Since coming home from Malawi, I have really wrestled with purpose.
I know it’s the nature of a mission trip, but we woke up every day with a very clear purpose: get to know this family, become familiar with this village, hear the stories about this children’s home, teach a seminar about formative assessment. Every day was laid out, and the purpose was clear.
What’s more is that there was so little distracting us from that purpose. With no wi-fi, no cell phone signal, I was never wondering what I might have missed on Instagram. I didn’t think about making a run through a coffee shop or if I should rearrange my bookshelf again. No push notifications about rent payments or daycare payments or emails needed a reply. Of course, I didn’t have to go grocery shopping and while I once hoped to wash some clothes, we didn’t have running water that day.
When we had some downtime in the afternoons or evenings, my options were as follows: walk around and take photos, write in my journal, talk or play cards with my group members, talk to the secondary school students on campus, read book. Go for a walk. Perhaps shower. Perhaps.
In my first few days at home, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices inherent in every decision. I would buckle myself into the driver’s seat and need to choose: radio, CD, or iPhone? Then, Pandora, Spotify, Songza, or podcast? At dinner time, do I choose the nonstick frying pan or not, and on which size plate should our meal be served? The next morning, it would be time to get dressed, and good grief, my closet. And all of these choices pale in comparison to the complete paralysis I have felt looking at my to-do list and calendar.
While Malawi was certainly emotionally and spiritually overwhelming, it actually felt restful. Life was simple, by necessity and circumstance. I was continually aware of Jesus’ presence in a very tangible way, the Spirit weighing heavy like a blanket, and I know that indeed, He offers rest.
Before we left, my good friend Melissa told me, “You will sense both God’s presence and the world’s darkness more strongly in Malawi. I don’t know why that is,” she said, “but it’s true.”
I’ve been mulling that over since coming home, praying that Jesus will help me feel Him closely again and make me more aware of the need in my own backyard. At times He has, but you know what I think? I think I noticed Him more in Malawi because there were no distractions. No push notifications or tweets to pull me out of each moment, and no caramel macchiatos or craft projects to numb me to brokenness.
As I’m going about my days, I’ve becoming painfully aware that I do so without much purpose. I float from one to-do list item to the next, and I rush from home to work and back again. Don’t misunderstand me–I know that cooking dinner for my family isn’t without purpose. (It’s a grace gift, these two God has given me to love and care for.) Yet, the significant things in my life are mixed in with and overwhelmed by so much meaningless junk and unnecessary excess that I hardly notice them.
I desperately want to eliminate all that excess, so that the things that matter most will no longer suffer under the weight of what matters least. I want each day imbued with purpose, even if the tasks themselves are mundane. I want Jesus, as close as my own breath, He and I, the Vine and the branch.