Probably I also told again how kind and welcoming the people were to us and how much I missed them because my sister summed up my own thoughts by admitting if she went on a trip like that she'd have a hard time coming home! Precisely!
So this week - February 11 to be exact - marked a year since we got home from Syria. I've missed that place so many times since last February when we took that long flight home on Turkish Airlines. Secretly - or not - I have dreamed of going back and maybe living in Damascus for a while. Seriously, wouldn't it be exciting to live among the people, learn more about their culture, their thoughts on world events, family, politics, religion and enjoy the camaraderie, food, smells, sounds and experiences of this different culture? I've certainly thought so!
So that was my dream last year and, believe me, God knew it!
This year I finally decided to be a bit more mature about it. Instead of constantly longing for something I could not have, I have been slowly, but surely, trying to change my attitude to one of gratefulness that I was blessed by God with the ability to take this awesome trip!
Here are a few things I've read recently that have helped me along the way. Soon after the new year, Mark Batterson posted this gem: "Is Your Dream Your Idol?"
I'd thought for a while now that God wanted me to be content with HIM and not so much longing for everything else in life. I'd been complaining to Him about not really having much of a purpose and how He'd been really hard on me by taking away most of the areas where I'd had interaction with people (e.g. the women's gym closed and I loved the classes there and had friendly relationships with many people there; Angie got a job out of town so she was no longer in my area to visit at McDonald's as we did in years past). Don't get me wrong; I like my alone time and I don't really get bored since I enjoy reading books, looking on the computer and writing things. But I did on occasion enjoy something else that actually involves seeing humans face-to-face. And I felt stripped of that and was mad!
Anyway, I've lodged this complaint against God especially more post-Syria and often felt the impression of these lyrics from By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North.
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run?
Yeah, so why am I searching as if God isn't enough to fill this void in my life? Back to the above-mentioned post by Mark Batterson. In it he writes,
"I realize that many of our dreams never happen for one simple reason. We want it more than we want God. God becomes a means to an end. And our dream, which was meant to be a form of worship to God, becomes our god."
Um, ouch! Then he questions:
"Is your dream your god? Or is God your God? God will not be used. God will not be manipulated. God will not be played."
So I read that over a month ago and saved it to consider later which I am now doing. Actually I believe God used this post to get my attention and it's been since then that I've realized I let my dream become more important to me than God. As if living in Syria or finding some noble purpose in life would fill the space that only a relationship with God can fill.
Within this last month God has used other posts and magazine articles to confirm the same message. Like another one from Mark's blog in which he asks if we are ministering FOR God or TO God. He concludes this short post with a thought-provoking statement:
"I think one of the greatest dangers leaders face is this: we get focused on what God wants to do THROUGH us instead of what God wants to do IN us."
Maybe I'd been thinking "God, how can you work through me to do something for you" instead of thinking, "Lord, what do you want to do in my life. How do you want to transform me?
Then earlier this week I read an article about envy and although I don't think envy is necessarily my struggle, I could strongly relate to challenges in this article about being content because discontentment is my struggle! There were many things in this article that I highlighted including:
- Brooding over unrealized expectations may lead to depression.
- Abraham, Moses and Daniel were patient and practiced contentment.
- Any other pursuit but satisfaction in Christ leads to a breach of character and loss of joy in serving Jesus.
- What God has given you is more than enough.
- Dwelling on what God has not given can draw away the heart to idolatry.
- Find your fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone.
Good stuff, eh? It was like looking in a mirror and quite the challenge to "practice contentment" that I needed.
As the song from Tenth Avenue North goes to chorus, I'll end this post:
Cause I'll be by your side, wherever you fall
In dead of night, whenever you fall
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you.