Sunday, 17 January 2010

What's next

Back in June of 2007, getting to the end of my first four-month stint in Liberia, I had a one-on-one with our president, Tim. I had joined the organization before it had really gotten started, which was great because I got to be a part of its formative stages. But Tim and I had taken a big gamble on each other, and we were meeting to settle our bets, in a sense.

For him, he'd taken a big chance bringing in a non-Christian he hardly knew to help start this faith-based organization. For me, I'd agreed to six months in close quarters with a bunch of Christians I hardly knew, or didn't at all. Were they going to try and convert me? Judge and condemn me? Both of us had to trust that we were pursuing God, pursuing truth with passion and abandon, and that we were willing to learn from each other. We'd had some mind-boggling conversations, really challenging each other's core beliefs, and over African chicken chow mien, celebrated that day how those first months had gone.

So he asked me for a three-year commitment--to the organization, and to Liberia. I agreed, almost as quickly as I had agreed to drop everything and move to Africa in the first place. It just seemed right; I had found the job, the lifestyle, that fit.

Well, those three years are almost up, and Tim and I had another meeting not too long ago. This time it wasn't so easy to decide--I'm getting a little older, I'm thinking of other things. Not that I don't still love my job and life here in Liberia; I'm overwhelmed on a daily basis by how spoiled I am, despite the lack of 'little' things. I just didn't want to stay automatically, because it had become familiar or comfortable. I wanted to make sure I was still 'called' to be here.

After about two weeks of tormenting myself with the question, with the angles and the implications, I've renewed my commitment to ORR without a time limit. However long I need to be here, here I shall be. These last three years have been, hands down, the best of my life--where they haven't been the happiest, they've without question been the most fulfilling. To watch this nation grow, these children grow--and looking back, to see all the ways I've grown!

The most important thing, however, the most important reason I'm here, is to grow closer to God. I realized the other day, in the midst of a conversation, that if I hadn't joined ORR and stayed with ORR, I wouldn't really know God today.

That's a powerful statement on many levels. Let me try and unpack for a moment all that that means to me.

A small group of committed Christians gave me the space to be un-Christian, to look for God irreligiously. They demonstrated a key distinction I'd never made for myself, in all my years of looking for God in different ways, different world religions: the difference between abiding by, investing in doctrine and practice, and building a genuine relationship with Deity, allowing Creator to also become provider, friend, father. I still have some personal hang-ups with labeling myself Christian, to be honest--not because I'm ashamed to follow Christ, but because of the stereotypes (some justified) and abuses and jerks and utterly human foibles that have also been stamped with the same label. And the more I learn about God, the less I know. I still don't have all the answers.

And that's precisely why I'm sticking with ORR, my family and my friends, my mentors and confidants and partners in crime. I'm continuing to pursue God most of all--the best and most important thing I can do, the thing which, undone in a day, makes it a waste.

What's next? Who knows! The future is wide open. I only know that I need and desire more than ever your love and support along the way. All of you. I long--and I suspect you do too--to know and be known, to love and be loved. Come and challenge me, too--and let me challenge you.

I hope, most of all, that you'll seek and find the Root of Joy, the one that allows us direct access to a real, personal, interactive God.