Proverbs 3:5 " Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding...."
I don't know about you, but sometimes my emotions can be all over the place, crazy! Like my crazy face child here! (That's seriously the only tie in I have to the photo above, I look at it and I think "cRaZY"... and when I think of trusting my emotions at times, I think "cRaZY"!)
There was a particular day (the conference portion) while we were in Uganda that my emotions just about got the best of me! They may have entirely gotten the best of me, but for the sake of sounding like I can keep it together- we'll go with " just about". It was one of those days where if it COULD go wrong, it WOULD go wrong. There were unforeseen challenges with the language barrier, the cultural gap, and the teaching environment that all seemed to pile on top of each other and leave me feeling as if I could curl up on the ground in the fetal position and just have a good ole' ugly cry. All that I had planned and prepared for (not to mention, poured my heart into), for the lesson I was teaching, seemed to have been a complete and total flop! We returned to the Guest House that night and I was completely consumed with my emotions of defeat.
Right about now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow, what a downer of a story Hil, thanks for sharing!"... but hang tight, here's where it gets good, here's where God gets to work....
That night at our team debrief I was barely able to keep it together. Knowing my turn to share was nearing, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as we went around the dinner table one by one rehashing the day. It was no secret that all of us ladies on the team were exhausted, discouraged, and done for. The men on the other hand had had a really encouraging day and felt like they had made some serious progress with the pastors they were teaching, and for them, the day was a huge success. Can I just say, to a personality type like mine, where normally I'm the "cheery one", it sucks to be the Debby Downer of the day! But here's where the character of our team shines. Here were our men, who were on a high from the day (rightfully so) and they quickly realized and were sensitive to the fact that the day for us ladies was anything but a high... and so they listened. I know, simple, right?! They genuinely empathized with us- and they selflessly listened. The beauty of the body of Christ right there. So to the gents on the trip, Jason, Paul, Jeff, Brett, and Shawn... THANK YOU for wrapping around us with a listening ear, gentle words, and prayers of encouragement. It meant more than you know and you represented Christ's love so well!
I walked away from our time of debrief grateful for God putting together such an amazing team- yet I still longed to just talk to my husband! I missed him so much on this trip and it was truly hard to experience such emotional highs and lows without him by my side! So you can imagine my frustration when I couldn't get Skype up and running that night to chat with him and was only able to type a couple sentences on facebook to let him know it was a crap day and I desperately needed his prayers. I chalked it up as one more frustrating thing to add to the day and decided to call it quits and go to bed before it got any worse. Surprisingly, I fell asleep crazy fast that night, I'm sure being wore out on all levels played a factor into my unconsciousness!
As I woke up the following morning the first thing I heard were the birds chirping outside my window. It was still dark out, yet the birds knew it was a new day and they were busy singing their praises! Like the birds, I was flooded with an unusual peace that seemed to shine an entirely new perspective on the previous day's situation. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." kept coming to mind, over and over again. Actually, that verse kept coming to mind, and so did the the scene from one of Jude's favorite movies, Chicken Little, where the young rooster confidently puffs out his chest and says, "It's brand new day!" (clearly I'm the mother of a 4 year old!). A shift from discouragement to hope had happened in the middle of the night that I couldn't explain. God had clearly been at work answering prayers that I didn't even know where being lifted up on my behalf! I genuinely felt the Lord's voice of truth reassuring me to trust not in my emotions but in His ability to work despite what I had to offer.
As our bus pulled up where we were hosting the conference, I again heard His whisper in my heart, "Don't trust your insecurities right now- I'm at work!"... and so I stepped off the bus and bravely made my way towards the group of pastor's wives that I felt I had totally missed the mark with the day before in my teaching (mostly because of cultural relevance & language barriers). And in classic African style, we were all immediately greeted with quite possibly the warmest and most friendly smiles you've ever seen, which instantly brought an easiness to my soul! And then, as if that wasn't enough, I was strangely approached by nearly every one of the women as they came up to me and thanked me for my teaching the day before! They were intentional in telling me that great conversations were sparked from what I had taught on and they were so grateful! Folks, I'm tellin' ya, it was SO odd, and their appreciation most certainly didn't measure up in the slightest with my far from stellar teaching I had offered!!! It was at this point it was blatantly clear to me that the Holy Spirit's ability to communicate was far greater than I could comprehend! God had clearly been at work filling in where I fell short. He took the culture gap and somehow brought relevance to it, He took the debilitating communication barriers and spoke through them, He answered prayers of those who cried out on my behalf when I was too defeated to do so! And from that day forward, it was smooth sailing with the conference, and the issues that seemed to be gigantic hurdles, were wiped away!
You see, here's the part that is unbelievably cool to me... While I was surprised by my new found hope and peace when I woke up that morning, and while I stood in awe and was dumbfounded as the women enthusiastically greeted and thanked me for my flop of a teaching, an while I was just so grateful for the obvious positive turn of events... what I didn't know is that God was answering very specific prayers from others!
Remember my frustration from the night before, where I was only able to type a few sentences to Joshua begging him to pray?! Well, being the amazing husband he is, he prayed on my behalf and asked others to do the same & sent a simple email out to friends and family.
This is what it said....
"Update from Hilary:
The women's portion of the conference is struggling a little. The location is difficult among many other barriers with language, children and knowledge. Hilary is discouraged and the group could really use some prayer as they finish their last two days. Pray what has been taught will be used by the Lord and pray for what will be taught will be understood and applied. Thanks for all of you and your support for Hilary."
For those of you that responded and prayed for our team I can't even tell you how grateful I am, because I KNOW that God heard you and He answered! I know for a fact that God heard my dad's prayer... because every line of it was specifically answered! I don't know if God tuned in a little extra because it was a dad calling out on his daughter's behalf... but take note parents, God hears our prayers for our children! Here's my dad's prayer and response to Joshua's email...
Hilary needs Your help. Please use her incredible winsomeness and people skills to win over the women in her Uganda sphere of influence. May they see Your work in her and be swayed toward your grace. Please lift barriers and remove hindrances to Your truth being understood, felt and acted on. Please give Hilary a scripture to hang on to and a kind act or remembrance that energizes her spirit through the balance of this trip. May this renewal be contagious to the other women to such a point that it is obvious, You are at work and they praise You for it. Please return her home safe and satisfied that she has done her best and obeyed your direction. Amen ~Blane"
Brings me to tears every time I read it. I can so clearly see God answered each and every specific line of my dad's requests!
The thing is, I think I could have missed it. I might not have seen that God used my flop for His good, had I only trusted my emotions and my own understanding! Proverbs 3:5 " Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding...." You can't always trust your feelings- they're not always reality, and honestly, I think Satan uses them at times to put his spin on situations! God's word is solid and trustworthy, even when our emotions are cRaZY!
I would have never thought I'd say I was grateful for that emotionally discouraging day while in Uganda-but God revealed more of Himself to me that day. He showed me the importance in the Body of Christ. He showed me that He answers prayers. He showed me that He is far bigger than my emotions and He alone is the solid truth to cling to! For a girl who's dad often told her growing up, "You can't let your feelings lead the way Hilary".... clearly there was a lesson to be learned!
Cling to Him and His truth NOT your emotional circumstances!