Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Tear Collector

[what's brewing today: the stuff that keeps you up at night]

It was late and high time to be falling asleep, but I could not get my thoughts to slow down. My sister delivered her first baby today, a precious baby girl. This was a day that we dreamed of together since we were old enough to talk. I couldn’t believe my sister was now a mom, but even more difficult to believe was the fact that I would be moving out of the country, thousands of miles away from this precious baby in just 6 weeks. I knew all along it would be difficult to go, but until I held that little bundle in my arms tonight I didn’t know just how difficult it would be.

My heart was aching, and suddenly the weight of moving away from my family seemed too heavy to bear. My throat was sore from holding in my tears, and I decided to make my heartache known. “Honey?” I quietly cried out to my husband. No response. “Honey?” I said again, a bit louder. Nothing. How could this be? I feel like I’m on the edge of an emotional breakdown and my husband is sleeping peacefully next to me? I need to talk – I need to be heard, right now. I contemplate waking him, but know I will only be disappointed with his groggy response when I explain the reason he’s awake.

So I lay there, alone.

The tears start pouring down my cheeks and before I know it I’m shaking with emotion. I’m simply overwhelmed with the thought of leaving, and sad that I’m alone in this pain tonight. As I lay there crying, I suddenly have a thought so clear that I know it is not of my own mind. “You’re not alone. I’m here with you. I am the one who collects your tears, whether anyone else in the world knows of them or not. I know your heartache and I’ve promised to be near to the brokenhearted.”

I have never audibly heard God speak to me, but I am often spoken to in this way –a pressing thought that I know is not of my own thinking. As I silently interact with those thoughts, my conversations with God begin. “Oh Lord, how quickly I forget that you are the only one who truly knows my heart and the joys and pains within it. I had no idea how hard it would be to leave my family – I feel devastated over it tonight.”

My thoughts continue from there, guided by the Lord I am sure. Oh, how fortunate I am to have a family that I am grieved to leave behind. The orphaned and abandoned children that we will soon be living among do not know this feeling – they have no family members to love, nor family to love them in return. The capacity to feel this pain is a blessing that devastatingly sets me apart from thousands and thousands of children in this world.

I start to realize that this broken spot in my heart has been given to me as a bottle to collect my tears and grief in as I move forward in this journey. This bottle of tears will be turned into worship as they have been this night – I can pour them out in prayer and love for these children. I can be thankful for the capacity to grieve and intercede for those who do not know what it is to grieve separation from family members.

It is a holy moment as I lay there in bed – God has shown himself to me. He has seen my tears. He has come near to the brokenhearted...me.

And so I pray for the orphans we will soon be serving:

Oh Lord, may they someday know the depth of love that you have for them.

May they know the longing for family they feel in their hearts is a metaphor for the longing you’ve put in each of us to know you and the love you have for us.

May you allow me to love them in such a way that they will know what it feels like to grieve when we part ways in the future.


CA RN to Honduras Missionary said...

Ah yes. The feelings of always leaving, or others leaving us. The life that God has chosen for us. A verse that keeps me in the right heart - "Be at rest once again, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." Psalm 116:7. Be at rest O my soul...words to live by :-) Bittersweet indeed, time with friends and family... enjoy this time.

@ngie said...

Sometimes it works out better if God orchestrates it that he is the only one we can turn to. This new perspective is the joy that comes in the morning. Oh, but we must cry so that the rejoicing is real. Without the tears the knowledge is that of dusty books.

cindyb said...

"Oh, but we must cry so that the rejoicing is real. Without the tears the knowledge is that of dusty books."

Beautifully said.

Dorthe said...

Yeah, I just talked about these things with a colleague yesterday. Even if we truly miss our families we see how priviledged we are compared to those without a family to long for. I have two little siblings who are 6 and 7 years (a little late surprise in our family)and I miss them a lot and they miss me but I told them that the priviledge of having a big sister abroad is daily prayers and frequents parcels of strange candy. And they seem to be quite happy about that :-)

Diana said...

So often it would be very easy to say/think, "Poor me!" But then this small voice inside says, "Diana, I left home, my Father, the angels, as in HEAVEN...so you could come home!" Somehow all my tears and "poor mes", pale in comparison.
That said, my parents are in their 70's and not in the greatest health. My mom had a pacemaker put in on Christmas day and then found out it was malfunctioning in January. In other words, she almost went home twice. My sister is sick (quiet murmurs of the big C word trickle in by phone or email.) In both cases, I've started to pack my bags. But both of them said, "NO, even if you come here, you cannot do anything. Stay where you are." My mom added, "I want heaven to be a fuller place. Please keep sharing about our Jesus. Besides we have eternity to drink coffee and share all the hugs we want."

Ellie said...

When we packed up and left this last time, it was right after Christmas. It meant leaving our house before Christmas, with all the decorations packed long before the big day. We cut a tree out of green construction paper and taped it to the wall of our ever-emptying apartment.

I was tempted to cry, tempted to feel sorry for myself. I did sometimes. New baby, no Christmas (don't give us anything - we can't pack any more!). But then, I thought about the usual big Christmas table with all the family gathered around... the longing to be with them...

Then in those quiet night time feedings with my daughter nursing peacefully, unaware of all the chaos she was born into, God told me (I think God speaks often in the night when we wake alone.) that He has that longing, to gather His family around His table. That is why I am going now - even to a place where everyone has evacuated from, even to a place that my friends warn me not to take my brand new baby and my little kids, even to a place I am not sure if we all come home alive from... even there. God is not surprised that He called my family to this place at this time. He sees. He plans good. And He wants to sit down with His big family one day and celebrate... keep my eyes on the big picture, walk through the pain, and think of our forever home.

And He counts my tears. He still does now, even though we are now somewhere else, with tears falling for other reasons, He still knows each tear that falls in the dark nights. Even the ones that can't fall yet.

Diana said...

I apologize for the length of this comment. I did NOT intend to write a book. It just flowed out.
Ellie and everyone else!
I read your webpages. I do talk sometimes too freely on my webpage. I have a friend in a restricted area and at I times I am jealous of what I would call frontline spiritual warfare and ministry! As I have listened to "veteran" missionaries, PRAYER is the biggest weapon and requirement for service anywhere! Don't get me wrong, salvation, preparation, etc... are necessary. PRAYER is just the thing everyone mentions first, in the middle and last! Before the trial, during and after. Before the day, during the day and at the end of the day. Before you go to the smelly market(instead of the new mall your sister back home writes about), as you walk through it(passing internal animal organs you could never swallow) and as you walk home wondering if you understood and/or can remember the recipe the vegetable guy gave you for those strange vegetables.) Before you go to the national school your kids attend, while you are there listening to the other national mothers talking so fast and seeming to ALL be friends, and when you come home wondering if you said or did anything that would offend them. Before you go to immigration to renew your visa (with 700 different documents plus a copy) while you are there (and they tell you are missing document 701) and as you take the 2 hour bus ride home planning to come back tommorrow!) Everyday as you read the emails of missionary colleagues and they share of the hundreds saved or the $200,000.00 someone felt compelled to send for the project they mentioned in a prayer letter. As I look back(22 years)to the day I knew in the deepest part of my heart that there was no place but Mexico for me to serve and show my God's love, I see the timeline saturated with falling on my knees before Him and pouring out my heart!

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God. (John Bunyan from http://www.mountzion.org/fgb/Summer95/FgbS1-95.html)

I have the following devotion taped into a notebook I use for recording prayer requests and their answers.

Cry for Mercy
God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke18:13KJV
Let us praise His name because you and I are still spared to pray and permitted to pray. What if we are greatly afflicted, yet it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed. If we had received our deserts, we should not now have been on praying ground and pleading terms with Him. But let it be for our comfort and to God's praise that still we may stand with a bowed head and cry each one, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." Still may we cry like a sinking Peter, "Lord save me, or I perish." Like David, we may be unable to go up to the temple, but we can still go to our God in prayer. Therefore let us give thanks to God that He has nowhere said to us, "Seek my face in vain." If we find a desire to pray trembling within our soul, and if though almost extinct we feel some hope in the promise of our gracious God, if our heart still groans after holiness and after God, though she has lost her power to pray with joyful confidence as once she did, yet let us be thankful that we can pray even if it be but a little. In the will and power to pray, there lies the capacity for infinited blessedness. He who has the key of prayer can open heaven; yes, he has access to the heart of God. Therefore bless God for prayer. (Charles Spurgeon)

Cash Clan Japan said...

I have just discovered you. My name is Lisa and I'm a missionary in Tokyo, Japan. Our family has been here (a growing family!) for 6 years, and I have seasons when it's not so hard and seasons when this feels almost impossible to bear. I am starting from the beginning of your journey today, so far with plenty of tears streaming down my face. (For I understand! And YOU understand!) I am so thankful that I just found your blog--this is an answer to some desperate prayers. I need to feel understood and to understand with you...


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