This has been the longest year of my life.
About one year ago, I arrived just beyond the border of my home state, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was a Steelers fan in Browns country, a college graduate in a community of high school drop-outs, a Caucasian in a majority of African-Americans.
We dove right in, willing to serve uncomfortably, ready to obey without hesitation. Mister and I had prayed for this moment, for this mission, for this lifestyle we believed had been fashioned by God Himself.
My nerves and emotions hummed deafeningly with anticipation. Babies, college student tenants in a big new old house, church plants, working odd jobs to help with money — with unwavering confidence, we strapped on our parachutes and jumped.
You all know what happened next.
No church plant, no church family, no church.
We had lived within Ohio state borders for barely 6 months.
I often longingly remembered the seemingly carefree days of renting in Pennsylvania. There was still hope for a family, still a sense of knowing the spiritual roles God was calling us to within His Church.
I also often longingly thought of death. December and January brought dark, shrinking days. I was holed up, alone in my now temporary home, with no church family, no job to fit my talents or my passion, no hope of ever having my own children.
God seemed to be exactly nowhere. He abandoned me, my soul would wail. My mind would recall Psalms of hope and encouragement to no avail. I literally hated myself. I felt worthless. If God couldn’t use me, then why am I even here?
Many days would include a long, hard stare at the household weapon. Thank God, I don’t think I ever would’ve used it, but I somehow wished I could obtain what that gun represented. Death appealed to me. If I died, I could simply slip into God’s rest. If I continued to exist on this earth, I would continue to be tortured with no purpose.
I became the person I used to misunderstand: the depressed Christian.
But God did not leave me in the valley for long.
I got a job. Not just any job, but a technical writing job doing the one thing I love: writing and designing technical manuals.
My dog had puppies. Not just puppies, but nine wriggly, squeaky puppies who made me forget that I was infertile.
We started attending a nearby church. Not just any church, but a biblical, loving church body who embraced us like refugees.
I think I’ve finally realized why I’m here in this scarlet red Buckeye/Cavaliers state. God used Ohio to teach me joy.
And really, God could’ve taught me joy in Pennsylvania, if He wanted to.
But He didn’t. He plopped me right down in Ohio’s armpit and proceeded to cut me deep and bleed me dry until all of the temporary, earthly things I clung to as sources of joy drained out.
My joy is not in babies or the hope of babies.
My joy is not in work or the type of work I do.
My joy is not in the importance of my church mission or how much I serve.
My joy is in Jesus. Jesus who was first cut deep and bled dry so I could experience His joy.
Praise God, I now know a more permanent joy.