Nearly a quarter of a century ago we found ourselves trudging all over the Philippines. We were the busiest we had ever been in our lives up til that point, sharing the love of the Lord throughout Luzon, Cebu, Mindanao and all over the Camotes Islands. In a little over 12 weeks, our small band of prayer warriors shared with tens of thousands via open air gatherings, and had the privilege of personally introducing 3,572 of these precious Filipinos to The Lover of their Souls.
We worked hard with barely a rest, under the most grueling of circumstances. John and I had one small two year old daughter at the time. Brittany was a gem, always bringing joy to all of our desperate situations. We bathed in rivers, walked miles through steamy jungles carrying packs on our backs. At times, I even cooked whatever I could find or kill for the team over wood they would gather for me. Brittany brought such joy not only to us but to all we came in contact with. Never complaining, she even ate a pig ear once, ripping it right off the cooked pig, to the cheers of the villagers that had been our host on that occasion.
Typhoon Ruby devastated the small islands during this time as well. It hit us just after we had been released from captivity by local Muslim guerrillas located in the south of Mindanao. I remember that I felt as if I had been stretched beyond all physical, emotional and spiritual limits. God knows what we need when we need it and somehow, we ended up having a day off near the Davao Gulf.
It was a glorious day, with beautiful blue skies and crystal waters. We were taken out on a small boat and had the opportunity to snorkel in the shallow reef. The sea life was amazing. On several occasions we found these beautifully colorful yet delicate sea anemones that swayed with the undercurrents.
Each time we tried to feel the appendages that gracefully hung from these amazing sea animals they would shrink back into the safety of their tough protective coverings. We would have to wait long amounts of time for them to begin to open up and release their beautiful colors again. Some of these anemones had been provoked too many times and were unable to open up and share their glorious colors to the undersea world.
During the proceeding weeks of the outreach, I had become aloof and guarded. I had distanced myself yet a little more with each difficultly we endured. I found it increasingly hard to trust those around me as it took longer to process all my thoughts and emotions because of the many challenges we were facing.
By this point and time, we had traveled by car, jeepne, train, motor scooters, and even water buffalo. We had eaten so many new and different foods, even raw balut (half gestated duck embryos~a Filipino delicacy). We often bathed in raging rivers, or in the rain and many times our only bathroom was the great outdoors (which was not looking so great to me at the time). We washed our things out of a bucket and wore them half wet most of the time. It was hot, sticky and difficult as a young mother trying to keep her child safe and healthy. I knew in my heart that God was in this and our family being there during that time was important, but that knowledge did not always make what we were experiencing any easier.
It was during this time snorkeling that the Lord spoke quiet profoundly to my heart.
We all have so much of His beauty to share with others. Daily we are faced with challenges that can tempt us to hide and withdraw from human contact. Life hurts. Life is painful and we withdraw when there is pain. But we need to remember that as we withdraw two devastating things happen.
Opening up after a time of brokenness may be difficult,
but it is the only way the broken pieces of our lives can be put back together again.
The first is our beauty is hidden. We seem hard and ugly to those around us. You have seen those people whose brokenness is forever etched in their faces. They walk hunched over, hardened in their character and closed in their spirit. My children call them “scary people.” They have become cruel in character and crusty in spirit.
The next devastating effect is simply that the the longer the anemones hid in their coverings, the sooner they die. Anemones use their appendages to catch their nutrition. If their gloriously swaying arms are all curled up and hidden, they are unable to feed themselves. They eventually die.
It is difficult to be vulnerable, especially after we have been hurt. Even more so if those who have hurt us are the ones closest to us, family and dear friends. But if we refuse to open up and release forgiveness we put ourselves into harms way. We hinder ourselves from being capable to receive all that the Lord has for us. When we raise our hearts in sweet surrender to the Healer of our Brokenness, we find comfort and joy. We are refashioned in wholeness.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His names sake”.
I love Psalm 23 because it shows His great love for us all. He makes us to rest because He longs to restore our souls.
Here’s just a thought:
The Bible says that a man who isolates himself is selfish.
It also says that he who does this avoids all wise counsel.
Stasia is mother to six beautiful children and wife to a dedicated, loving husband. They have served as a family together on the mission field on four continents for nearly 29 years. Stasia’s passion is to share in true colors the grace of God in her life. You can read more about her and the ministry of the Women’s Bible Cafe here. Meet Missionary Mom and Ministry Leader Stasia Nielsen If this article has blessed you in any small way, please consider showing your support by clicking subscribe in the upper right corner.