Here in my journey with God, and at this moment in my life, I feel like I’m standing on the brink of something unimaginable — on the cusp of two different lives. I don’t only feel this way in this exact moment; I’ve felt it for a while. It’s like a chapter in my life is ending, as hackneyed as that may sound. I feel like I’ve been reading this chapter for about a year now, and while the plot wasn’t moving very quickly at the beginning, I’ve flipped the page and read down to the last couple of lines, afraid to flick my eyes across the spine to the last page. I’m afraid to know how many lines are left in the chapter. Once I know that, I have to read on, and afterwards the book closes and I have to open a new one. This book has lasted for twenty years, and it’s been my constant companion. It has held my stories and my interpretations and my prayers. Once it’s over I’ll hardly know where to begin again. The anxious thought playing in a loop in my brain is that I do know how many lines are left — 2 months and 29 days. In two months and twenty-nine days I’ll board a plane in Bucharest, Romania after an anxious, sad, and numb ride to the airport and the mechanical routine of going through security. When I board that plane I’ll fly to Amsterdam and distractedly catch a flight to Dallas while trying to tame the raging sea of thoughts and emotions and fears. I’ll have just experienced a month in Romania, and I can’t shake the feeling that that experience, more than just about any other in my life, will shape its direction. Boarding that plane I’ll jump off the brink and fall and fall until something catches.
God called me to vocational service to him as a ten-year-old. I don’t really remember all of the particulars, I just knew at that point that I couldn’t imagine a life spent doing anything else but sharing the gospel and loving people far from my own home. God has refined that call through the years, sometimes gently and sometimes painfully. Some days I’ve had the prophet Jeremiah’s case of incurable ‘heartburn’ and some days I caught Jesus’ leaky eyes from standing too long and looking out over Jerusalem. More often than not those ‘inconveniences’ have been so uncomfortable I’ve buried them under a schedule, hard work, and not enough sleep. But there have been those times when I spent a whole summer serving food and clothes and Stories to Hispanic people like Jésus in inner-city Houston. And those times when I fingered the curls of a Pott-Lincoln county DHS girl whose face was covered in spaghetti and told her with all of my heart and a lot of Someone Else’s that she was beautiful. And those times when I told Stories — to children in Sunday School, kids I babysit, five-year-olds from Houston who could barely understand my English, and DHS kids from Shawnee. All of those times I saw light streaming in from a button-hole in the tent I’d put up around myself to ‘protect’ me from my calling. That chink of light fell on me each time and reminded me that this was my calling, and no matter how much I wanted to hide from it and hide from the times when the little girl with the curls started to cry, and the teen wouldn’t listen to the story, and Jésus took his food and clothes and disappeared into the crowd — no matter how uncomfortable those times made me, I couldn’t hide inside a big fish like Jonah forever.
A year and a half ago I spent about a month in a remote part of the Amazon Jungle in Peru, living and loving and sharing my faith with a native jungle tribe. It was a journey of faith, but while I was living in probably one of the most isolated places on the planet I felt more deeply connected than I ever have. I was with a handful of people who could speak my language, loving a village of people who couldn’t, and serving a God who understood the words in the villager’s hearts and in my own better than I will ever be able to. Far from feeling isolated I felt deeply connected. I allowed that chink of light coming through my tent to come in through the tent flaps and bathe me in the light of my calling and living in God’s will.
As meaningful as all of those experiences have been, I still feel like my trip to Romania will carry so much more meaning. I told a dear friend at one point that I had an idea of what falling in love felt like, because I couldn’t think of anything else but the trip and the people and God’s work. I was giddy with excitement. Even still that giddiness hasn’t worn off. After praying hours and hours of prayers and sending out what felt like a million letters and speaking at churches and raising $3385 and buying the plane tickets and purchasing supplies for the trip, I still have moments of breathlessness. ‘Oh-me-of-little-faith’ can’t believe how faithful God has been, and I still tear up over how honored I feel to be God’s servant in a place like Romania. As Gladys Alward said,
I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China… I don’t know who it was… It must have been a man… a well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing… and God looked down… and saw Gladys Aylward… And God said – “Well, she’s willing.”
I wasn’t God’s first choice for Romania. He had probably picked someone smarter and bolder who at least knew how to make a sentence in the language. God didn’t find me equipped, but He did find me willing. I still become short of breath at times because I can’t believe that I will actually get on a plane in 61 days and fly to the Roma people, who desperately need God. I’m afraid to breathe too hard for fear that things will fall apart because they feel to good to be true.
I told you earlier that I felt like I was on the cusp of two lives. I mean that I feel like the Caroline who comes back from Romania will not be the same one that left for Romania. As much as I have grown or hidden from growth for these past twenty years, I have the feeling that God will do a wonderful work in my prayerfully obedient heart in that Romanian month that will change me for a lifetime. Maybe he will unquestionably indicate a call on my life to the Roma people. Maybe he will change my Jeremiah’s heartburn into a third degree burn from the outside that destroys my insides so much that they have to grow back, like Isaiah’s refined gold. Whatever He does, I feel like I am reading the last sentences of the last chapter in a book. When I close the back cover I don’t know what will happen. Yes, I’ll go back to school, and then probably to seminary and eventually to a mission field somewhere, but those are only the outside motions—the first few seconds after jumping off the cliff. What I need to know is what’s at the bottom. That is what I mentioned before that was unimaginable. The blessing of it all is, though, that indeed I don’t know what’s at the bottom. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:19-20. It says:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
God will do more than I can imagine in Romania, and I give Him all the glory for it.