It’s a gruesome thing to be faced with your own selfishness. With your abhorrence for that which is different and naturally unappealing.
In fact, gruesome doesn’t quite capture it.
Because I’ve traveled 8500 miles to be smacked with the truth that I’m just not missionary material.
My heart doesn’t naturally bleed for the need I see around me. Surely that disqualifies me. Do you know how hard it is to admit, even to myself, that I’m a heartless wretch?
The air smells different here. The food is not at all like the Americanized Thai we’d eat at restaurants in my former life dating back to a week ago. I see people sweeping the streets and sidewalks and yet somehow everything just seems a little dirty.
The problem isn’t the city, however. The problem is me.
I remember 6 years ago, we moved into a house that had terrible water which stunk and stained everything. No matter what I did, the house never felt clean. I sunk into something of a depression because I couldn’t make home sterile and safe, at least to my mind.
With that experience tucked into my pocket, I should have seen this coming. Surely there’s been a mistake. The world is full of people who are bold and brave and overflowing with compassion. I apparently epitomize the opposite of everything making up that sentence. So why is it that I’m here? Why did God send me? Why did He send US??
The truth is blinding me as I sit typing this: I’m the reluctant missionary that can surely have no impact.
But you know what stings worse? The fact that I’m realizing it’s ME that’s in need and God sent me here for these people to help. I’m the patient and the only way for me to get well is to bring the gospel medicine to these smiling Buddhists.
The trouble is, I can’t seem to find God.
It’s almost like I’ve forgotten the message He’s spent the past year preparing me with. He seems distant, almost absent. The scores of Scripture verses I’ve stored in my memory suddenly seem locked away, just out of reach.
I look around me at the other missionaries we’ve encountered since being here. They appear groomed and grounded. I read the stories of missionaries from down through the ages and their passion is palpable. It’s like the mission had seeped into the bloodstream and taken over the heart.
What does it mean that this isn’t my experience? I don’t like standing on the fringe. Especially not when I’m the mother of a tribe of missionary kids, with a few back home proudly waiting for reports.
I’m failing and I haven’t even begun.
The good news is that while I may have a cold heart where I thought there was a warm one, I’m also intensely stubborn.
I’m going to keep seeking God even when it feels like He’s turned from me in disgust. I’m going to keep begging the Spirit to break and change me. I’m going to keep ingesting Scripture like a dying man does medicine and I’m going to learn to truly pray without ceasing.
Back home, in my comfortable, I thought I was doing these things. I thought if I made it through a challenging day with the kids without losing my grasp on Him, I’d somehow arrived. That if I agreed to a task I didn’t really want, I’d learned the art of self-sacrifice. That if I invited someone in who I didn’t really know, I was the embodiment of hospitality. If I smiled when I felt like frowning, I was master of my emotions.
What I see now is that Satan was keeping me a prisoner in my tiny, little cell and I’d gotten decent at performing within it. But now God has liberated me and I’m paralyzed by not knowing the screenplay or script without the confines of my walls.
I miss the walls.
But I also refuse to run back to them. I’m staying this course and seeing this through. I’m going to learn to love with abandon and when everything seems crazy, and uncertain, and terrifying, I’m going to learn to love some more.
Because apparently I came here for the medicine I didn’t know I needed and, by the grace of my merciful God, I’m going to take every last drop of it.