This weekend I was, once again, invited to the Women’s Retreat that my teammate’s organization puts on every year in Yinchuan. It means a lot to be invited as the sole female GMF-er in China, providing time to get away, to find peace, and to connect to other women who really understand what it means to be living and serving abroad.
This year our group joined the Velvet Ashes Retreat. Velvet Ashes is an online resource for women serving abroad (which I wish I would have known about a year ago), providing an online community of support, book studies, blogs, and an annual retreat. This year the theme was “Commune: Closer to God, Farther from Fear.” What was great about joining the Velvet Ashes community was that all of the material was free – which included devotional sessions, testimonial videos, and even a Holy Yoga video session. Again, all of the women who organized the material and gave their testimonies are women who are or were living abroad. Every aspect was incredibly authentic, relatable, and really led me to a deeper understanding of myself.
So, what is one fear in my life right now?
Being at the end of my journey in China, preparing to transition to America, and contemplating what is next for my life – I have fears of my future, particularly in relation to my call and career.
As a young adult, my life has been very transitional since leaving for college at the age of 18. College was 4 years of transitions – new classes every semester, part-time jobs, and summer gigs – then I moved straight to China, knowing that I would have to leave after 20 months. My plan was that God would show me the ultimate career path during this experience, like make it evidently clear that I was called to youth ministry, international education, or something, and lead me on with out missing a beat! Of course, my plan is not God’s plan, which means, I don’t know what is next for me. I don’t know what I am called to next when I finish my position as a Global Mission Fellow in August. And that is hard, because society expects answers!
The students and teachers ask, “Miss Niech, what will be your job in America? Will you be a teacher in America, Miss Niech?”
“What’s your plan next?” They say in America. “Where are you called next?”
I ask, “What is next for me Lord? Don’t you have a plan for me? Is there a career in store? Will my life continue to be a series of transitional positions? What if I misinterpret your call for me, Lord?”
I realize that these fears come out of a desire for purpose to to be directed by God’s call, which, in turn, brings a sense of stability and fulfillment that is, well, comfortable!
A year ago, I planted some new seeds, realizing that I was cultivating my experience in China in some unhealthy way. After months of cultivation I finally began to see the buds of those seeds this autumn and now the the blooms are bright and beautiful!
I’ve realized that discernment is like that for me too. Though I strongly felt the call to apply for the Global Mission Fellow program in 2014, I did not initially feel called to China. In many ways I rejected this call in my first year in Guyuan, but in planting those new seeds and being open to new growth, I have been able to understand why God called me here and how God’s plan is always the best.
So in understanding this, there is no need for me to fear my future call or career. Hasn’t the Lord always provided? Hasn’t the Lord always revealed the way, even if I can’t see it initially?
In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
-Psalm 118: 5-9 (NLT)
As the Velvet Ashes team put it, what if we turn our fears in to Fear? That is Fear – awe, wonder, and respect – of the Lord. After all, our worldly fears draw us into communion with the Lord, which brings Fear of the Lord, and in turn, allows our fears to be released. What a beautiful process!
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
-Psalm 27:1-2 (NRSV)
So, in case you are wondering, no I don’t have a job after I finish my position in August, nor do I have any idea of what I really want to do next. But I don’t fear the future anymore. I know the Lord will provide. I trust that the Lord will show me when to inquire, pursue, and take action. After all, if Ningxia Shifan Xueyuan doesn’t know when classes will end in July, surely I don’t need to have a plan that far in advance either.
Please enjoy “Love Casts out Fear” by Eine Blume on Maria's blog.