I won’t lie, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually, the last eight months were hard. To start with I live in a city and a country that can be emotionally draining, add to that that I haven’t left Beijing since I first arrived three years ago (every expat I know looks at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, this simply is a city you have to leave at least once a year to keep your sanity). And just as I was hitting Beijing overload, I fell for a girl who was a master manipulator. She played with my heart for about three month before finally smashing it.
During this time, the person that was my best friend here in Beijing became more and more distant. I realized later that it was because I had sided with this girl over him (he also being a controlling and manipulative person) in a couple of conflicts. This rift only got deeper when I confronted him about some unbiblical behavior and decisions he was making in regards to the Bible study we co-led (he felt it was perfectly okay to kick people out just because they didn’t agree with him). Then finally in December, he accused me of being a horrible friend and a bad Christian (the go-to attack of the self-righteous) and ended our friendship and kicked me out our bible study.
I lost everything overnight, that group had been my family and my anchor in Beijing. I went into damage control mode, trying salvage what I could of my life. I got more involved in church and tried to go back to normal. The problem is I was hurting from that betrayal and I was trying numb myself rather than heal. I was also still hurting from the wounds given by the young lady back in the summer that I had never dealt with because I was trying to appease my friend.
So I arrived in March of this year bloody, bruised, broken, and wanting to get the hell out of China. I was also angry at God, not because of what had happened (there were warning signs from the beginning of both relationships that I ignored, or attributed to my own issues), but because I felt like He wanted me to stay in Beijing, but wasn’t giving me a lot of direction. Should I stay at my current job or should I find a new one? Where should I live (my current roommate is moving out, and I need to either find a new place or a new roommate)? Should I go back home to Omaha for the summer or should I stay here and save money? I prayed diligently and sought God’s will and yet nothing came.
In the Bible, there is a story about the prophet Elijah and an encounter he had with God. “11The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 1 Kings 19:11-13”.
A lot of times, Christians use this passage to say that God will always whisper to us through the small things of life, rather than through a big production with lots of wind and fire and chorus of angels. And for the most part I believe this true, I often hear God through music, movies, books or conversations I have, I have never experienced the big production, but I caution against discounting the fire and the wind. Let me explain, with the rest of my story.
Last week, I hit a breaking point, and I realized that I was in a deep depression that began in August and slowly got worse. It was due to a lack of healing and resolution, I had dropped the ball, because I hadn’t grieved and I hadn’t rested.
I started to address the wounds and really look for healing. I had begun reading Bittersweet: Thoughts on Grace, Change, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. This book has proven to be the gentle whisper of God in this season of my life as it is all about pain, change, and the things we do that inhibit our healing. And by yesterday, most of my questions had been answered and my fears quelled.
But the big question still remained, do I go or do I stay? I prayed, before I went to work yesterday, that God would show me in some way what I was supposed to do. I went to work and hoped to hear the whisper. After work, I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant, I had resigned myself to listening for the whisper and waiting. And then it hit, the biggest sandstorm had ever seen during my time in Beijing, and with it came my answer. It was as if the wind and flying grit had sand blasted away all the crap and resurrected the me that came to China three years ago. In that moment, I knew I couldn’t leave, and that if God wanted me here He would provide the way and the means.
I am not saying that God will always speak in this, or that you will even ever have an experience like this. Sometimes God has to speak through the wind and fire, because otherwise we would miss his voice. I believe we shouldn’t discount the amazing in favor of the normal.