Today I went to the post office to mail my required documents to the Embassy of Afghanistan. It was a complicated jumble of paperwork with a number of steps. After several trips back to the counter with my questions, the postmistress watched as my shaking hands tried to stuff everything into a too-small envelope. “Isn’t it a hassle renewing your passport?” she said. I looked up quickly realizing she hadn’t looked at the address. “Oh no, I’m not renewing my passport. This is for a work visa.” She glanced down and gasped “Why are you going there?” I told her how I was going to be working at CURE’s hospital in Kabul and how nervous I felt just filling out the paperwork. She looked at me intently and asked, “Then why are you going?” There was a long line behind me so I just smiled, thanked her for her help and left.
Her comment made me think about the times I’ve simply had to believe that God knows what He’s doing and step out in faith, in spite of a queasy stomach and shaking hands. Sometimes we do what we have to because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s easy. Fear and comfort have never been deciding factors in whether I said yes.
Looking back, I am truly thankful for the stormy seasons, for they have taught me far more than balmy lulls. In fact, it can be very freeing to feel like you’ve lost everything. In the process, you also lose all your excuses.
When I shared my fears with a friend she asked me, “Are you having doubts about going?” I emphatically told her no. I have no doubt whatsoever about whether this is what I am supposed to do. “What are you afraid of?” she asked me. I told her I didn’t know. Then she told me about a time in her life when she was about to take a big leap and her friends asked her what she was afraid of. She said to me, “I realized I was afraid that my life was going to change. And it did.”
That was it. I’m not afraid of doing the wrong thing, but I am afraid that my life will change.
I’m afraid because when you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.
But I have learned that callings don’t go away. We may try to ignore them, and perhaps even forget them for a while, but as we are still and quiet and take time to heal, we remember who we are and who God has called us to be.
If I only paid attention to my rational mind, I would never leave my house. So I have had to tune out that inner critic inside my head and instead, start listening to my heart; that soft, persistent whisper, the True North of Spirit who has been waiting patiently for me all this time.
I can trust that inner compass.
I do have a choice. I could say no. I could tell God to send someone else, that I am too comfortable with my princess and the pea pillow-top mattress, hot showers, and clean drinking water. I could shrink back in fear. And I have done that before.
God called me at the age of 19 to go and heal the sick. Like Jonah, I ran the other way, afraid of what I had been asked to do. Almost 30 years later the call remains. I just never expected it to be Afghanistan.
Yes. I am afraid. I am afraid of pain, violence, hardship, fatigue. I ask myself can I do this? Can I really do this? And the answer is NO. I can’t do this. But I have been called to do this and I have chosen to say yes. I will go. I know it won’t be my own strength that I am leaning on and if God has called me to fly, then he will give me the wings to do so.
Maybe I couldn’t save my mother, or my sister or even my father, but I can return to the land of the people my mother loved. The land of my ancestors. My healing journey is calling me there. I have found it to be true, that as we heal others, we heal ourselves, and as we heal ourselves, we heal others.
Sometimes just showing up is all that’s required.
“All calls lead to some sacrifice because even just one choice closes the door on another…Every sacrifice though; every step towards action, every response to a call necessitates a leap of faith and is done without knowing the outcome. It is, as Kierkegaard described, the epitome of anxiety meeting courage.” – Gregg Levoy