Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3
I've found myself in a culture made up of people I don't know, and who do no not know me. I've left the familiarity of my home in Texas and I now live in a city that is far from my comfort zone. I no longer live in the Bible Belt. I live in a society that values independence and has little patience for institutionalized religion. Fair enough. It's been a challenging change, but a good change, and in an effort to follow Paul's, and by extension, Christ's, example, I'm learning how to adapt. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I might win some." I'm not a through and through Welsh-man yet, but I'm trying to be observant, and ask questions, like "What resonates with the Welsh?"
I'm going through lots of growing pains. My emotions have been thrown into a tailspin as I try to adjust to a completely new setting, and I'm trying to stand on the promises of the Lord as I go. As my mom always tells me, I guess I'm "exercising spiritual muscles that aren't used to being worked." Needless to say I'm sore.
Over the last several weeks, I've experienced a wide range of emotions, emotions I would rather not have to sort through. I've experienced anger. Anger is my response to things happening in ways I wish they weren't happening. I've also experienced loneliness. I spent twenty years acquiring friends, and they were almost always handed to me on a silver platter. I'm so thankful for these friends, but now, I'm having to relearn how to make new ones, and it's a slow process. As Christmas time starts to roll around, I begin to miss my family, but the Lord has placed me in a team of extremely loving people, and for that I'm thankful. But still, it can get lonely, I miss the familiar. I often feel like a fish out of water. I've received the call to go to a foreign place and love others and share Jesus with them, but the execution of this task is difficult. Just as Jesus was intimately a part of the culture around him, in order to be heard, I have to identify with the people in Bangor. Goodness, I get excited about identifying with the people here, but sometimes the task is so daunting, I just want to go home, back to where I'm comfortable. There have been times, I'm sad to say, that I've prayed the Lord would make that happen.
It's easy for me to let myself be crushed by guilt at feeling these things. However, I'm comforted by one thing in particular. I haven't felt one single emotion, that Jesus himself didn't bear the weight of also. My mediator, the man Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), experienced anger. In Mark 3, Jesus is filled with anger at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They would rather try to prove their own righteousness through religious rule following, than see a needy man healed. Isaiah 53:3 says of Jesus, "He was despised and rejected by man; a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." Jesus was a self-proclaimed homeless man (Matthew 8:20), he was the "stone the builders rejected" (Psalm 118:22), His own family said He was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). I'm convinced the man, Jesus Christ knows what it's like to experience lonely nights.
Jesus, the Son of God, condescended to my level for my sake. "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is one with God, and he committed himself to a human body that walked the earth. Talk about a fish out of water. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with God that He would let the cup of suffering pass from Him. In John 12:27, Jesus said "Now my soul is troubled…Father save me from this hour." Jesus had received the call, but in desperation asked his Father to take him home, because earth wasn't his home.
Jesus saved our bodies by putting on flesh, and He saved our emotions by putting on our minds (David Mathis, "Desiring God"). Jesus enjoyed the company of friends (John 15:15), He experienced the searing pain of loss (John 11:35), and when He became overwhelmed by the weight of his task, He desired to be with His Father. But for your sake and for mine, he told God, "Not my will be done, but yours" (Luke 22:42).
Praise Jesus, for He suffered as a human, in ways that humans suffer. Surely we do have a great high priest who can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, knowing that I have a mediator between God and myself, I'll run with endurance the race that has been set out for me, all the while, looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.
All that being said, I do realize that I tend to rely on my emotions more than a lot of people, so when my emotions fluctuate, I tend to see it as a big deal. Therefore, it needs to be said, life in Wales is great! My teammate and I are a part of a Welsh Choir, conducted completely in the the Welsh language. We joined because we knew it would be an incredible opportunity to meet Welsh speakers our age, and we thought it would be fun. What a cool God we have, that he would allow us to serve and minister in areas that are also fun for us! We have indeed met several people through the choir, however, the Lord has put a couple specific individuals on our hearts that we really want to invest in. We're praying the Holy Spirit would see those budding friendships grow into fruitful relationships!
One Sunday in church, as I was standing, singing songs that I don't really understand, I was struck by the way the church has demonstrated the Gospel to my teammate and me. They welcomed in two Americans that don't speak their first language, and were not born into their way of life or their culture, and they've made us their own. Wow. Isn't that what Jesus did for us? Sinful as we are, and perfect as He is, He made us a part of His family. Praise God.
Jacob Allen is serving as a Go Now missionary in Wales. To read more, and see some awesome photos, from Allen, visit his blog.