There are two questions people are asking me about Colombia: How was it? and "How do you think you'll apply your trip to your real life?"
How was it?
As Ecclesiastes 3:4-6 says, there was a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away.
The team experienced so much joy with each other and with the boys and girls we were working with. In spite of a major communication barrier, we had very few problems communicating with the children and sharing love and laughter with them. We definitely had plenty of times to laugh.
But we also had time to mourn for the children and the circumstances. While we were there, two girls ran away from the group home and returned to the street life. And one boy was asked to leave the farm because he continued to violate the no-drugs policy. We watched as the boy left with nothing but a backpack and some bus money.
Most of us went hoping to serve God and show his love. And though I can't speak for everyone, I came back with so much more than I could possibly have given. I didn't realize it at the time but God sent me there so he could bring me home.
When I was there, I didn't feel stressed out at all. I was completely fine with whatever happened or didn't happen and I wasn't concerned about impressing anyone, or making a name for myself, or trying to 'get ahead' of anything or anyone. And I think the reason is because when I was there, God was my boss. The only thing I had to do was love people...or as the Christians say, "Love on people."
After going back to work last week, I started to think about the stress in my life and the expectations I have of myself and I thought, "What if God was my boss everyday? What if the only thing that was expected of me everyday was to love people?" I find a significant peace in thinking about this because I don't think they are hypothetical questions. I truly believe that's the way God wants us to live our lives!
It's easy to love people when there are no other demands on your time, resources, and energy. It's a lot harder to do when you're thinking about where the next paycheck is coming from, or if you're "good enough" in the eyes of your employer, or your friends and family, or how you measure up to the neighbors.
I think we all have a tendency to put expectations and limitations on ourselves that God is not requiring of us. The only thing He demands is that we love Him and each other. It took a trip to Colombia to realize this so here's how I plan to keep that trip alive: I've made a commitment to start approaching tasks and interactions with the two questions: "Does what I'm doing represent me loving God with all my heart?" And, "Is what I'm doing an indication of loving my neighbor as myself?"
I don't know what this means for everyday life -- cleaning the house, walking the dog, making dinner, etc -- but I do know that where I have a chance to make a choice about how I approach something, I will be keeping those two things in mind.