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I just returned yesterday from a 10 day Missions Trip to El Salvador with my lovely lady, Ashleigh. While on the trip, something hit me: people were referring to me as a Missionary. I’m not sure what you think of when you think of the word “Missionary,” but mine is something like a little, old, white woman who is so content in her singleness that she doesn’t need a man.
Of course I’m kidding. Kinda. But let me first say this: misconceptions aside, I am a very unlikely Missionary. I wrestle daily with doubts. I struggle daily with the desires of my flesh. I am a man that bleeds easily when shaving. Spiders scare me. I am constantly comparing my work to the work of others. I am consistently not measuring up to my own religious standards, even though I know that the Gospel calls the striving toward those standards, aside from by being found in Christ, ridiculous. I have emotions in me that I don’t even know how to express. I am lazy with things that I know will help grow my walk with Christ (writing in my journal, waking up to pray, letting prayer motivate me toward action, listening to His voice.) So let’s just start this thing out with how weird it was to be called a missionary, and how unmissional I feel on a daily basis.
And yet, looking back now, each time someone called me a missionary, it was as if that person was not the one saying it; it was as if the voice of the Lord was calling forth something that I have never even wanted to be. I grew up very selfish. Unbelievably arrogant. I didn’t want to help you, and I didn’t want your help. I just wanted to wake up one day on an Island where everything played out the way I wanted without the bother of people. For probably twenty years I grew up desiring nothing but my own desires to be fulfilled to their maximum, believing and yet knowing that the fulfillment of those desires would lead only to my destruction. So if I am a Missionary, let it be known that it is only by the hand of God that my heart has been steadily changed over the last few incredibly stretching years to even consider that an option.
Scattered, incomplete, undeveloped thoughts from the trip:
The brokenness of the human heart in it’s unregenerate state is laid bare in El Salvador. I’m not trying to be a Debby-Downer, and downplay the brokenness everywhere, and the help we need in our own country, but I am saying this: I saw people peeing on walls in the city, I saw people laying feet away from their own urine, I saw homeless people run from out of the midnight shadows just to grab a paper bag filled with only a banana, a sandwich, chips, and a couple of cookies. This kind of brokenness was explicit.
On the night that we went to feed homeless people out of the back of a pickup truck, people came running at the sound of the truck because they knew that that particular truck was their lifeline. It just really struck me that any person who claims to be a Christ-follower, a disciple of Him, needs to recognize their need for Him. And let me be honest- I don’t. Daily, I do not recognize my need for Him. I do not run toward Him and the sound of His voice like those people ran toward that truck for that bag of food. And the scary thing is that some may think that “Well, at least you recognize that. At least you’re honest.” That terrifies me- because often there are times when I know- I don’t mean have an idea, I mean I know- without a shadow of a doubt that God wants me to do something, say something, go somewhere, and I just don’t do it. That is a terrifying reality- that the human heart can know something deeply to be true, and yet completely live contrary to the knowledge of any particular truth.
Jesus came for the sick and the diseased and the broken. Why does it seem that the modern evangelical understanding of holiness means following a particular string of church codes, instead of actively engaging in a relationship with Jesus? This question is on my mind because my own mind, in it’s default mode, tends to ask myself after I sin “What do I need to do to rectify this.” Essentially what I’m saying is “How can I trick Daddy into blessing me by pretending to play the game and hoping He doesn’t know the difference between obedience to His Word and hiding behind my facades?” Jesus has already rectified everything. The response to sin is to run toward the Cross, run toward the light of accountability and confession, and receive a new mind through Him. I know that… but refer to the above rambling on things I know and yet don’t know.
People are in our lives not only for our enjoyment, but for our edification. That is why God put into my life people who are organized, who are in love with Jesus, who desire to see me grow, who want to see my comforts stretched and my strengths shaken a bit. I was reminded that Ashleigh and I are not the same person. In fact we are quite different. And that which Satan would desire to use as a means of competition and strife between us, God desires to use as a method of shaping us; not that either of us would become more like each other, but that we might both become more like Him. This is why I am enabled to forgive, to repent, to confess, and show her sides of my heart that others don’t know; because our relationship is about serving Him. One day she will die (More than likely, I will die) and I can’t take any of this stuff with me, and I can’t come back and say how sorry I am for this or that. I have today, I have this moment, I have now to do the work that He has called me to do with the people He has given me, and who He has given me to.
Shorter, scattered, incomplete, undeveloped thoughts from the trip:
– Life is short.
– Kids are beautiful.
– … yet still need Jesus.
– Say what you will about technology and how it’s of the devil, but I used an iPhone to talk to a boy in Spanish to communicate Gospel-Application and Gospel-centered reconciliation to him in a language I have no idea how to speak. Take that, nay-sayer.
– I need Jesus more than ever. Daily.
– I am on an adventure.
– I am so thankful for the helper that I have been given in Ashleigh.
– I hate packing, and unpacking, and keeping a suitcase in any kind of immaculate order.
– I don’t feel that I would do well in El Salvador for a long period of time. Their machismo attitude towards women is ridiculous and childish, and I would probably be killed by a gang before too long.
– Jesus desires me to engage a hurting world, and not simply become overwhelmed and check out.
– I need rest. Real rest.
– I’ve been working on this for two hours and it’s time to do something else with my life.