If you’ve ever thought that “choosing love” is a stupid idea, this post is for you.
What follows is an account of the trip I mentioned in my last post and the learning it inspired. Through a muckiness that entertained “I choose love” as being one of my dumbest ideas yet, I have come out choosing it now with even more conviction. Here goes:
Going back to the end of April, while advising on my first ever missions trip for a youth group out east, I got pushed to the limit. I found myself knee-deep in decomposing garbage trying to figure out how to lead a group of teens to do I job I had no idea how to do (refurbish homes). Basic needs like water, food, and sleep were challenges in their own right, and the only person I knew prior to my arrival was a recent ex-boyfriend with whom I was negotiating new boundaries as recent exes do.
I spent that week fighting though work on the foundation of a home, demo of a back room, cleaning 10 years of built up garbage and rotting wood, and scraping paint – all the while, in my mind, failing miserably at keeping it together for the group of teens that I was supposed to be serving.
I quickly realized how dependent I was on things like technology, fresh produce, my home, and trusted friends and found myself exhausted and depleted as I tried to adjust to this culture shift. If choosing love could lead me here (hey, advising on a high school missions trip sounds loving, doesn’t it!?), I must be mistaken. Had I been wrong about “choosing love” after all?
As if with the flip of switch, I found myself daydreaming about moving back to New York City where I could rewind six years and resume trying to prove my worth with some sort glamorous accessory – a job, a handbag, anything. Of course, part and parcel with that pursuit would be numbing its emptiness – nothing a few drinks or a diet couldn’t could handle.
Anything but sorting through knee-deep decomposing garbage, feeling incompetent and alone, and looking forward to yet another bag of Cheetos would do. And then it hit me. I was choosing my experience over love. My discomfort kept me so preoccupied that I almost unconsciously chose it again and again. Instead of going into it, I tried to escape. Where else did I do that in my life? Ouch.
In retrospect, I see that outer experience was simply a mirror of some major inner landscaping at work on my own sense of self-worth, strength, and ability to love.
I’ve realized that choosing love is hardly all roses. In fact, the commitment to live from love requires far more courage and strength than perfectionating ever did.
I recently saw a Tweet that said: “Don’t judge a person by one bad chapter in the book of their whole life.” How smart, I thought. Sometimes we must go through times of anguish to birth new things and open to greater joy. I think back on a time years ago where my heart broke over and over again, and I picked myself up and kept going over and over again. Sometimes the only way out is through.
The dark places carved some big holes for light to pour in. Sometimes being shown the places within ourselves that block love’s flow is painful, but if we are willing to move through them, we are more able to be receptive to the many blessings life wants to give us. This trip, in particular, pointed me to a number of places that needed some cleaning out. As the excavation has had some time to pass, I’m left with a new sense of peace.
Whether we’re standing knee-deep in garbage literally or figuratively, those times in life will come. What will you choose to do?
While that trip proved an unexpected challenge, it did have its highlights, including the opportunity to work through one of the most real and vulnerable conversations about being a girl today that I have ever experienced. The teacher was most definitely the student on this one.
♥ Little choices + time = wholehearted change. ♥