About a year ago, I heard that word for the first time.
Websters defines it as this:
"A reduction in the number of employees or participants that occurs when people leave because they resign, retire, or are not replaced."
But, I think the second definition is directly tied to the first.
"The act or process of weakening and gradually defeating the enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time."
Being a missionary is challenging. Living in another culture is not easy. There is never a time that you will be completely understood. It can be isolating. It can be frustrating. You may feel lost and alone. You may feel as if you are navigating through an entirely different world.
There are also amazing privileges to being a missionary. You meet amazing people with amazing hearts. There is such life-giving joy in the "work" that you do. You will laugh (and cry) more than you ever have before. You will experience the sweetest gifts of hospitality, love, and generosity. It makes it all worth it!
But, there can be this gentle process of weakening, a gradual defeat, that comes in the form of constant attacks and continued pressure over time. This is especially challenging for missionaries who are facing the day to day hardships of living life in another culture, the 24/7 constancy of it all, and whose primary support systems are typically located in the country that they are leaving, not the country in which they are living.
And so, attrition happens.
People leave. They burn out. They tire. Businesses fail. Ministries go under. Families struggle to stay afloat financially. Medical crises' arise. Life calls them back to their country of origin.
The past year, we have seen family after family say goodbye to Ghana (8 families, to be exact), and head back home (to another unknown, and even, honestly, to a culture that now seems foreign to them). There have been so many reasons for their departures, but all the letting go...it never gets easier.
This morning, I was journaling about our sweet friends leaving the country this weekend, stepping into a new season of transition and unknown, praying for all that is ahead of them, and I found myself simply feeling numb.
I knew that I should have been feeling something. I expected tears. I expected the feelings of loss. But, it wasn't there. Nothing was there.
As I began to pray, I began to see the walls I have gradually built up this past year. Stone by stone, they stood high and mighty, full of bravado and imagined courage.
Friends who knew me well, loved me well, said goodbye to Ghana and I remained, knowing full well the call on my life here with CORM. But, somehow, in the remaining, I began to build up walls to protect this tender heart from future disappointment...from future loss...from future goodbyes.
And the hard part in identifying all the walls is knowing that if they come down, (as they inevitably must anyway), the pain still remains.
All the letting go, I've realized that it never will get easier. If I desire real relationships, it should never get easier.
But, oh, my heart. Tonight as I press in, I feel a bit tender. Even pulling these walls down can be a bit wounding.
But, tonight, I'm pressing in and pulling them down because my relationships are worth it. And because engaging has so much more value than the numbing my heart has grown accustomed to.
And let go.