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Posted by Peter LaRuffa.
Peter LaRuffa is the Youth/Children's pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Florence, Kentucky. He recently led a group of 17 individuals including many teenagers and young people on a short term trip to Albania. Grace Fellowship Church is in partnership with the Lushnje Disciples Church where Edi Halili is pastor. Peter sends this report:
I just returned from a 10-day mission trip to Albania. I know there are a variety of jet-lag experiences that vary from person to person, so I was rather curious as to what mine would be like. I'm pretty flexible when it comes to bedtimes. It's not unlike me to pull an all-nighter to get something done--usually a sermon. Although it is arguably not the best lifestyle I could be living, I think it contributed to my overall smooth experience in adjusting to the different time zones I traveled through during this trip. So far, my experience with jet-lag has been somewhere between slim and none. That's pretty cool.
What I am experiencing is "heart-lag." Jet-lag has to do with certain bodily and lifestyle rhythms being thrown off kilter. What I'm calling "heart-lag" has to do with emotional rhythms becoming temporarily unstable while one adjusts to their reentry into everyday, normal life. Jet-lag is caused by traversing a long distance in a short period of time. Heart-lag is caused by growing incredibly close to people in a relatively short period of time. It happens when one's heart must leave a location physically before it is ready to do so emotionally.
During our time in Albania, God in His kindness was pleased to truly knit together the hearts of two groups of people who, for so many reasons, are very different. Our languages have almost nothing in common. Our country is a baby compared to the centuries of history that exists in Albania. Our grocery stores, our homes, our churches, our schools, our streets - all very different.
I think heart-lag is something that is fairly unique to Christians. I've never heard of someone returning after a business trip and struggling with dueling emotions, some of which are glad to be home with family and friends, others of which are pining for colleagues halfway around the globe. Christians have the unique ability to grow closer to one another in a short period of time because we have the most important things in life in common. We've both been recipients of unmerited favor by the grace of God. We're both poor beggars who don't know one another, but know where and how to be filled by the "Bread of Life" (cf. John 6:35). We're different in so many ways, but the one thing we have in common transcends the many differences and causes us to ask "Am I really meeting a stranger for the first time, or am I being introduced to a sibling I never knew I had?"
Not everyone we met was a member of this family. Not everyone knew their need for the love of the Savior. However, we truly believe that God was pleased to use, yes the teachings, but also the loving example that was lived out right before their very eyes to show them Christ's love for us. During our time there, we strived to teach what Christ taught, to live as Christ lived, but also to love as Christ loved-wholeheartedly, genuinely, and sacrificially.
I believe heart-lag is indicative that one has loved as Christ loved. He did not love with safely, but loved vulnerably. It shows that one did not consider firstly the cost of pouring themselves into relationships, but instead saw what could be bought for that price. It shows that relationships-even Gospel-centered relationships-although messy at times, are definitely a mess worth making. Even more than that, it's a mess worth wallowing in for the glory of God.
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
~ C.S. Lewis