One of the best things we got at Mission Training International was terminology to help us talk about the cross-cultural experience. On the very first day they introduced us to was something that all of us missionaries-in-transition knew so well: the paradox of emotions. We took a cue from the kids’ classes and started thinking about it as a “pair of ducks,” one representing all the good, positive emotions, and the other representing the negative, confusing feelings.
“Are you so excited to move to Czech?” is a question I hear often. I try to give honest answers to questions and… I honestly don’t know how to answer that one. Because the move to Czech is fraught with paradox, strong emotions pulling me opposite directions.
I am so excited for the adventure of moving to a land of castles and cathedrals, metros and statues, villages and rolling green fields.
I feel my heart is being torn out to leave the wild beauty of Alaska, frozen winters and midnight sunshine, a life that seems to be in my DNA, so close it is to my heart.
When I get a facebook message from a Czech student, my heart leaps with love for them, and I can’t wait to get over there, offering our home and love and friendship as a refuge.
Then I look at the dear girls I’ve been working with here in Alaska, and know that they will continue growing in beauty and wisdom, and I won’t be here to watch and rejoice, and this seems a very deep grief.
I have a shy curiosity and eagerness to become part of our Czech church and the Josiah Venture family. I wonder with excitement what new relationships await me.
But to enter these new relationships, I must leave my darling nieces, the joy of my heart, knowing that they will be growing up without me in their lives. And this is a thought I don’t let myself dwell on, as my breathing becomes choked and tears well in my eyes.
Excited for the richness of a cross-cultural life—yes!!!
But not eager for the frustration of trying to find ingredients that don’t exist in a grocery store that is set up so differently in a language I cannot understand.
Excited to be able to walk to the store and to church and to friends’ houses—yes!!!
But a bit apprehensive to live in a small flat with neighbors through every wall.
Excited to worship and read God’s word in another language, with His beloved people in Czech—yes!!
But knowing that the language will only come through thousands of hours and millions of mistakes and not a little frustration.
Just yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Fueled by Optimism!” with a big smiley face. I don’t mean to offend, but I found it annoying. Many people would tell me to just focus on the positive things about this experience, the “Yay Ducks” as we called them in training. And I certainly want to embrace these good things, celebrating and thanking God for them!
But the bad parts, the “Yuck Ducks” are just as much a part of the cup He’s given me to drink. If I am to celebrate fully, I need to be able to walk through the difficult things well, to leave my heart healthy and ready to love again. Not only that, but Jesus is waiting for me in the Yucks just as much (and maybe more) as he is in the Yays. To avoid them would be to avoid a unique and precious experience with Him. To paraphrase a talk I heard last week, “Suffering is the funnel through which all other virtues are given to us.”
I pray to God for the grace to embrace these heart-rending paradoxes, to count it all joy, and to live a life worthy of the precious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.