One of the biggest challenges I face in leading mission teams around the world, is the part of the experience when the team comes back home. Re-entry. The trips are a spiritual mountain top experience for many of the team members - even with all of its hard work and effort. Yet coming home to the mundane, routine and stressful life can feel like a valley to most.
Therefore it is not uncommon that team members may struggle with their re-entry home. They quickly discover how much they miss the close-knit fellowship and times of continual worship. They hunger for the sense of purpose and focused mission. Even though the mission experience and the life they encounter back at home can seem in conflict, they are not. How do we reconcile these two experiences?
Below is a written response to a team member's frustration that they expressed upon entering back home.
Your thoughts remind me that you and I in this world are living, East of Eden. John Steinbeck wrote the novel “East of Eden” in the 50’s. The title was taken from Genesis 4:16, “So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden" There is a place called Eden, a paradise, a state of being in which everything is in its right place. A realm where the favor and peace of God rest on everything…and because of the fall, Cain is not there. He’s east of there. And he’s not only east of there, but the he was “building a city.” He is putting down roots…east of where he should be. East of where God intended him to be. The book of Genesis keeps returning to this eastward metaphor insisting that something has gone terribly wrong with humanity, and that from the very beginning, we are moving in the wrong direction. East of how things are meant to be… East of Eden.
What you and I experience in this world is not how it was intended to be...therefore we feel unsettled, not at home...because in fact you and I are living east of Eden. Separated from how God designed it to be. So know that what you are experiencing is real...and is "normal" in the sense that this world should make us feel unsettled. But through Christ there is a new and different reality for those follow the King.
The reality for you and me is that there MORE for us beyond this world and that one day,when Jesus returns, all things will be settled and be set right. Yet God allows and invites that future reality to break into our present through God's people (you and I) in and through the power and might of the Holy Spirit.
You experienced some of that "inbreaking" of the future during our mission trip this past week- the fellowship and the worship. It is a foretaste of what awaits us. But also let it be an encouragement that God doesn't just reserve that for mission trips, he wants to (and can) take what you experienced on the mission into your daily life. He want you to take it into your experience with your family. Your experience with your patients. Your experience with your neighbors and friends.
But know that even though we may sample a taste of the sweet fellowship with God and His people, or worship of Him - and a greater sense of His purpose for us...we are still not at home...we are living East of Eden.
(republished from Provocative Church)