“Jesus did not heal everyone,” my professor’s words shocked me. The Pool of Bethesda was full of sick and hurting people that day, all in search of healing, yet the Savior chose to heal just one. “Why?” I wondered. It almost does not seem fair. I mean, He had the power, and yet he singled out a man who had lay there for 38 years and chose to heal him (and just him) over anyone else.
“So, why then do I feel so much tension at times to do it all?” The pull, the demands, the weight of the needs, I often feel that I have to fix everything. That pressure threatens to pull so tight that I feel myself breaking at times.
Then there is the tension of blending multiple cultures. How much should I change to fit in and be heard so as not to distract from the message that needs to be shared, and how much bending and blending is too much so that I actually start to lose the authentic me that I was created to be? The life of living between different “worlds” can seem nothing but constant tension at times. How best to spend time and resources, when to work, and when to rest.
On our first furlough I remember a kind friend offering to let us swing by for a quick breakfast before we headed off to our next destination and I responded with a, “Thanks but we had plans to grab a bite at one of my favorite restaurants.” I later wondered, “Am I being a good steward of the money people sacrificed to give?” And yet it is only once every 2 to 3 years that I even have a chance to eat at the places I often miss so much while overseas. Yes, Panera, I’m talking about you.
I feel the tension attending a playgroup complete with trampolines and a gorgeous pool overlooking the ocean. Then my eye wanders to the local fishermen’s houses tin sheets and built on wooden stilts without even a proper restroom, and I think to myself, “I don’t truly belong in either of these worlds.”
I have slept in grass huts and been woken up by a rat running across my legs. Then there are days, like our daughter’s first birthday, when a friend gifted us tickets to a local hotel’s dine and dive night. We enjoyed a delicious buffet while watching Finding Nemo and enjoying the rooftop pool. There just seem to be so many extremes to this life at times and maybe that is part of what makes it sustainable—every day being so different.
The needs are constant. Balance is required, but how do you decide who to help, how to best use your time, what projects to invest in? I think back to Jesus at the pool of Bethesda following the Spirit’s leading and healing the man, who that day, was supposed to be healed. It makes me think of Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice, “do the next thing,” which also echoes the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
Is this the answer for how to live amidst the tension? Do the next thing. Enjoy the day that is today. Meet the needs that you can meet in this moment. Maybe doing the next thing is mopping the kitchen floor. Maybe it is translating John chapter 10. Maybe it is rocking a child to sleep or bandaging up a wound from a machete. Maybe doing the next thing is enjoying a Sabbath rest so that you have the strength and calmness to face a new week. Maybe doing the next thing is writing an encouraging email or teaching a workshop for local farmers.
The tension is real. Even something as “simple” as grocery shopping can threaten to break you. “Should I buy the expensive imported cheese?” Then there are newsletters. What stories should be shared and which ones should be left out. Tension simply comes with the territory when you step outside your norm and work to create a new norm, a world of blended cultures and often difficult choices.
May there be beauty in the tension. Days of rest sprinkled amongst the days of hard work. Days of fruitfulness along with days that just seem dry. May the tension bring balance not a sense of feeling stretched to the point of breaking knowing that we are not called to heal everyone or solve all of the world’s problems, but we are honored to get to be the hands and feet of the One who holds everything in His hands. Amidst the tension we get to see so many beautiful facets of life. We get to do the next thing.