verb de·com·press \ ˌdē-kəm-ˈpres \
Definition of decompress
: to release from pressure or compression
: to convert (something, such as a compressed file or signal) to an expanded or original size
: to undergo release from pressure; especially : relax
- need a week off to decompress
The word decompress implies a compression... a making smaller, a forcing of something to fit into a size or shape outside of its design. The compression, the packing in, the forced maneuvering, the crumpling, squeezing and wringing.
Life compresses us all. Job, environment, stress-level, trauma, family dynamics and many other factors, contribute to the extent of our compression.
Life in a cross-cultural setting compresses. The minute-by-minute cultural challenge, the potential communication breakdown, the expectations and the heartbreaks... each of these shapes us, possibly into a form we never wanted or expected.
Experiencing poverty compresses. Physical hunger, unfair treatment, abuse couched in 'parental rights', HIV passed through ignorance and even, intention... we are pressed on every side to choose, to act.
Ministry compresses. Expectations from afar, inability to properly communicate via email, a desire to follow God's call coupled with the beautiful necessity to partner with His people in another place, to really be the body of Christ ... we are pressed and at times, distressed, disappointed and alone.
The extent to which we allow compression to fool us and have its way, is the extent to which we live entangled in the web of potential burn-out and becoming a slave to the work instead of a joyful servant seeking to love that way the Father loves.
Our family is currently in decompression mode.
We have lived 7+ years on the mission field in a very remote area. There are silly comfort-related things we live without - hot water, constant electricity, vegetables. These things compress a bit, but are easy to breathe out.
The burdensome things, those that push, poke and demand our very soul, are much more serious. Our own students that live alone due to abuse or family division. Students that suffer abuse at the hands of their own parents. Vicious addictions. Constant vigilance inside and outside of our home from thieves and manipulative people. The very same people we love deeply.
Stress is stress... here or there. But there are types of stress encountered on the field that elevate and traumatize and squeeze the very love and compassion out of one.
Someone once told me that it takes a missionary in burn-out 3 weeks to really begin to recover. While we are not in burn-out, we often walk the fine line on the rocky edge, just a few inches from the flame ...
We arrived in our decompression spot 9 days ago. It took 4 days to begin to breathe deeply again and an entire week to relax enough to step outside of survival-mode.
Why can't we decompress in our own house in our ministry area? That is a good question, friend. Perhaps, it is the constant barrage of needs that arrive at our gate whether the school is open or closed? Perhaps, it is the daily fight for survival? Perhaps, it is the constant view of what work 'needs to be done' at the school?
Decompression, in all of its beauty, requires time away. It requires intention, reflection and release.
A few months ago, I went to a beautiful dinner with dear friends in the US. We began to talk and enjoy some seriously delicious food. They excitedly began to share a gift they wanted to give us... the gift of travel funds. As they spoke, my heart lifted. When they said, "We don't want you to always look for the cheapest route which costs your family time and peace. We want you to travel well." Tears seriously ran down my face.
These precious people listened to words that had never been spoken. We like traveling across Honduras with 5 kids... but, it isn't easy on the nerves. The love of these same friends is part of the reason we have this blessed space for decompression right now.
As I sit on this porch in the dawn, I feel creativity and vision running through my blood again. The space I've been given to process, to let go, to pick back up... it is priceless.
My responsibility now is to continue to seek the balance through prayer, continue to be mindful of healthy boundaries, continue to find the joyful, continue to be grateful and most importantly, continue to look for ways to maintain my God-given uniqueness, living decompressed in the middle of my real life.
My goal for today.