The Divine Conspiracy – Ending Up Where I Didn’t Expect (Part 1)

Posted: 07/04/2011 in Running the Race

God certainly has a sense of humor.

I remember as a little kid being asked in church if I wanted to be a pastor, an idea that I found at the time to be wholly disagreeable, and answering that I wanted to be a doctor, a fireman, a scientist.

And that was my course, my focus.

STINT Team 2007

Weeks after finishing a degree in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona, I packed up my bags and moved to Australia with seven other Americans to serve as a missionary to reach college students down under. The circumstances that led me to that decision were subtle and it seemed like it was the appropriate thing to do. I didn’t have any aspirations to BE a missionary, it was only a couple years, it “worked in my schedule”, it was AUSTRALIA… so I jumped on board.

I arrived in Melbourne, excited and confident, with the expressed idea that God was going to the years of my life I was giving him, to shape and influence the students of Victoria and my team. And then reality hit, and my excitement and confidence melted away in two of the hardest years of my life. It might sound strange, but I think God used those two years and these students and my team to shape and influence me. The hard-headed mistakes and the painful lessons I learned while there would take much too long to write here, but God was wildly at work in my heart and my life.

Which bring us back to Tucson, AZ.

On the return flight, I was reading a book, Re-Entry: Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home, and I ran across the following passages:

Many missionaries who return home make the process of fitting back into their church difficult for themselves. The approach things with an attitude that stinks. They are proud, arrogant, and critical. They expect the church to adjust to them, instead of adjusting themselves to their church. In so doing, they neglect the example of Christ who humbly adapted Himself to our world in order to enter it and minister life to people. (87, Jordan)…

And then I read

Unfortunately, many return from the mission field having seen God use them in a certain way or ministry, and expect to be used the same way in their church upon their arrival home. When this doesn’t happen, they either demand it of the pastor or sit on the sidelines of the church and mope. But that is not the way of the servant. Instead of demanding, the servant asks what needs to be done, and sets about doing it. Regardless of what needs doing – be it cleaning the church toilets, running the nursery during services, or teaching a Sunday school class – the servant does it with a joyful heart, and in obedience to the Lord (88)

I am so thankful for both of these passages, because the idea of being looked upon as “the Missionary” had such an seductive and tempting appeal. To sit in a corner spouting wisdom from the mission field, to be the resident expert in all things “overseas”, to be the example that everyone looks to when the phrase “Go into all the world” was used. And on that plane God cut deep into my heart and exposed such sin and brokenness.

And so I got home, and I prayed. I knew what my heart wanted, desiring the admiration and approval of everyone around me. I wanted to be lauded and praised. I wanted to cash in all of the chips of hardship and toil over the last two years and be recognized for being such an admirable and exemplary Christian. And so I prayed, and called my former pastor and asked how to sign up to set up chairs before and after service, I asked if there was anything I could do to help, I asked if the toilets needed cleaning.

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