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Monday, June 23, 2014

Not My Work: Spiritual Reflections on My First Month in Mexico

It is surreal to think I am already a month into my internship at the Ninos de Mexico children's home in San Vicente/Texcoco, Mexico.

The time has flown by and I feel like I have settled into my "home away from home" for the summer.

I am excited to have made so many lasting connections here, both with the kids in Ninos's homes and among the 5 mission trip groups that have traveled down to Ninos to work this summer, and to have rekindled old friendships from my previous trips two years ago. 

During my stay, I have improved my Spanish, cooked in a Mexican kitchen, played copious amounts futbol, broken bread at church with my Mexican brethren, had fruitful Gospel conversations with some of the kids in my house, seen many of Mexico City's beautiful sites, and been the hands and feet of Christ in a country not my own (all unto and by God's glory and goodness).

It has been an amazing experience thus far, but not totally without difficulties. 

Emotionally and spiritually I have experienced exhaustion and have hit some walls.

Petty conflicts here and there, insecurities exposed, doubts raised--it all started to pile up.

Though I knew it had to happen eventually, I felt taken out at the knees.

What am I doing here? I'm too spiritually immature to help anyone. I'm just too tired. If only... Maybe I should just... 

And on it went, a cacophony of doubts in my head, threatening to undermine all the preparation, prayers, and God-incidences that had gotten me to Mexico in the first place.

However, His power is made perfect in my weakness.

At the beginning of my trip, God put it in my heart to memorize Philippians 2, unbeknownst to me, for such a time as this.

The first eighteen verses read as follows: 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, (2.) then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (3.) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (4.) not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

(5.) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

(6.) Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
(7.) rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
(8.) And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

(9.) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
(10.) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11.) and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(12.) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13.) for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

(14.) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, (15.) so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (16.) as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (17.) But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (18.) So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

I was struck by the obvious implications of the words I was reading: this work wasn't about me.

None of it was about me, in the ultimate sense. 

It wasn't about my strength (or lack thereof); it wasn't about my feelings; it wasn't about my fears, my wants, my doubts, my insecurities--this work wasn't about me.

It is about God.

It is about God and His love for the world.

If Jesus did not consider himself when he took on flesh and made himself obedient unto crucifixion, I thought, can I not, by the power of Him who lives within me, look past Eric to see the purpose God working in and through me?

Is it possible to say no to grumbling and complaining and worrying and instead joyfully and prayerfully participate in the work God has prepared for me?

The answer is yes!

This is because I can say with Paul that it is God who is working in me to accomplish the things He has for me to do. 

Will this deepened awareness be easily or immediately affected?

Probably not. 

However, I know, regardless, that He who began a good work in me will see it unto completion.