A few weeks ago I completed year one in Honduras. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived here forever, other times I feel like I blinked and those 365 days went by. If I am being honest, the majority of this past year has felt like climbing a mountain that I might never get to the top of. In fact, many days I’ve felt like the summit of the mountain doesn’t exist. I’m here, sweating (a lot), climbing, and trying to pull others along with me. While there is SO much joy in the journey up the mountain, there is also more heartache than I can explain, often leaving me feeling defeated, exhausted, and burnt.
Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve slowly been working through a book called Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors. She is the founder of Amazima Ministries and an incredible writer of truth. Throughout her book, she talks about various situations that have been extraordinarily hard for her. Many moments, like my own, that have left her feeling like there is an impossible mountain in her path.
The timing of this book was divine. I needed a change. I needed a way to walk into year two with more stability. I needed to understand what it means to be working through so much broken. I needed someone to remind me that having hope is indeed, daring, but that to have hope is to be brave in walking a broken road. I needed to figure out how to continue what was most important to me, but make it deeper, fruitful, and sustainable.
“And if compassion truly means to suffer with, then seeing our visitors with new eyes, being compassionate as He is compassionate, is not to pity, not to extend a hand of charity, but to be truly broken, to feel gut wrenching pain when we see others suffer. In this way, maybe we are not called to alleviate suffering as much as we are called to enter into the suffering of others and walk with them through it.”
I spent a lot of time in year one attempting to alleviate suffering. I wanted to be a fixer, to make problems vanish and to complete projects on a long to-do list. I don’t want to say that what I did in my first year was wrong, it isn’t. However, as I’ve spent time reflecting on what life looks like here in the years to come, I crave stability. I want to be here for the long run. Attempting to alleviate suffering is often a short-term fix, which leads to short term service. I didn’t want to look at people as a project I could complete or a situation that I could improve, because that isn’t what God does. Just like me, so many of the people in my surroundings just need to be marinated in His relentless love, favor, and grace. We are asked to receive one another, care for one another, and above all, love one another. That means that we are to mourn when others mourn, step into their darkness with them, and dare to hope that even in the darkest place, He has promised to make beauty from ashes.
Recently I’ve been walking alongside a child who has been battling addiction the vast majority of his 15 years. He’s been connected to the street since the age of 2 and lacked a significant amount of love throughout his childhood. Needless to say, he is tough and the road to sobriety has been painful, both as he is physically aching for a vice and emotionally as he is confronting so much of the suffering that the drugs have blocked out for years. Bringing that suffering to the surface has led to some dark moments, conversations, and places. My only option was to jump in the darkness with two feet, to cry alongside him and to declare with him that the past isn’t definitive of what the future will bring. We’ve talked endlessly about a light at the end of the tunnel when the chains of addiction are broken and he is free to find the guy he is meant to be. Above all things, I’ve wanted him to know that in this dark place, Jesus is with him and for him. But how would he ever believe my words if I wasn’t there in that same place, showing him that I am with him and for him too?
As I’ve gone through this book, God has reminded me time and time again that His love is most evident when we walk alongside others in the dark. She writes; “the temptation may be to look away, but in doing so we might miss the glory, all the beautiful ways He is remaking us through the hard.” Going into year two, I am promising to never let myself be afraid to enter into suffering. I often think about how easy it would be to walk away. To walk away from different kids, situations, the country as a whole. But what if I’d miss the chance to bear witness to the beauty He is forming? Striving for longevity here includes letting myself be vulnerable and to remind myself constantly that life is about walking with people, both in sorrow and in great joy.
When the mountain seems impossible, I will jump into the dark with two feet and dare to hope for even just a hint of His glory.