part of getting your roots stronger and learning to nourish yourself on the richness of His Word.
I am able now to look back at these seasons of drought in my life and recognize how important these times were to the development of my relationship with the Lord. Never was He so real to me when I entrusted Him with my loneliness, when I journalled my thoughts and prayers, longings, feelings and poured these out on paper, often with tears, before Him. I look at these times as crucial in my journey of faith.
So, dear MK, are you facing a bit of drought lately? Where does God want your roots to grow? Could it be that He is Shepherding you, challenging you to choose, guiding you to dig deeper into the nourishment that He provides in His Word? Where does He want you to carve out time to journal your heart before Him in your life today? How might He be drawing you closer to Him?
There was one year where I was so intensely lonely and felt I could not connect with anyone around me. It was my first year in college – my second in the U.S. I was still recoiling from a life of withdrawal, good-bye’s and disillusionment with relationships that were never going to stay put. It was during that year that I prayed fervently for a friend – just one or two – just someone I could connect with who wouldn’t think me so odd and foreign. And in those times of prayer I came to see that God Himself was the answer – the first answer to that prayer. Yes, in time, He answered with human friends, but initially He alone was my answer.
It is disheartening to go through life building friendships and relationships only to have people move on, or move away. The most natural desire is for us all to be together and not split up! It is not surprising that many MK’s end up emotionally detaching from others; that we look more cautiously on future friendships, learning not to become too attached for fear of the pain of departure, which is inevitable. For a time I secretly vowed to myself that I would not love others so deeply anymore – it was just too painful. That was a convenient fix until I saw what 1 John 4:7 tells us, ‘Let us love one another.’ In 1 Peter 1:22 it says, ‘Love one another deeply, from the heart.’ I guess my efforts at self-preservation were less than holy.
No, the option of withdrawing, while natural and easy, was not an option for one who is seeking to live a life honouring to the Lord. If we are to love one another deeply from the heart, then my hurts, wounds and pain are to be brought to the Lord for Him to heal, for Him to see and know, for Him to allow my roots to grow deeper into the rich soil of His Word.
And since I was a kid, things have changed. Now we have email. Now we have internet and all sorts of cool means of communicating. Friendships can continue, though we still miss seeing each other, right?
My challenge to you dear MK, is keep pressing on! Grow deep in the soil of God’s Word! Read the Psalms and recognize that it is normal, right and good to pour out your heart to God. See that David, who was a man after God’s own heart, felt lonely: “I am like a desert owl of the wilderness…I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop…” (Psalm 102, go read it sometime). You are not alone, but you may feel like it.
After a few days of parching my garden a bit, I had pity and went back to water it. And I think God does that with us too. He sees just how much dryness we need to grow and allows it until He sees change is needed. We can trust our Gardener to do what’s best for us. And in time, He will refresh us with times of bonding and friendship with others of His children. In the meantime, He wants us to bear rich fruit in season and not to let our leaves wither.
Your fellow M.K,