“I would give anything to trade places with you,” she said, through tears. My eyes grew wide, and I’m sure my jaw dropped a notch, my own tears still wet on my cheeks. I couldn’t even process why she would say such a thing.
Had she been listening to me at all?!?
Let me back up.
The date: late September 2012. The setting: a retreat center in the middle of nowhere, a few hours from my home. I had just spoken to a sweet group of ladies, most of whom were much older than me.
(I was a professional speaker in my former life. Man, that seems like a million years ago.)
Gone were the carefree days of kissing my husband and kids good-bye, gallivanting off to a speaking gig, sharing whatever “God laid on my heart” and “blessing” all the people with my words, eating yummy food, and heading home, check (or a $5 Starbucks gift card) in hand.
In September 2012, my husband was suffering from severe anxiety. He didn’t have a job, so we depended on my income. But his paralyzing fear meant I couldn’t leave his side to go do what I needed to do to earn that money.
(Enter my mother-in-law. The only person who could care for my family while I was away. Bless her.)
I’m not the sort of person who puts on a fake happy face when her life is in shambles, so instead of my feel-good messages about the love of Jesus, I would share my right-now story with women, as no-fun as it was.
And the amazing thing? God used my story to touch more women than he ever, ever had in the past.
So, that weekend, I had just finished telling the women all about Cambodia, how we had fallen in love with the people, and felt God calling us back. But the anxiety. And job loss. And hospital bills. And shattered dreams. And yada blah blah yada.
When I was done, there was barely a dry eye in the room. I had bared my soul, shared my sad, hopeless story. Said I was trusting God with our future, but it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.
And here came this woman. “I would give anything to trade places with you.”
I just stared at her. What do you say to that??
“I know your life isn’t easy,” she said, “but you know what you want! You have dreams! You have PURPOSE. I would go through HELL to have what you have!”
I didn’t know whether to hug her or slap her. (I hugged her.)
But, I’ll be honest, her comment rubbed me the wrong way. Purpose?? I have PURPOSE?? You’d go through HELL for my PURPOSE?? Well, why don’t you just come and give it a shot, sister? Come walk in my shoes for a minute or three. Then we’ll see who’s excited about her STINKING FREAKING PURPOSE. (insert angry exclamation points and bad, bad words–the adult versions of stinking and freaking)
But three years later?
I get it. She was right. (soooo glad I didn’t slap her!)
Looking back, I would choose a life of purpose over a life of ease any day. Especially if that life seems aimless, pointless, purposeless. This woman was in her late 50’s and shared some of her story with me. Some things had been hard. She’d made some poor choices. But mostly she just felt like she was drifting, like she had nothing to live for, had no idea what she even wanted, let alone how to get it.
I’ll be honest (again). I kind of hope those three years (from Cambodia to Cambodia) are the hardest I’ll ever have to face, but God hasn’t guaranteed me that.
And our lives now? While brimming with purpose (really, truly, we have way more purpose than we deserve or know what to do with), are not what I would call easy. Being far, far away from loved ones is hard. Moving your family to a foreign country is hard. Learning a brand new language is hard. The heat & bugs & dust are hard. Depending on others for financial support (while it seems fun & easy) is hard. And so on on on on on and forth forth forth forth forth [insert all the hardness here].
But you know what?
I’d go through hell to have what I have.
How about you? How high a price would you pay/have you paid to find purpose in your life?
(And, if I can pray for you about finding your purpose, let me know. I’m kind of passionate about that.)