Two weeks ago, I found myself knee-deep in a gripe session to Matt about the realities of my job. Despite my instagram feed which screams of jungles and adventures and motorbikes on beaches, my day-to-day work routine is actually quite mundane, and fairly isolating, most weeks. It’s grants and spreadsheets and a billion emails. It’s stress and people-messiness and mountains of heavy. It is the pressure (sometimes suffocating) of fundraising to keep 21 staff members and their work funded and moving forward. It’s a husband that travels or that struggles with flashbacks. My day-to-day is sometimes boring, sometimes brutal, but hardly ever “inspirational! the stuff of dreams! stop the presses, things are going brilliantly and easily over here!”
And in the midst of this self-imposed pity-session, I was editing photos on my phone from some of our field teams — a selfie smiling among precious brown-skinned children, travel shots into beautiful remote places. And my immediate reaction was not as Mother Teresa’s would have been. As it should have been. It was unguarded words I didn’t know were brewing: “I feel like I’m bleeding out so that other people can live my dream.”
Because I’ll be honest, my dream is holding the hands of the vulnerable not holding the reins, to be tasked with building relationships, not budgets, to hold deeply and personally the story of one, not necessarily the stories of many from a report on email. My dream was to walk down the alleys, travel into the hearts of survivors, battle in the trenches, like actually. Not figuratively. And I struggle against this reality that the journey for me isn’t shaping up to include typically the things I really wanted to do in the first place.
Yes, yes, I know– woe. is. me. (Things could be a lot tougher. I could be a lot more uninvolved. I know, I know.)
But I confess this angst and attitude because just three days later, I’m wiping crumbs from the table from kids that were rushing out the door, and obsessing internally about a grant that was pending, and I’m playing the tape-o-whine on repeat, “Poor me. Bleeding out so other people can live my dream.”
And I swear, I hear this in my soul, in that Spirit-whisper:”So, you’re bleeding out so that others can live a dream? Welcome to the cross-life, sweetheart.”
Oh. Yeah. THAT.
How quickly I forget that when I say I want to follow the way of Jesus, that actually means sharing in sufferings. It actually means sacrifice, not always glory. Actually, hardly ever glory. And very rarely comfort or even getting what we think we want. And while I do believe God wants us “fully alive” and “pursuing our dreams” in our vocations and life-stories, maybe sometimes the dreams we are called to pursue are on behalf of those around us and not ourselves. And maybe sometimes that pursuit is far less flashing lights and dramatic action and far more faithful choices, made backstage.
And so, I don’t know, maybe that resonates in your world today? Maybe you’re bleeding out, too, for a spouse, a kid, a job, a ministry, an enemy. And maybe you find yourself in the drudgery of obedience or right living, and you’re tired, discouraged, or even somehow, resentful that things aren’t shaping up the way you planned, that things aren’t easier or even more exciting, that *your* dreams aren’t coming true.
I reckon I would offer just this as an encouragement, a prompt to keep moving forward — “Welcome to the cross-life, sweetheart.” It’s sometimes boring, and sometimes brutal and very rarely the stuff of dreams. Or, actually, maybe it is. Just not the ‘my dreams’ you thought you were fighting for.