In Over My Head

These lyrics to “In Over My Head,” a song by Bethel Music, recently caught my attention:

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, I’m where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head1

I’m not sure there’s any better way to describe the transition in life right now. I’m preparing to leave behind a stable job with wonderful coworkers, move out of the coolest house I’ve ever lived in, and say goodbye to a city I just came to know and love. These are inevitable when it comes to the move to Cambodia.

People don’t talk about this part of missions much. It’s the part that some people point to and say is crazy or even stupid. It’s the part that the “missions-minded” (why is that even a distinction among church members, anyway?) often gloss over in their enthusiasm that the Great Commission is being fulfilled.

It’s the part that is a hundred nitty-gritty, contemplated decisions about leaving people, places, jobs, and what seems like security. It’s the part that means accepting that we aren’t in control but we’re free—we’re free when we let the Lord crash over us and our lives, stepping away from the comfort of the shore until we are way in over our heads. 

Helpless, powerless, struggling. Isn’t that what “in over our heads” means?

These are words we don’t like to talk about. In fact, these are words we as the Church often deny. To say that ministry is beyond our ability sounds like heresy to these Southern-Baptist-raised ears. Isn’t this what we were made for?! Of course it’s within our ability!

Yet the reality of missions—and ministry, and life—is this: if we think it is within our ability, we are dangerously deceived and in for deep disappointment. Interestingly, a confirmation this is the right thing to do is that every morning that I wake up and think about moving, I am driven to my knees. Thoughts of moving and ministry make me so aware of my inadequacy that I cling to Jesus more and more desperately.

For me, one of these inadequacies lies in the reality that moving involves taking a huge risk with mental health and depression. My well-oiled coping mechanisms will shift and change, and I will be challenged to find new ones in Cambodia. 

My roommate Taylor (who is also a nurse) had a patient once who was paralyzed from the neck down. Taylor came home struck by the patient’s utter dependence: if she wanted a sip of water, she had to ask; if she wanted to change the channel on the tv, she had to ask; if she wanted to turn the lights off, she had to askA discussion on the patient’s needs led me to consider: is dependence something that is learned, or is it something that is recognized? We say we want to learn to be dependent on God. But maybe we have it wrong…

Maybe we are always dependent on God. Maybe we just don’t recognize it.

In Colossians we read that Jesus “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” and in Acts that “in Him we live and move and have our being.”2 We cannot take a breath without Jesus, for it is through Jesus that our very cells hold together. We don’t just need Him spiritually. We need Jesus to exist. 

We are all in over our heads.

It isn’t the act of moving that makes me need Jesus more. But the step of moving makes me more aware of my need, reminding me I’m already in over my head here in the States. This, I believe, is a step in the right direction.

Daunting and uncomfortable as this step is, ”whether I sink, whether I swim // It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.” Sink or swim, fail or succeed, struggle or thrive, it makes no difference when I am more overwhelmed by Jesus than ever before. Really, all is success if I find myself deeper in Christ than before. And so maybe thriving and struggling aren’t polar opposites, after all.

Whether it means moving overseas or intentionally breaking comfortable routines Stateside, may we be a people who step out in faith and recognize how helpless and incapable we are, may we live in a state of being overcome by Christ’s adequacy and love, and may we be a people who recognize that being in over our heads is truly the most beautiful place to be.

2) Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:28. NIV.

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A Need and A Means

I have a friend who once told me about an experience she had in nursing school. A nurse she was working with for the day was caring for a patient with cancer. One of the patient’s parent’s had died from cancer, the couple had no money, and the patient wasn’t doing well physically. One nurse went down to the cafeteria and bought them chili cheese fries because the couple was craving them. Another nurse found her wallet and handed the couple a $20 bill—all the cash she had with her. Later, all she said to the student (my friend) who was with her was, “They don’t have. I do. So I give. It’s as simple as that.” In other words, “They have a need. I have the means to meet that need. So I meet it.”

It’s as simple as that.

A need.

A means to meet that need.


And the need is met.

There are many variables and a long story behind this decision, but at its core, it is a choice to follow the Lord’s calling to meet a need with the means He has provided. It is with great excitement I share with you this decision: my friend Amy and I will be moving to Cambodia for six months. She leaves in November, and I leave in January.

It is with great excitement I share this. And fear. And nervousness. And trust.

The process to move has been anything but simple. For those who have journeyed with me this past year, you know how I have struggled. How I witnessed suffering and death in the Cambodian hospital, how the trauma that happened to my heart and soul from seeing those things broke me, how I am relearning who I am and who Jesus is. This is not an easy decision to go back.

Am I scared? Yes.
Am I thrilled? Yes.
Broken and weak? Yes!

Yet the Lord says He uses the weak; He perfects His power in weakness. 

The needs in Cambodia are overwhelming: physical needs for food, clean water, clothing; system-wide needs for education, healthcare, justice; emotional needs for healing from genocide less than 50 years ago; spiritual needs for knowledge of Jesus, explanation of the Gospel, discipleship. In moving, we know our weakness, and we know we cannot meet their needs. We do not have the means. The truth is, we are just as broken as they are. 

Yet our God does have the means. He meets our needs daily, physically and mentally and emotionally and most of all, spiritually—bringing us out of spiritual poverty and reminding us that we are His. He wants to meet the Cambodians’ physical and mental and emotional and spiritual needs, too. For His love and His riches and His abilities are more overwhelming than the most overwhelming needs.

There is great need in Cambodia.

We have a God who has the means to meet all of their (and our) needs and more!

He has called us to action, to bring His name to the nations.

And their needs will be met. Not by me, not by my friend Amy, not by you, not by any missionary or NGO1 or visionary or strategist. Their needs will be met by Jesus. He is, as someone told me recently, the real power source. He is the One who transforms hearts and minds and communities and villages and systems and provinces and countries.

And believing this for Cambodia and all the world, we go.

I would love to share with you more about how the Lord is leading and moving! If you would like to receive updates, join us in prayer, or hear more about this journey, please let me know. I would love to chat with you!

1) NGO: non-governmental organization

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