Weekend football at church

We've been back in Poipet for 3 weeks already - probably the longest time in months that we've stayed here without traveling anywhere else. 

I have to admit, my first week back was bad. 

Not because of anything here in Poipet that was bad, not because I was stressed out, or because I had too much on my plate. I think it was a combination of inner reflection and the end of pursuits that had become my purpose for being here - finishing my bachelor's degree, planning our travels, thinking about how I'd have a full-time job of some sort when we came back.

But when I came back, I felt like the floor had fallen out underneath me. I looked at my calendar, saw the rows of empty days, and thought, I have no life here. I didn't have work or school to form my identity, something that I could use to respond with pride when someone asked, What do you do here? And I was consumed with selfish pity and an impulsive desire to leave and find something that would give me a sense of "fulfillment."

Now let's reflect on how deep my sinful perspective was: I was living in a developing nation with countless needs, spiritual and physical. I was the only Western medical professional in town. I had a husband who worked countless hours to bring water to villages and schools and who was giving himself fully to his own work. And with my totally open schedule, I could respond to any needs that came my way and travel with my husband on his work trips, something that makes us both very happy.

So what was my problem? Why was I so depressed?

It was a flare-up of the chronic sinful condition I label finding my identity in anything other than Christ.

Last week I read the story of Jesus speaking with the woman at the well, in John 4. I could sympathize with her longing for an identity, claiming to have a husband to give her a sense of belonging; her undercurrents of desperation, her knowledge that she was dry and empty inside and that she needed the living water that Jesus offered her. Her suspicion and skepticism gave way to wonder, then to worship.

I feel the same way. My sinful nature whispers, How can Jesus make you happy? How can serving Someone you can't see really satisfy you? You need to work, to strive, to create your own identity. Don't look for it in Him.

But those are all lies, lies, lies. Jesus says, the work of God is to believe in Him, sent by God (John 6:29). Not, have an awesome job that saves lots of lives and gives you status; not, teach the Bible and convert hundreds of people. Believing that Jesus really is enough is a lifelong journey. This is just one dark trail in my journey, that God used to help me see that my identity is found in who I am - a child of God - not in what I do.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, God filled up those empty blocks in my schedule book. He made space for me to teach in several places. My strong desire for approval from other people for the work I do was overcome by my desire to love God and know that his love is enough for me. Almost daily, needs and relationship opportunities come up that would be impossible to meet, were I working a normal, full-time nursing job. But even on the days when I don't have work to do, I see it as a chance to pursue the Lord more, as a blessing and not as a reflection of my inadequacy.

It always amazes me that no matter how far I wander from the Lord, he is only one step behind me. When I finally break down and repent, he is there to catch me and heal my heart. He doesn't make me pay for my sin, because Jesus already did that. He doesn't keep me at a distance, because Jesus already bridged that gap. It's only grace and mercy, because of the cross.

This post is part of my one and only New Year's Resolution (which I don't really believe in or do normally - really, my resolution just happens to coincide with January). I want to be more intentional with my writings, more transparent with my struggles here and my life here in Cambodia - the good, the bad, and the very ugly. I want to share how life here in Cambodia is shaping my journey towards heaven. Although living here is so different than back home, I know the personal struggles and challenges are the same - it's only different scenery. 

So, if you haven't been scared away by this post, congratulations. There's more coming. (and, hopefully, a better blog design built by yours personally?!?)