I would venture a guess that most people back home might begin to suspect I have forgotten about them out in the big world, as the last update I sent was far over a month ago, but it is not true. There have been many an occasion where I have started an update, made it roughly 2 paragraphs in, then stopped to ‘take a break’, and never returned. For that, I sincerely apologize. I really never meant to leave it this long, I just never really knew how to put into words what I’ve been experiencing. I don’t have an incredible series of stories to report to you all, but I can certainly tell you, now that I am in a more neutral state of mind, that these past couple of months have not been stagnant. As cliché as it may sound, it’s been a wild ride on a rollercoaster... many highs, many, many lows, and God has made sure that I don’t get off the ride anytime soon.
This update may seem quite serious, and that’s because it is. I promised updates, so here it comes, in all its brutal honesty. I plan on getting personal, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on. This is Rebecca baring her soul, being vulnerable. I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but I am willing to share if you want to know. If you’re up for it, so am I. But if you start, don’t stop ‘til you’ve read the whole thing.
I haven’t had a way of keeping track of passing time besides my mental calculations. That’s not very a very helpful way of doing it, because time likes to play mind games with us all here. One moment it feels like it’s been taking forever for one day to end, and the next moment a week has passed before I had time to blink. I feel like these people I spend my days with have been in my life for many years, but when I consider the 2.5 months we’ve known of each other’s existence, it hasn’t been any time at all. I cannot believe that in less than a month, I will be done with my lecture phase, and on to Outreach. When I look back on my time here, I can’t shake the feeling of nausea. I wasn’t kidding when I used the example of a rollercoaster... Most of my time here has been a battle for me. If you were to ask my parents, it became a very usual thing for me to call at 3 AM my time just to cry to them. It wasn’t homesickness, it was the fact that I was in Northern Ireland, supposedly doing what God had asked me to do, and all I felt was a terrible sense of inadequacy, insecurity, confusion, and eventually apathy. I had been stripped of my foundations. I felt vulnerable, weak, like I didn’t have any basis of support anymore. I would go to sleep on Friday nights emotionally exhausted and wake up on Monday mornings praying that this week would be different, that my revelation would come, and I would understand why I was here. I watched as my friends got their world’s rocked. I watched lives being changed, evil spirits being cast out of people, I watched people being healed. And I stood there, waiting for my turn. I didn’t stay hopeful for very long. I became my worst enemy. My thoughts would gang up on me, telling me all the things that I thought about myself. I was disgusted with myself after a while, and I knew it was my own fault that I felt so unchanged. I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t giving enough, I wasn’t being enough. Why had God brought me across the world to become the most confused, angry and insecure I’ve ever been?
One time a bunch of us were talking about God’s love, and how we’ve grown up being told that biblical truth that ‘God loves us’... But does he like us? The ‘head-to-heart’ connection, we called it. I knew God loved me, I grew up being taught that. It was in my head. But had I made the heart connection? No, I hadn’t. I realized that I didn’t even like myself, how could God ever like me? I grew up believing the things I had been told I was when I was younger. My worth was only as much as what my peers said I was. And when you grow up being told something, you are conditioned to believe it. It’s like growing up with your parent’s religion; you are told it’s the truth, and that’s all you know as truth. It isn’t until someone comes along and tells you it’s false that you even question it. But that’s not to say you are suddenly brought into the light. The process of discovering another way of thinking is painful. It’s confusing, full of denial, and the most vulnerable you will ever be. Because if that’s not true, what is? Is anything you know true? You suddenly question everything you ever believed.
I remember one Monday evening, we had just finished some worship and were having a time of prayer, and I didn’t know what to pray, so I just said, ‘hey, God’ in my head. As clear as day, my mind was filled with “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you”. I was still getting used to this whole ‘when you pray, God can, wants to, and WILL answer back’ thing, but I wasn’t used to hearing His voice so clearly. I answered Him with, ‘I’ve known that my whole life. Those are just words.’ Immediately as that thought went through my head, it disappeared and was filled with a thought that was not my own: “They’re not just words, and I’ll prove that to you. Just you wait and see.” That night, I felt content. I was filled with warmth (which is something I hadn’t really felt since getting here... It’s freezing here, man), peace, and comfort. He had been clear with me, so I waited. I waited for my revelation. And I waited a long time. But it came. And I’ll tell you how.
This past week, our speaker was named Emmanuel Ente. He came to speak on the topic of freedom, and we had been told that he was an incredible speaker. He was supposed to come a few weeks ago, but our DTS has been having a lot of scheduling issues. We’ve missed out on 3 different speakers, and at the last minute, Emmanuel was able to come and take this week. He showed up a day late, and had prepared lessons, but apparently he wouldn’t be teaching us many of them. He came and we ended spending the majority of our week doing ministry. Throughout the week, each one of us was prayed for by all of us. One by one, almost as if there was some form of specific order that we were supposed to go, we were prayed over. We were given words, and God’s presence was thick in that room the whole week. I went up on Thursday. My prayer turned into a 30 minute session, praying against spiritual warfare. Over and over, the topic of Love, beauty, freedom and justice were brought up. I left that chair feeling 3000 pounds lighter. I wish I could tell you all the amazing things God spoke to me that day. They paint the most beautiful picture of everything I have ever wanted to be. And I have never had the capacity to fully comprehend any of it, until that day. Guess what, God not only LOVES me, but he LIKES me. He has given me the ability to love others with limitless amounts, and I can lead others to Him through that love. He thinks I’m beautiful. I am not on my own. I am an intricate piece of art. I am free. Oh, happy day.
Friday was Giving Day. We were told at the beginning of the week about it, and were told to pray into it, to see if God wanted us to give anything specific to anyone specific. I began to pray for a servant’s heart. I wanted to give freely, happily, sacrificially, without expecting anything in return. That meant I had to surrender my selfish heart. So I did, and I meant it. I wanted to feel that feeling of giving something up. I wanted to feel the sacrifice. But when Friday came and I hadn’t gotten anything specific, I just gave what I had been thinking about giving, but I didn’t feel like I was giving much of myself at all. I watched as people gave up their iPods, iPhones, money, even one guy’s Macbook, and they did it with such grace, but they felt it. I can sincerely tell you that I wanted that. I figured that if God wanted me to, He’d let me know. And oh boy, did He ever. It was during coffee break, and I was making tea. My friend, Nathan came up beside me and wished me a happy giving day. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the need to bless him. Not only did I need to, but I wanted to. I thought, “I should give him my camera.” I shook my head at that thought. I mean, he’s an incredibly talented photographer, and we have the exact same camera. He has the same camera as me, why would he need another one? After talking it over with myself and a friend quickly, I actually WANTED him to have it. So a little uneasily, I walked up to him and asked him if he happened to give away his camera today. He said ‘yeah, actually, I did.’ Of course, I burst into tears, and I handed him mine. Within the span of 15 minutes, my prized possession no longer belonged to me. It hurt, but it was the best kind of hurt. It was an incredibly difficult rewarding experience. Later, Nathan told me that the night before, when he had been told to give away his camera, he had said ‘okay God, but if you want me to continue with my photography, you have to supply me with a new camera.’ Guess God wants him to keep it up... he only went without a camera for 45 minutes! So for those of you who were hoping to see pictures of South Africa on Facebook, sorry guys! You’ll just have to wait until I get home.
This week something changed. It’s like something was lifted from me, and I’m able to breathe, see things clearly, and able to just bask in sunlight that very obviously isn’t coming from the actual skies! I feel lighter, happier than I have in a very long time. I am so full of joy and peace! It’s the most wonderful feeling. Anyways, I hope this update was a satisfactory explanation as to why I haven’t updated in so long. I love you all.