My first and only international business trip took me to South Africa over the new year of 2006-2007. My best friend Anna got to go with me. It was a magical time. I felt a soul connection with South Africa; it was a feeling like I have never experienced before in my international travels. On the last night of the conference, I remember looking up at the stars and feeling as though I would return someday to South Africa, but I didn’t know when or how.
In the spring after I returned home, I entered into a season of restlessness and spiritual wrestling. I recently broke up with my boyfriend, and I was angry. I was being considered for jury duty for a capital murder case and that process made me question my long-held beliefs about capital punishment and our justice system. I had a lot of questions for God, big questions: Why doesn’t God bring the right man in my life? How could a loving God allow so much injustice in the world? Why are some people born into environments of unimaginable abuse and poverty with no way out, while others are born into loving families and communities? I kept thinking about the poverty I saw in South Africa, the young man in Nashville who was about to be tried for his life. I was frustrated, angry, and having serious doubts of faith. I wanted answers from God. I was miserable, and I was making everyone around me miserable. Looking back, I think this crisis of faith was much worst than I thought at the time; it scares me to think about how close I was to throwing in the towel, to walking away from God.
Thankfully, God is much more persistent in his relationship with us than we are in our relationship with him. God doesn’t give up on us. He used some key people in my life, including my dad, to help me get through the time of wrestling. Like Jacob of old, I believe I emerged stronger in my faith. I never did receive answers to my questions; but with God’s help, I decided to trust God anyway. I am learning to live with the questions.
Funnily enough, once I came to this point in my faith journey, I started to have a sense of being called towards something. I didn’t know what, but I felt as though God was calling me towards something, to do something. It was a time of mistiness, but I felt warm. It was a time of uncertainty, but I felt hopeful. I was no longer scared.
NOTE: This is the first post of a three-part series that recounts my missionary discernment process.