my thoughts after a week in the Dominican Republic
This post is long overdue but I have not been in the right peace of mind in the past three weeks to properly reflect on my time as a short term missionary in the DR in writing. Frankly, I still don't think I'm in the right mindset or place to reflect in a coherent way, but as more time passes away from my time in Santo Domingo and Macoris, I know I won't be doing my time spent there justice with my memory and lived experiences fading away. Granted, a big takeaway from my time there is that ultimately "experience" is a human achievement, and it's inevitable that it'll dissolve from our focus. Again and again, I am reminded that it's solely God's glory that lasts and his presence we must hold on to.
Rather than talking about my time there, which I hope to cover in length in a video (possibly the one I make tomorrow), I want to hash out what it's been like and what I've been heavily invested in in the time I've been back. With a slight bit of exaggeration, it feels as if the past two and a half weeks has been longer than the rest of the six months I've been in the Big Apple, and I fear that the remainder of my time in NYC (however long that may be) will continue to feel the same. Initially, it was a certainly a mixture of a reluctance to return to a routine (most importantly the laziness that comes with having to return to work) juxtaposed with loneliness that comes from no longer having a team of 14 people that you're spending 24/7 with. College dorms was probably the last time I had such a community in living quarters with shared experiences, investment banking cubicles coming as a close second (which I wouldn't necessarily consider "pleasant"), and being in such an environment in the post-pandemic era further multiplied its effect. While the stress that comes from having to work again and not having people to have hallway conversations with continues to linger, I do think reality has settled in and I'm past that point now.
The bigger picture transition from my time in the DR that growingly bothers (or convicts, depending on how you look at it) me is what I'm doing with my time. A big portion of this is the duality of the environment that the mission field was compared to the life that I have here, and the work that I did there against the daily life I live in NYC. Someone jokingly pointed out recently in response to my complaint that "I just want to be a missionary" that I'm a "missionary for NFTs." I think my internal reaction to that rather clever statement was in order of laughter, cringe, and disappointment. I do want to pause here and note that I'm also a strong believer that we must carry out what we've been tasked with on this Earth and we should live responsible lives - I'm not a hopeless Christian fanatic who believes everyone should be a missionary and constantly look for opportunities to spread the gospel (which would be ideal, but not practical) - there's plenty of ways to serve. In fact, it's a much bigger challenge to serve God in worldly ways than to be a missionary or a pastor and have that be sole focus of your life. A friend I deeply respect told me recently that while in the mission field our job is to directly spread the Gospel, which in some ways is simple and task oriented, our way of doing so in the "real world" is to live as Christian as possible and have others wonder why we live such lives, which is much harder in practice. In short, what I'm about to say will inevitably point the other way, but I do believe there's significance to our professions, no matter how worldly they may be.
If I am being completely transparent, however, I've truly been questioning whether or not I'm spending life in the correct manner and constantly struggling to find actual meaning in what I do. I've been down this road before, but more in a career focused way with the focus centered around "is this going to help me achieve X" or "can I become Y by continuing to do this." Lately, it has more been a question of "what we're all doing is rather laughable at the end of the day and I don't know why I continue to stress so much about such meaningless things." People come to me a lot for advice, especially when it comes to careers. Previously, although some problems may seem like they've been blown out of proportion, I still understood why the concern was held and was able to find worldly solutions in response. I'm now at a place where such problems are deemed unnecessary and my answer is consistently "because human problem are endless and just proof that we're imperfect and only God can fill that void." I find this to be highly problematic for myself, as it clashes with what I wrote in the paragraph above and aside from the hope in Heaven, a very nihilistic way to live life. If I continue to go down this rabbit hole, everything and anything will begin to feel meaningless, which is not a great way to live life.
On a slightly more hopeful and practical note, I am more firm than ever in my commitment to becoming a longer term missionary at some point in my life. I do want to admit that this firmness is in the sense that I think it's inevitable and something God will place in my life, rather than a boost of confidence I have in my ability to execute becoming one. In fact, lately (probably as I get older and am now at the age my dad became a dad) I've been having growing fears of whether I'll be able to afford having a family, and I'm certain becoming a missionary is not the solution. However, and with full understanding that it completely contradicts what I just expressed, I've also been reflecting a lot on my 25 years of life and recognizing constantly that I've never not had enough in all circumstances and have rarely been "fed" as a result of my own actions. While I don't have confidence in myself to control my life and check off all my goals, I have growing confidence in the Lord to achieve what he wants to do through me. I think I'm getting better at seeing those things in the present as opposed to in hindsight, and I hope to orient that into the future soon.
These are a lot of words to essentially say I feel like I'm back at square one, but with a slightly better understanding of how the game works. In fact, I feel as if I've already won the game and because of it feel pointless playing it, but trying my hard to embrace the reality that I'm given this chance to play for a reason. I'm continually challenged to apply what I've learned in the DR (and the things I've done, most importantly evangelize) in my daily life instead of restricting it to my time there. If I were to show all my cards, I'd want nothing more than to "retire" from my worldly duties, freely serve the church I'm part of, and do missions seasonally. But I'm learning rapidly that's truly not how God works - he wants us to be able to serve in any circumstance, on his time and plan, and for us to continue to be challenged so that we grow personally and grow to lean on him through our personal relationship with God.
I thought writing this would make feel better and more at peace this morning, but I actually feel even more lost. But if we truly believe God has a plan, this must be a part of that as well. Pray for me and let me know how crazy I sound in the comments and through DMs.