Note: This blog entry was originally posted on the Waters Edge Ministry blog (weministry.blogspot.com) in late July. I resubmit it here; the feelings remain the same. AT
What’s it really like? People sometimes ask me that question after I’ve returned from a mission trip.
When you get there, it’s like a curtain has been opened for you. Your senses are heightened; you want to see, smell, hear, taste, touch everything so that you can experience it to the fullest. You’re the first one awake in the morning, and the last one to sleep at night because you don’t want to miss a thing by being asleep. Time sort of downshifts, and people move at a different, slower pace. Yet it also flies by quickly, creating a time warp for those who dare to step into this place.
Every pore, every cell in your body is attuned to your surroundings.
You see more stars in the darkness of night because there are no other lights competing and blocking out their brightness.
The birds’ singing brings you into wakefulness every morning, and you lie there, eyes shut, listening to them praise the Creator for another morning.
You feel the drumbeats, all the way into your bones, into your heart, into your very soul. It is impossible to be still, you must move and become a part of the rhythm.
The earthy smells of smoke and sweat mingle with the heady aromas of flowers growing wild and glorious alongside the roads.
Sunshine feels warm upon your back; perhaps gentle raindrops feel cool against your skin. Gentle breezes – and powerful winds -- remind you of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Voices rise in song, melodies and harmonies intertwining into heavenly sounds, punctuated by handclaps in syncopated time give you a tiny suggestion of what the angels’ singing must be like.
Spiritually, you begin to feel closer to God. His Spirit surrounds you, feeling as tangible as a warm, soft blanket as you worship and pray, and you cling to His presence.
You may become physically tired, but you press on. You may become hungry, but you share what you have with others. You may thirst, but there is pure, cool water available – and the Living Water is by your side, as well.
The entire time you are there, it is a worshipful experience, unlike any church service you can imagine. All too soon, though…it has to end.
The curtain drops once again as life returns to what is supposedly “normal.” Back to telephones ringing, schedules pressing, bills waiting. Like the creepy old man with binoculars at the bottom of the hill trying to peer into your business, the enemy tries to steal your joy, your privacy, your sanity as you try to merge what you’ve just experienced with what you call “real life.” Well-intentioned friends ask, “How was your trip?” But if you tell them much more than “Great!” their eyes begin to glaze over and you realize that very few people honestly have the time or energy to care. And that realization hurts, partly because you know what they are truly missing. You don’t “fit” any more, and cannot exactly explain why that feeling persists. A whiff of a familiar scent, a snippet of sound, a fleeting memory can all trigger that lump in the throat, that sting in the eyes. So you give your senses a shot of novocaine, you push back emotions. Life goes on, as usual.
Sometimes, in that sweet haze between sleep and wakefulness, you are able to peer behind the curtain in your dreams. Your feet may walk down those dusty red dirt roads, you might hear the people singing or drums beating, you might see the brilliant colors of flowers or dresses as people swirl in dance. And you try so hard to cling to that brief glimpse, even if it is just a dream. When the fuzziness of sleep evaporates, you feel a tear slide down your face as you rise to face another day.
Gradually, you re-adjust to life “in the material world,” but you look at things differently. Your perspective has changed, your priorities may be re-arranged. And you begin to realize the burdens that were laid upon your heart are actually gifts.
How can you use those gifts? How can you share them? THAT becomes the challenge. And the challenge becomes the desire to seek God’s will. And that is what it is “really like” to me.