As someone living in a third world country, I am all too familiar with the concept of buffering. If we want to stream anything off the internet – watch a video on YouTube, listen to a song online, or watch a tv show, we inevitably have to wait a few minutes for it to buffer – pre-load, if you will. When a video buffers, it loads a few minutes or seconds ahead of the moment you are watching. This ensures smooth playback. If you don’t let a video buffer (assuming your internet is not the incredibly fast internet we have in America), it jerks along, starting and stopping every few seconds, not able to keep up with itself.
Although I am not techy, I can make an analogy here to life. Under the advice of wise mentors from Missionary Training International, I took my first four days back in the United States as “buffer time.” These days were both types of buffer – first, the ‘streaming to avoid choppiness’ definition; second, a shield or cushion to lessen a shock or impact.
I spent those days on the Susquehanna River in Central Pennsylvania, sleeping, spending lots of time with God, processing, journaling, hiking, kayaking, sitting outside in the sun, reading, relaxing, and eating my weight in strawberries! It was a time of solitude, a time for me to be renewed after saying painful goodbyes so that I was energized to say hellos. It was time for me to be sad about being in the US without feeling the tension of everyone around me being excited for me to be in the US.
And God blessed me that week. He restored my soul, comforted me in my grief, brought me joy through his creation, and reminded me of his steadfast faithfulness. The past three years have been nothing but evidence that God is indeed faithful, that he provides abundantly to meet all of my needs, and that his sovereign purposes are for my good.
On my second day of solitude, I had a revelation. I’m currently doing a Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent by Beth Moore, and that particular day I had already done the lesson. I felt, for some reason, however, like I was supposed to do another day’s study, too – maybe because I’m about 3 weeks behind!! Anyway, I did the next day’s lesson, and a chunk of it was on bearing fruit. I realized that I was seeing this year in Philadelphia as a time of pruning and of preparing to be more fruitful in the DR when I return. How wrong I was! This year God has specifically planted me in Philadelphia to bear fruit! If I spend the entire year mourning the goodbyes I said and anticipating returning to the DR, not only will I miss out on blessings God has for me here, but I will miss out on the opportunity to bear fruit where God has planted me. He has ordained my time at grad school and my time in a long-distance relationship not only for pruning and preparing, but because he wants me to bear fruit in those situations. What a paradigm shift! I am so thankful that God revealed that lesson to me, and I pray that he would make me fruitful beyond what I can imagine this year.