It's a strange thing when you feel such deep love for two different places. And not only that, but two places that are thousands of miles apart. When I'm in Ukraine, I can't imagine a life anywhere else. And when I'm with my family, I can't imagine leaving them again. And yet, here I am, writing a blog from my apartment in Zaporozhye, only 24 hours after getting off a plane that put distance and time between us and our families.
It's raw and it's painful, remembering the deep conversations I had just mere hours ago with my mom, dad, and brother, and then now facing the realization that those conversations will only happen again through a garbled internet connection.
My eyes sting with tears thinking about the goodbyes I said to my nephews and niece, who will all be a foot taller and years more mature by the next time we see them again. Even more painful are the goodbyes I didn't get to say. People that passed away while we've been on the mission field, or worse, ones that have walked away from the Lord and aren't interested in seeing us anymore.
Wounds are supposed to heal with time, so why is it that every year we're away from home, these painful goodbyes ache with a deeper hurt, one that seems to being all the way down in my soul?
And yet, with all this hurt, with all this sadness and emotion, am I willing to give it all up? Am I willing to let go of Ukraine and go home?
I guess this is the part that might seem a little backwards, but I believe that giving up Ukraine and moving home would be the same as giving up on the promises of the Lord. As hard as things are, as much as the goodbye stings in my heart, I know the promises of the Lord and I know the callings He has placed on my life. He is close to the broken hearted, and that means He is close to me right now. And I know he's close to our families too.
"And He [Jesus] turned and said to them, "if anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish?' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.'" - Luke 14:25-33 (NKJV)
This passage used to be a stumbling block for me. I used to really struggle with what was written, that we should hate our mother and father? What could this possibly mean? I don't think I could really understand the meaning of these verses until recently. It's not that I'm to hate my family, but that I'm to choose the Lord over them. It sounds backwards and wrong to those that don't follow the Lord, and even some that do follow the Lord would argue with me on this. But the Lord is supposed to be in the first place of our lives. And if He really is kept where He belongs in our list of priorities, our lives will show that and our decisions will reflect it. If God is really in the first place of my life, I can't be in Colorado, no matter how much I want to be there. I MUST love God the most, more than Byron, more than my parents, more than my family, and even more than my own life. I must forsake all.
I know it sounds radical, but it's true and it's fact. That is the life that we, Believer, are called to live. And if we're not willing, we're just lukewarm, and that's a life I refuse to live.
I'm reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 6. Jesus had just said some pretty radical things to His followers and skeptics, and it offended a lot of the people around Him.
John 6, verse 60 reads, "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can understand it?'"
And just a few verses later, we read, "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66)."
I know the context is a little different, but doesn't that kind of sound like some of our reactions to the "hate your father and mother" verses? It can offend us and rub us the wrong way. What do you mean, hate my mother?! But do we really trust the Lord? Do we really believe that He withholds NO GOOD THING from His children? That He has GOOD PLANS for us? If the answer is yes, then we have probably had a conversation with Jesus in our prayer lives similar to the one between Jesus and Peter had right after many of the other disciples walked away from Jesus.
"Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?' But Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:67-69).
To whom shall we go?
It brings me to tears just typing this out. I understand Peter completely! Yes, the words are hard. Yes, the command is difficult. But WHO ELSE has the words of life? Where could I possibly want to be more than in the will of God? I have come to believe and know that He is the Christ, and because of that, my life must reflect that. I must live out my response. I can't live with that knowledge and not be changed.
So with that, there is comfort for me. Sometimes, it's hard for me to let people into my life because I know that so often my hello quickly becomes a goodbye. But with the eternal hope of life with Jesus in heaven, I know that most of my goodbyes aren't goodbyes forever. And as much as I can care for my family, I know that Jesus is a greater caretaker and protector than I could ever dream to be.
Luke 9:62 reads, "'No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'"
I want to be fit for the Kingdom. And so, I cast my cares upon Jesus, giving Him my emotions and my pain, trusting the Lord to care for my heart like no one else can. I will keep my hand to the plow and continue following the Lord, for I believe and have come to know that He truly is the Christ.