“Feelings aren’t necessarily truth. They are just feelings. God is our truth.”
(Dad, from Backseat of the Car Lecture Series)
I am feeling scared. The past few weeks I’ve been walking around with the unnerving notion that at any second I might pee my pants. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling. I am also feeling stressed. The kind of stressed that makes big knots out of your neck muscles, bunching up and down your back. It’s a very painful feeling. And I’m feeling angry. Angry at myself for letting my feelings knock me down again and again ’til it’s the final countdown and I feel anything but ready to leave. For 5 months. And 2 weeks. And 5 days.
My days routinely cycle through jittery excitement and feet-dragging dread. The butterflies I feel keep dropping like stones in my stomach when I think about how little I know about what I’m getting myself into.
I’m still trying to figure out what I want. What I want to pack, what I want to study, what friends I want to make, and what I want to do with my life. I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to stay here (Michigan), but I’m not really sure if I want to go there (Brazil). I want to leave my family, but I don’t want to cleave to anyone, anything, or anyplace…not yet.
I’ve got a heart for adventure though. God, you know, you put it there. Why am I allowing myself to be crushed by the pounding gales of potential perils before I even poke my head out of my sheltered space? I am not big enough to face this adventure alone. The one thing I know I need to pack won’t even make it to baggage claim because it’s too big to squeeze inside my suitcase. I need the Rock That Is Higher Than I. The only shelter sturdy enough to withstand hell itself and handy enough to find wherever I am.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of the Israelites trying to enter into Canaan, the Promised Land. God had gotten them out of a bad situation with the Pharaoh in Egypt, and God had led them through rivers, over wilderness, patiently providing, protecting, and preparing them for His promise. But when they finally got to the Promised Land, the Israelites wavered on the edge, preferring the concrete evidence of spies over the distant power of the Cloud of God.
“In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” (Deuteronomy 1:32-33)
This land seemed good, but too good. Yes, it was flowing with milk and honey, but there were giants too–bigger than they could battle alone. 10 out of 12 spies focused on the dangers instead of the opportunities–they lost sight of the goodness of God’s promise.
This trip seems good, too good. But focusing on my fears only sours the sweetness of this gift. I want to be like Caleb and Joshua who believed that as the Lord was with them, they did not need to be afraid, but rather enter the Promised Land with confidence, for “we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30)
Now, while I don’t believe that Salvador da Bahia, Brazil is the modern-day promised land, I do believe that this 5 1/2-month stint is a precious present from God–an answer to a long-held desire in my heart. And I want to believe that it’s a gift that I’m worthy of–no matter how inadequate I feel.
“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31)