Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11, NASB
I hate it when my mother is right.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a bad year full of really odd and stressful events that have pursued me, and while I’ve tried to just stand and take it, I found that I couldn’t cope.
And my mother did what all good mothers do – she told me the straight up truth and that I needed to trust in God.
And I did what all daughters do: I ignored her.
My bad year eventually turned into a crisis of faith – while I still believed in Jesus, I felt completely lost. I felt forgotten by God. I felt as if God had betrayed my trust and my faith.
By Christmas 2010, I was contemplating whether or not I could still call myself a Christian.
I had given God so much of my life, so much of my time, so much of my faith, and yet it felt as if I just wasn’t good enough.
In the end, I had come to the decision that I believed in God, but He didn’t need, didn’t want, and didn’t deserve my faith.
I was like a rebellious teenager who lashes out at her parents because she knows they’re the safest target because she’s stuck with them.
My sister and my brother were off being good little Christians, and I envied them because their faith seemed so real and fulfilling, whereas mine was desperate and distant. I felt like I was pleading with a brick wall whenever I prayed, but when they prayed, it was to a real Person.
“Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
Jeremiah 29:12, NASB
The day I before I left for London, I was a complete and utter mess.
I knew the truth, but it hurt so much to believe it, and I was so tired of hurting.
Stressed out from packing and all of the other tedious bits of traveling and moving that you never think about, I switched on my computer and immediately my friend Ashley O signed on.
Poor Ashley, I feel like I’m always coming to her with my problems.
I pounced. I hadn’t talked to Ashley in awhile because – to be honest – I just didn’t want to disappoint her. I didn’t want her to know what I was struggling with.
But at this point, I just couldn’t care, and so I launched into everything with hardly any preamble.
Ashley stuck it out, which amazed me. We talked for an hour, and when we were done, I had changed my life plans yet again in the space of five days. Ashley wanted me to forego London, but I just couldn’t do it.
When I left for London the next morning, my sister gave me a card and made me promise not to open it until I was on the plane – a sort of Harris family traveling tradition. The card was filled with Bible verse references. Both of my flights were terribly delayed, and so I read them all.
I was desperate, you see. I didn’t want to lose my faith because I knew it was the Truth – I just wanted to know that if I gave Jesus my all, He’d do the same for me because it had felt like He had dropped the ball in the past.
I got to England, and again I was overwhelmed – not so much with stress, not at first at least. That came later. No, I was overwhelmed with how excited I was. I realized just how bored of life I had allowed myself to become in the last year. Suddenly there were things to see and do and people to meet, and everywhere I looked there was something new to discover. I told one of my classmates the other day when she asked if I liked London that I felt this must be what it’s like for a newlywed on her honeymoon.
I felt happy –really happy, joyful, even – for the first time in a very long time.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29: 13, NASB
And then classes started, and suddenly I didn’t have time to be with London – the most I saw was what could fit into the Tube. But again, I was busy – I had something to do.
That first week, I sat in Eat, which became my favorite place to – well, eat – with my classmate Anya.
We were discussing how we had gotten this far in our lives – what had led us to Southhampton Place – and as she listened to my story, something happened that hit me in the face like a double-decker bus:
God spoke through Anya.
She probably didn’t realize it. She was just saying what she thought, but to me, it was an audible voice from God, and I was overwhelmed by a sense of power and authority in my life.
Anya said that it was amazing how the events of my life had led so carefully and so purposefully to this decision to come to London. It was like it had all been planned for me.
I was chastened and extremely excited. For what, I wasn’t sure, but instead of feeling a terrible sense of guilt and running from God, I just kept going because I began to suspect that maybe I was running to God.
I went to Cheltenham and saw my friends, and I went to Church, and I cried to myself in the service. I hate crying in public, although I do it often (I always cry in movies, even the ones you’re probably not supposed to cry in), but I was again touched by the evidence of God’s presences and love in that church.
Then came the Riots, observed and critiqued lessons, projects that for some reason I couldn’t pass the first time and had to resubmit, and C grades and rain and long nights and falling asleep without brushing my teeth because I just couldn’t find the energy to do so.
There were crowded trains and cold weather and dodging umbrellas and blisters on my feet, and worse of all, no time to truly see my beautiful city.
I felt like I was living in a pressure cooker.
Sunday, August 21, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
And I felt peace.
“I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:14a, NASB
It was the oddest thing: at the very moment when life should have been the most difficult – when the logical emotion I should have felt was despair – I just shrugged my shoulders, turned on my iTunes, and began to listen to JesusCulture.
I ended up getting my worst grade on a lesson yet the next morning – a “weak pass” – and while I cared, I really did, I realized something very important:
Pass or fail, I was still Emily Harris. Pass or fail, I still got to live in London. Pass or fail, I still learned something useful.
And most importantly, pass or fail, I was loved by God.
Conceding defeat was the moment I realized I was only losing a battle, not a war.
On Friday, August 26, 2011, I passed the TEFL course at Bloomsbury School of English with a C+, and I was certified by Trinity College, London.
I came to London with no clear view of who I was or what I wanted. I’ll be leaving London with a certificate and a purpose.
But most important, I’ll be leaving with my faith.
I am loved by the Creator of the universe. That’s more important than any piece of paper.
So, mom, if you would, please pass me another slice of humble pie.