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A Chance to Die

"Missionary life is simply a chance to die." 

It certainly started out that way. There were a million chances every day to die to myself and my desires, my comfort, my convenience. When everything--literally everything--felt new and strange, when I had to re-learn how to drive, shop, cook, speak, sleep. When the power would go out for twelve hours a day and the ticks and cockroaches were battling to rule my kitchen, when I felt abandoned and alone, incompetent and exhausted.

But time is a miracle-worker. We took control of the electricity and the bugs, the driving became routine, cooking became easy. I learned to communicate. This country gave me my babies, and they have grown and thrived here. After moving six times in our first eight years of marriage, we moved to a house that wasn't falling down and have remarkably lived in it for nine years. We found our niche in ministries that are fulfilling and flourishing. And the friends....the friends are something akin to siblings who grow up together. Broad and deep and everlasting.

Sure, there are still moments of frustration, like on Christmas Eve when the air was sweltering and the power went on and off four times. But somehow those things don't matter as much anymore because they've just become life, and the good things outweigh the hard.

One day I woke up and discovered that this life that started as a chance to die was now grasped tightly in my clenched hands. This is mine. I like this. Don't take this away from me. 

The heart gravitates so quickly to familiarity and comfort, to knowing and being known. Amy Carmichael wrote, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die." But even missionary life, with all of its perceived and real challenges, can become comfortable. 

Comfort isn't wrong, but it can be dangerous. Like sinking into a beanbag chair with a good book and a crackling fire, comfort makes it hard to get moving. To look around. To consider other people, other possibilities, other needs. It feels so good that it's easy to say "God wants me here" when maybe it's really just me refusing to think otherwise.  

Of course, that doesn't mean that I should intentionally go hopping around from one difficult circumstance to the next, like a self-flagellating monk. But it does mean that I need to be consciously aware of the sinister appeal of comfort to cloud my vision of where God may be leading me. It means I need to allow God to pry open that vice-like grip on what I want out of life, to say Thy will be done and actually believe it.

2019 is certain to be a year of upheaval in my life, with changes coming that will tear into that familiarity and comfort I have enjoyed for so long. May I look up. Open my hands. Die to myself. One thing I have learned--a chance to die is always a privilege. I don't want to waste it.

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