Posted in Learning

Better Than Life

Because your goodness is better than life, my lips will sing your praise.

Psalm 63:6

I spent the past year living in Thailand, working for International Justice Mission, as an intern with their Child Sexual Assault and exploitation team.
My first week, I sat in my first team meeting. We discussed a referral we had received. A 12 year old girl had turned up at her parents house, pregnant, after being missing for six months. I saw my hands shake as I scribbled notes, about where she was held captive, about who could potentially be charged, over which jurisdiction we would file under. No one else in the team reacted in any visible, emotional way, this was their job. And now it was mine.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember when we went out to her family’s house two weeks later. I’d been in the field for 3 days – it was in a tiny village on a moutainside, the view was breathtaking. While our social workers talked to the girl and her family, our investigator and I worked in an outside kitchen on lunch; me because I didn’t speak Thai, him because he was a man. We laughed and cooked all morning, over a gas burner and four foot wok on the packed earth.
I remember watching a young man die in a motorbike accident on the way home, and our team telling me they couldn’t stop. It was too dangerous to stop here. We prayed as we drove past.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember the way one of our social workers held my hand as we walked into trial together. I remember the way another flipped over a stack of files on my desk because there were snacks in the lobby. I remember the way she ran her fingers through her hair and held her face in her hands, with her elbows on her desk, staring at nothing at all.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember us all sitting on the floor of the office, singing 90’s worship songs together, all in our own languages. The way we all prayed, every day, for miracles. For convictions, breakthroughs, for the impossible, in a way that was not ashamed of our God, of how great He was. That was unafraid of being bold in our asking, because we had no plan B. I remember the ones answered in more powerful ways than we could imagine, I remember the ones that weren’t.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember weekend trips to mountain ranges and caves. I remember riding elephants and learning to rock-climb. I remember making wonderful new friends who changed the way I understood kingdom work. My peers were now Nigerian church-planters, guys just out of the military documenting war crimes in Myanmar, fun wild adventurous people who had decided to follow Jesus no matter where he led them, and who were not the least bit impressed by me.
I remember going to weddings, long road trips with close friends. Laughter, closeness, the time that Ajan Winyou caught an 8ft python, and decided he wanted to show it to us, so he brought it to work, and released it in the meeting room.
I remember all of us piling into one house for big communal dinners, and how an acoustic guitar and a projector stolen from the office made for a decent karaoke set-up. I remember when our investigator would invite me over to his house to teach me to cook in exchange for babysitting his daughters.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember trying to convince that investigator to wear a bulletproof vest, even though I knew he wouldn’t listen to me. I checked my phone every 30 seconds, palms sweating and imagined every door shutting, engine revving, was gunshots. I remember being in my apartment, when a small child on the floor below started screaming. I stood paralyzed in panic and fear, I knew toddlers screamed all the time, his parents probably told him to stop licking the window , but I was frozen, I couldn’t breathe.
I remember hospitals and courtrooms and drama. I remember more the hours spent at clients houses, in the hot, still quiet countrysides. I remember dozens of faces of small, quiet children. Of hard teenage ones.
I remember them all. I carry them around with me everywhere I go, I know their names, and their faces, and their stories. I remember the ones we could not save. The ones who slipped through our fingers, who rejected us, who didn’t make it out of childhood.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

I remember orienting the new interns, and shoveling around files with surveillance photos and medical reports. I explained documentation and current cases, methodically. I had to stop talking before I noticed the new girl’s hands shaking the way mine did once. I wanted to tell her I was sorry. But I didn’t know what I was apologizing for.
I remember when I got home and I told everyone ‘Thailand was great!’ even though my heart was breaking with an ache and anger and fear that I couldn’t name.I remember trying to write presentations about my time, choking on the truth, and settling for something shallower. I remember this past weekend, when I went to spend a weekend with other people who had worked with IJM in the field. I realized that I had to chosen to be professional, cold, and even angry, while working in the field, and since I came home, because it was easy. I realized that under that, I was sad. I am sad.
I am sad for the horrible things I have seen. I am sad for the lives of the children I have met. I am sad for the friends I left behind. I am sad that the world is a dark and broken place. I am sad that God has not fixed it when he easily could have. I am sad that, sometimes, in this world, evil wins. I am sad that no matter how many children we helped, there were always more. And I will no longer apologize for, hide, or qualify that sadness.
Because it is only in brokenness is there redemption. Only in confession is there forgiveness. Only in death is there resurrection.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

My lips will sing praise. For I believe that God is good, and sovereign. I believe that Jesus is much more broken over the world than I could ever be, and there is a time for mourning, and weeping. I believe that joy will come at dawn, but that means there’s got to be night first. Jesus’s promise to return and make all things new and whole and as they should be means a lot more when you realize how much things are not as they should be.
Faith is being sure of what is hoped for and certain of what we cannot see. God has never been closer to me. I know Him more intimately now than I could have ever imagined. I do not understand God, but I will worship him.

 

Because your goodness is better than life, My lips will sing your praise.

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