Have you discovered a task that you are really good at? Often, we don’t even realize it. I (Colin) remember when I first discovered I was really good at washing dishes. It was when I went to university and met people who, not for lack of effort, simply didn’t have the knack for it. Have you ever had a job where you felt in the zone, and could perform at a high standard with ease? I remember about 6 months into my job at Canada Post I finally felt I had got the hang of it, and after that point doing a good job was easy. As I sorted letters and walked at mail delivery speed up and down the streets of Whitehorse, I felt a sense of joy and accomplishment in being able to do something really well.
And all of us can remember those first days and weeks at a new job – they are tough! The learning curve is steep. There is new lingo, new faces and names, new responsibilities. Sometimes we make a fool of ourselves and slow everyone else down. But those days will pass, right?
We feel we are still in the midst of the learning curve here in Cambodia. We find ourselves longing to be ‘good’ at something here, to find an area in which we excel. Kathleen’s first project work is something she has never done before in Canada. She loves a challenge and loves to learn, but after a year spent learning Khmer, she just wants to do something she already knows how to do! She misses the days when she thrived in her workplace and could deliver results quickly.
We’ve been able to host many cyclists passing through Phnom Penh on their tours.
Colin is in a similar boat. After a year spent learning Khmer, he is managing the house and fixing up motos. Last week, he had a friend drop off their moto with an idling issue. After cleaning the carburetor, replacing a clogged air filter, and checking for vacuum leaks, the moto idled better, but not perfectly. He spent hours searching on the internet, trying to tune the carb, and checking things over again and again. In the end, he had to give the moto back to its owner – better but not perfect. It was a problem outside of his skills and beyond his experience. He misses the days when he could sort and deliver a route with his eyes closed, remembering each name with each address.
The learning curve here has been a long steep hill. We spent a whole year learning Khmer and we still find ourselves struggling to understand and be understood. We want the hill to even out a bit and start feeling like we’re good at what we do. To be honest, my (Kathleen) confidence is in a valley right now. I thought that if I started doing things I’m good at, my confidence would grow again and all would be well. This is a natural response, and it’s not a bad idea.
Kathleen using her Cub to fetch supplies for the office.
However, I feel what God is trying to teach me in this season is that my confidence shouldn’t be a result of what I can or cannot do. My worth is determined by God who values me. God loved me before I was even born, therefore God loved me before I was able to do anything. I want my confidence to come from the identity I hold in Christ, but it’s hard. It is an on-going struggle that was easier to mask when we were doing things we were good at in a place that wasn’t so foreign to us. I believe this struggle is common for many people and we probably all need to be reminded every once in a while (or daily) that we are created in God’s image, that God has loved us before we were born and continues to love us perfectly.
“But he said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Playing dominoes together.
When I reflect on some of our Biblical ‘heros’ I can see that many of them had seasons where they weren’t doing anything particularly fruitful. Joseph, a man who would later govern all of Egypt, spent years as a household servant, and then years as a prisoner. Moses fled from Egypt and spent years as a shepherd in Midian before finally returning to Egypt to help lead the Israelites out of slavery. David was anointed King but had to wait years to reign, and most of those years he spent hiding in caves from King Saul. Paul had his miraculous encounter with Jesus. He was told he would preach the gospel to the nations, but soon after his conversion he spent about 8 years in his hometown of Tarsus, and we don’t really know what he was doing during those years. Presumably he took up his trade of making tents. Even Jesus, fully God and fully man, waited until he was 30 to begin his ministry. What was he doing before then? He was a construction worker in the family business.
It is reassuring to know that God guides us through seasons where it may appear we aren’t accomplishing very much. The tasks may be mundane, or they may be totally outside of our comfort zone. Nevertheless, God uses these seasons to teach us, to refine us, and to prepare us. Moses’ time as a shepherd in Midian surely helped him shepherd the nation of Israel. When we are wrapped up in trying to do things, remember to simply be. “He says, ‘be still and know that I am God'” – Psalm 46:10.
Our cats keep Colin company as he works from home.
In this heat, even the cats get thirsty sometimes!