I don’t blog very much, do I? Oops. I really want to be better at this, but I only like to blog when I have something personal or contemplative to say, and those things take time to work out. Well, anyway, here’s one for you.
I’ve been thinking… Maybe we’ve been telling our stories wrong.
I just read a blog post from Stuff Christians Like about that one lie the devil always tells, the one that says God is holding out on us, that if we give our lives to Him, He’ll make us give up what we want and do something we hate. I encourage you to read Jon’s post if you haven’t already.
Honestly, I’ve struggled with this idea a lot because many of the “missionary” stories I hear (or maybe just the ones I assume in my head) are told like this:
“I NEVER wanted to be a missionary — and what did God do? He sent me on the next plane to a third wold country and now here I am!”
And that’s great, and that’s wonderful, but what about me? I WANT to live on another continent and serve the people there…. That must mean I’ll be stuck in the USA forever, right?
That’s a lie. And it angers me so because the devil is now trying to incorporate that lie into our own personal stories!
I understand the purpose for telling stories in that way. It tells the before and after, it shows how God is all-powerful and can use anyone He wants in any way he wants… but it takes work for me to get there in a story like that. It takes work for me to have confidence in my own journey with God and the desires He’s given me when I hear a story like that. [I know, I need to work on my insecurities.]
See, I have a “missionary” story like that too, but I never tell it that way because I never think about it that way. I’ve wanted to travel God’s world so badly for the past six years or so.
However, I guess if you had told me when I was 15 that I’d gain this huge heart for the nations and desire to live across the ocean from my family and serve a people I never knew, I probably would have freaked out and started hyperventilating about my lonely scary future.
But God didn’t send me to a new continent at 15. He sent me to Los Angeles.
I didn’t even decide to go for the “mission trip.” Yes, I wanted to serve, but I went because I had just moved to the east coast from California, and I wanted to go back. I didn’t know that God was using that trip and my new church to begin cultivating the seeds He had already placed in me before I was born.
See– that’s my story. My heart for the nations had been there the whole time, I just didn’t know it until I began to experience it.
After Los Angeles came the opportunity to go to Hungary.
A new continent, a new country, a new language. In Hungary, I met missionaries who served all over Europe; I was exposed to a kind of “missions” I never even know existed. And I loved it. This living on a different continent thing… I could dig it. Maybe. For a little while.
After Hungary came Cameroon — What?
This girl, who only wanted to go back to her home in Los Angeles, went off to Hungary because she figured it was Europe, so it was “safe enough.” Now, she was going to go off, eagerly, to Africa? [God bless my poor father, who has supported me through all these opportunities.] Yes, Africa. I loved that too. I wanted to go back.
But after Cameroon came Belgium. And after Belgium came Israel. And I loved those places too. I loved the people who lived and worked there. I began to desire longer and longer trips…
And then came Scotland, and I loved it even more than all the rest. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to come home, even after four months away.
But sometimes I get stuck thinking that, because I love something like that so much, I’m not going to be able to get it. Because that’s the way it works.
God didn’t snap His fingers, throw me on a plane, and change me from a scared teenager into someone who wanted to travel the world for Him. He drew out the heart and the faith that was already in me by His goodness and grace. And yes, that changed me, gradually, and I’m so thankful. Does it count as a before and after story if it’s not drastic and dramatic? [That’s another issue I’ve struggled with too. I’ve been taught that when I talk about Jesus, I have to say, “Before I was this. Enter Jesus. Now I am this.” And that’s good, and that’s true, but it’s hard for me to simplify it like that.]
Anyway, my point is… perhaps we need to rethink the way we tell our stories. Perhaps we need to be more thoughtful about what we say and be more concerned about the story being true than about it being dramatic. God doesn’t need us to embellish His story.
Perhaps you did hate the idea of missions, of living in a different country, and then God changed your heart by putting you on the next plane to Cameroon. That’s wonderful, and please hear me when I say that I am not denying that that can happen and that your story is powerful. I would love to hear about what God has done in your life! God is in the business of transforming us into who He created us to be, and sometimes that requires rapid change. A lot of times that requires an awesome before and after story.
But we need to make sure that we teach that God is really drawing out what He put in you to begin with, and we need, need, need to remind each other that God is so good, and so loving, and that He gives us desires and gifts and experiences for a reason. He knows how to give good gifts to His children, and sometimes those gifts come in packages we never thought we’d want, but that doesn’t mean that when we want something so badly and we lay it before the Lord that He’s going to give us the complete opposite. What father, when his child asks for bread, would give her a stone?
Because, God — if You’re going to do that, You’re going to need to lead my heart to find joy and happiness in that stone, and You will. If a stone is what I’ll get, I know You are going to make it so much better than bread. I know You will draw out that part of my heart that I don’t know about yet.