The Life I Never Knew I Wanted
- Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Warm sweaters, wool socks, every pair of underwear I own—check, check, check. How do you pack to go to the other side of the world for an indefinite period of time? I never would have dreamed this plot development in my life's story.
It was September 6, 1999. After years of praying, dreaming and preparing, I was moving to Russia as a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ and I didn't know how long I would be there. At 27 years old, I was thinking I would be there for five to seven years. I was about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life and, at the same time, one of the greatest challenges of my life. I guess adventure and challenge go hand in hand.
I have always wanted to make a difference, to be a part of something significant. Knowing Jesus and growing in my relationship with him has been the most significant element of my life. It really was and is the thing that gave context to everything else—everything. Decisions about what activities I would participate in at school, conversations with friends, how I chose my friends, how I viewed relationships with guys. You could call me an idealist. That is not to say that I didn't struggle with sin, because I knew I was far from perfect.
The problem was that I didn't always know how to relate to others who came from a different perspective. I could articulate my point of view and even listen to theirs . . . but then what? I wasn't sure. Most times my attempts at taking the conversation deeper ended in a debate or in the other person disengaging and abandoning ship. My approach wasn't working.
It was hard to find people who understood me and, frankly, I didn't understand them either. In my strategic plan for finding companionship, the pickings seemed close to nonexistent. I wasn't too troubled. Sure, my parents had known one another since childhood, but what was the likelihood that my lifelong friends or my mate would be one of the 4,000 students who walked the halls of my high school. What I needed was a bigger pond!
I'd like to think that I attained a higher level of social maturity in college. In fact, I'm sure I did. I found some like-minded friends who demonstrated an abundance of grace and patience with me. I learned what it meant to be a friend to those who saw eye-to-eye with me on most issues, as well as to folks like my potluck roommate whose style involved a bizarre potpourri of skeletons, Jane's Addiction T-shirts, and Mickey Mouse posters. I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and learned how to share my faith with strangers and how to lead a prayer movement among my peers. I also learned how to have fun. Nothing crazy—I was still a strategic idealist living for Jesus, but I found that fun could be very enjoyable as well as valuable.
As my date of departure for Russia drew near, I fielded a lot of questions. By far, one of the most common was this: 'Don't you want to be married?' Many equated finding a suitable mate with geographical placement. Many of them wondered, "How in the world could she find someone to marry in Russia?" It's not that I wasn't thinking about getting married—I certainly was. At the same time, I figured that I had spent quite a few years in geographical locations that placed me around hundreds and hundreds of like-minded singles. I had not yet found my mate in their midst. Contrary to what many of my friends seemed to think, staying in their company didn't seem to be a guarantee that I would end up living out a "happily ever after" ending.
More importantly, though, I was absolutely convinced that I was supposed to go to Russia. It was strategic, it was a cause greater than myself, it was something I wanted to do with my heart as well as my mind, and I had a peace in my heart (along with a great deal of trepidation) that by going to Russia I would be living out one of the purposes for which I was created. If God created me to do this, it didn't make any sense to me that he would punish me for doing what he wanted me to do. He is kind. He is loving. And he promised that he would not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. Even though I wanted to get married, how did I know that was really what was best for me? I had to trust him.
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