Brad flew the plane perfectly onto the runway and brought it to a stop halfway down the dirt strip. We stepped out into the calm, sunny morning, surrounded by gorgeous jungle and mountains. Here we were, listening to birds chirp and bees buzz around our heads.But I was a mess.
Brad does these kinds of flights all the time. And most days while I’m home on this small island breaking up fights over Legos, I don’t even think about what it must be like to fly single-engine planes into tight valleys in uncontrolled airspace over unforgiving jungles.
But that recent day that I got to fly with Brad, I couldn’t help but think how everything can go so wrong.Actually, the reason we went into that strip on that day was for Brad to show me where he’d had one of his hardest days of flying last year when he was called for a Med-evac flight. And not just a hard day of flying. His airplane broke, so then Brad had to hike to a remote village of four rustic homes, where he spent the night, to wake up the next day and hike over a mountain ridge to get to a village where another MAF plane could pick him up. It was a long, lonely night, followed by a long, lonely hike, followed by a long, but not-so-lonely few months.
I’ll spare you the technical details of what happened that day, but this much is true.Everything went wrong that day. And everything went right.
As Brad and I walked along the airstrip, he relived with me some of that hard day. But not just the hard stuff. He told me about the grace stuff. The words, Brad believed, God spoke in his heart. The thankfulness Brad spoke, out loud, to God. He knew immediately that that day was a beginning of many good things. And eventually, when we had some perspective, we discovered it was an ending—a healing—to many hard things, too.Let me just tell you, there have been some wrong, hard things in these years I’ve spent in Indonesia. When you live and work among so many broken systems, it’s hard to ever feel like anything can be made right—including the stuff in my own heart. And honestly, I have a hard time separating out the things that happen to others from the toll it takes on me and my family. This is our home. My kids have grown up here. My husband risks his life here. So much is at stake for us, personally. This country, its people, its cultures, they fill my heart. But so many times, they also break it.
So, when a dear friend dies in a completely preventable accident or a Med-evac patient ends up not making it, sometimes it can feel like the only thing we can count on is that things will go wrong.There have been moments when most of what I’ve heard in my mind were doubts and disappointments, lies and fears. And some of the hardest things have happened recently—just these past couple of years when you’d think all these years of being here would provide some kind of buffer. But time and experience don’t take away all the questions I’ve had about the wrong in this world. Sometimes they just take away the naïve optimism that things can actually get better…and that we can make a difference.
Yet, I see now, that though sometimes everything goes wrong…everything is also going right. Often in the same moment.I’d call that grace.
Sometimes the best things come from the hardest moments. Sometimes the depth we so wish for in our lives, in our seeking of God, in our relationships with others come when we have to sink into darkness for a while.
Sometimes the wholeness and healing we seek comes through brokenness.
A couple years ago, when I was particularly burned out, I started searching for the later parts of stories. I looked into the lives of people who I’d seen go through something completely hopeless—and usually preventable—and looking for how they’d survived, how they’d grown, how they’d made life happen again.
I saw a woman who’d endured being abused by her husband, growing a deep compassion for those who suffer. I saw how a death in a family can be the start of a richer, more God-seeking life for those who remained. I saw how a girl with seizures and brain issues that seemed to have no cure become a strong young woman, and how she carried building supplies an MAF plane brought so she could help build a tiny jungle church. I saw how a friend’s repeated miscarriages paved the way for a choice to adopt.
I see myself, more fragile than ever, finally knowing my valuable worth.
You must know, that some of the stories aren’t over yet. The hope still seems very distant in those lives. And honestly, some days I still doubt in my own place, my own purpose in this midst of all this. But I can say, that my once very-small-and-once-shrinking-faith is growing again.After some recent hard days in my life, I can confidently say that good—really big good—can come out of the worst kind of bad. And though I wish there would never have to be suffering ever, there’s something amazing about the goodness, hope, heart change that can come out of pain and loss. Beauty is at its most stunning when it rises from the ashes.
Looking back, that wrong/right day was also the worst/best day of my year. And this hard/good life is also the one I’m both fighting for/surrendering every day I’m here. And this growing/deepening faith I have now has come about in the vulnerability/hope of life here.