Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lessons in the DR

A little over a week ago today I arrived back from a trip with friends to the Dominican Republic. If you would like to read about some of our adventures, check out the links below.
Jenn (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5,  

Jessie Bear (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6,   
Hopefully more to come)

I have promised to sit down and share a little from my own perspective, but truth be told, I do not even know where to start. Perhaps at the beginning? For me day one was about a year ago. At that time Jessie Bear had just arrived home from her first trip to the Dominican Republic. She told me bits and pieces about the trip but what I remember most was the change in her vocabulary. She talked a lot about grace and about the soul. Somewhere back at the end of the summer of 2013, that was my day one.

At that time I was not even considering that there might be a next trip and that I would be on it. I was focused on life, and that life included the structure and pressure of a job and college classes amidst all the other aspects of daily life. However, the talk about the soul and what grace meant in daily life was creating questions in my mind. Questions that continued to bagger me, particularly one, "Do I really know what grace is?"

Time went on and Jessie Bear continued to talk about what she had learned, but not in the same direct way. I could see that what she had learned had changed her, grown her, and sometimes I felt at a loss to understand where she was in life. She seemed to grasp things in a new way that had made her more focused and even more alive. Yet, even though I saw the results, I could not fully grasp the truth behind the change. I wanted it too, but it seemed beyond me, to hard.

I was convinced I could not ever go because I had responsibilities and it was costly, but faithful friends were praying (some I did not even know about then) and over time pieces began to fall in place, God provided, and I went.

As I boarded my first plane I was resolved to listen well and to learn, but I was not aware of another resolve that had been developing below the surface. A determination to protect myself. You see, I felt vulnerable because of my questions on grace. Here I had been a Christian for years and here I was swamped in doubts out my understanding of grace. Yes, there was a lot of pride behind that fear, but remember, I did not realize all of this was going on. At least not yet.

As the trip progressed I enjoyed the newness of being in another country, the fun in observing new people, and the depth of the lessons we had each day. I was excited that some of my questions were answered and felt my understanding of grace began to deepen some. However, there were still some unvoiced questions hovering in the back of my mind. I never allowed myself time to even put them into words, but they were there none the less.

We were nearing the end of out trip and were seated at breakfast when Mr. Raimundo put a question to me. I do not even recall the exact question, but I think it was along the lines of what a key takeaway from the sessions had been to me. I said that it had been on the talks on grace and our completeness in Christ. How I had never fully grasped that, and how I always had such high standards for myself and others that we never reached them and I was always left feeling like a failure, judgemental, and even hopeless at times.

It was then that I truly began to learn, when I spoke up and voiced what was tumbling around inside. Mr. Raimundo stopped me and asked if I was sure that my standards were to high, and then went on to explain that, no, my standards were not to high, in fact, they were very low. He explained that God's standard is the highest, and it is not perfection. Do you know what it is? Grace. And what is grace? It is that Jesus died on a cross and took God's wrath upon Him so that we might live.

I wished I had taken notes, so that I could now more clearly explain using his questions and illustrations. But the fact is, over that breakfast, for the first time I felt like I was really beginning to grasp grace and how I should live because of how God pours out His grace on us. I had heard about grace time and time again, I had read God's Word many times over, but somehow the fullness of grace eluded me. I would see little glimpses of it, but it really had never sunk in and fully effected how I lived on a day to day bases.

The rest of the trip ended in a blur of sad lasts for us all, but I highly doubt that I was the only one who was also experiencing many exciting new firsts.

Often we go into things with expectations of what we hope to learn and take away, but the best lessons are the ones that God teaches when we are least expecting them. He truly does know what we need and is faithful to provide.