God is present even when I’m not

When I prepared for my study abroad trip, I knew that my walk with the Lord would look different here. I would be taking in a lot of new experiences, and I would be miles away from my intimate community back in Stevens Point. I was aware of these things, I was optimistic, and I couldn’t wait to seek out the Lord in this new environment. I even chose to participate in Cru Study Abroad so that I could be on mission while in Spain. The idea of intertwining ministry with my studies was enthralling, and I could not wait to completely immerse myself in the Lord’s plan for me. I wish I could say that my spiritual excitement has only grown since being here, that I have continued flourish spiritually, but quite frankly, that has not been happening. I’ve been struggling, growth has been slow, and I’m still trying to pick myself up again.

When I arrived in Spain, I was completely enamored by everything. The people, the places, the culture, the language. Everything was beautiful. There was so much I wanted to take in, and my spiritual life quickly found its place on the back burner. The first couple weeks here, it was kind of disgusting just how quickly I not only, “forgot” about God, but how I had absolutely no  interest in trying to reconnect with Him. I was pretty busy, and when I wasn’t, I was curling into the comforts of exhaustion (you’d be surprised by how much mental energy another language and schedule will consume at first). I wasn’t going to church, and I wasn’t putting much effort into finding one. I would look at my Bible, and just shrug it off. “I’m too tired. I’m too busy. Maybe I’ll have quiet time some other time.” I was supposed to be casting a vision for my ministry here, and I honestly couldn’t see anything. I just wanted to give up on the whole Cru Study Abroad thing. I was aware that this attitude was really dangerous, and I felt a lot of guilt and disgust in it, but yet, I couldn’t push past the things that were clouding my walk with the Lord. For the first few weeks, the only prayer I could really force out was “God, I know I’m pretty far from you right now, but meet me where I am.”

About two weeks after arriving, I had my first Skype call with my Cru Study Abroad Coach, a resource to help me cast my vision here and to just do life with me as I’m abroad. It was one of my first exposures to Christian community since being in Spain. My coach offered patience and understanding, reassuring me that adjusting is all a part of the process. The following week, I talked with my discipler (must I say, that videochat is a beautiful resource). Again, it was great to connect with a little piece of my community back home, to have someone to encourage me in my time here. Both conversations gave me a renewed energy and a direction of where I wanted to go spiritually here. That helped tremendously.

I also began to commit to daily quiet times, working through some devotionals as well as scripture. I have never been very heavily disciplined in my Bible time, but I’m getting there. Just the simple thought of that daily commitment excited me. I was getting back on track. I also found a group of other students who were starting a Bible study. I didn’t hesitate to jump in. I was craving a community in Valladolid, and the Bible study was just what my soul needed. Plus, it was great to get to know some new faces who were going through the same things in life as I was.

I’m not here to outline every single thing I have or haven’t done in my time here, but I can say, that things were a bit shaky at first. I was lost and genuinely disinterested in my faith. There were “more important” things to focus on such as traveling, making friends, and experiencing the culture. I felt frustration that I had let myself get to that point, and I just could not get out of it. And then, I found revival. Slowly, I am repairing my relationship with the Lord, giving Him more of my time and praise. Slowly, I am placing Him back on the throne. And it is so refreshing.

One thing that God has really been revealing to me through all of this is just how big He is. There are an infinite number of ways to experience God and to praise God. Here, things are not the familiar church services and Cru meetings, but that doesn’t make Him any less present. God has literally placed me in a new country and has blessed me abundantly with finances, healthy food, and an incredible host family. I get to travel Europe and see the beautiful earth that he has created. He is in coffee shop Bible studies. He is in online sermons from church back home. He is in Facetime discipleship. He is in history lessons, and He is in every beautiful piece about a new language and culture. God is so big, and His world is so beautiful, and I have gotten to experience these things in a beautifully new way.

I can promise that God will meet you where you are, and He will communicate with you. Even if you feel you can’t do much, you can at least be willing to listen, and He will do wonders through that. Be humble, and be patient with yourself when things aren’t going as well as you would like. God is always present, even if you can’t feel it emotionally, even if you’re distancing yourself from Him. He is a constant. Cling to these truths, cling to Him, and you’ll find your way back like I am doing right now.

I look forward to these weeks to come. I look forward to immersing myself in ministry here, in evangelizing and connecting with other students. I look forward to experiencing God in ways that I have not done so back in the States. I’m not quite there, but by relying on the Spirit, I will surely get there. And I cannot wait.

I wish you all the best,

Mara

 

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