I am changed. I am not the same person I was a month ago. I’m not exactly sure how the change started, nor can I pinpoint the moment when, but I do know where it began…Belize. Now, there’s nothing magical about Belize particularly, although it is exotic and tropical and beautiful. It’s also dirty, hot, HUMID, and poor. And broken. That seems to be the word I get stuck on…broken.
Since the fall of mankind back in the Garden, there’s been brokenness. We don’t have to look too far to see it all around us…divorce, addictions, crime, abuse, neglect, materialism, perversion, greediness, disrespect, dishonesty, …the list goes on and on, no matter what country we’re in.
But what struck me at my core was the depth of my own brokenness. Against the backdrop of poverty and hopelessness like I’ve never experienced before, I was confronted with my own selfishness, vanity, and pride. I was confronted with my laziness and arrogance and foolishness. And I was disgusted. Disgusted with myself, disgusted with the world around me and the way I’d been living.
Let me tell you a little about how I’d been living. I’m a youth pastor’s wife. I am a mother of three children. I work part-time for my church. I became a Christian back in senior year of high school, and have been feebly trying to follow after Him ever since. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I thought I already knew what it meant to “die to self”, not fully of course, but at some fundamental level I got it. When my husband decided to leave the field of engineering for ministry, I thought I learned all about what it meant to sacrifice. In fact, we kind of pride ourselves on living a bit more of a simple life than most of our friends. Although I have a college degree, until recently I’ve always stayed home to care for the children, our home, and my husband. It was a very conscious choice to forsake the extra income so that I could pursue serving my family and being a godly housewife. For many years, we only had one vehicle, we didn’t have cable television or cell phones, and we were content to live with our hand-me-down furniture. Our house is small, compared to most, but we like it that way.
Together, my husband and I have built for ourselves a nice, comfortable, Christian American life. We have served students for the last 16 years, a journey that has been filled with lots of exhilarating peaks and painfully difficult valleys. We certainly have suffered for the sake of the kingdom, at least in our own minds. And we’ve been following after God’s call in our lives, chasing after what we believed to be an authentic Christian lifestyle for us and our kids, to the best of our ability.
The thing is, our best isn’t what God asks for or calls us to. And even though on some level I’ve always understood that, He was about to “open up my eyes to the things unseen.” For me, that happened in Belize… on a missions trip with my husband, son, and our students. In the past, my heart has always ached for the hurting and lost around the world, and even those in our everyday lives. But my heart had never been broken. I’ve been on other mission trips, I’ve served in soup kitchens and ministered to the homeless, I’ve counseled students who’ve suffered abuse of all kinds. And my heart would ache in all these circumstances to somehow be able to bring real hope and change to these dark circumstances. But after time, the aching would subside and I’d move on with my life. My heart hadn’t broken.
Belize broke me.
Confronted with the reality of who I was, I just couldn’t take it anymore. My heart shattered, and I began to feel just a little of what it meant to truly “die to self” and it did feel like death. We hear preachers talk about it all the time, and we read about it in books, but now I was feeling it in the deepest parts of myself. And I knew there would be no going back. This change wasn’t some spiritual mountaintop experience that fades after returning to the “real world”… it was the real deal.
This is my real deal, my journey, and I want to share it with you, because it has compelled me to consider things I thought were crazy or impossible. And as I pursue those things, I want you to consider what crazy and impossible things He is calling you to.