I think this is so cool–Intermissionary is doing 28 days of journal prompts for those headed home from the field! Process that change, mamas. You can check it out here.
I want to weigh my words here carefully. I can feel the landmines around this topic…and I like my feet the way they are. So I’ll try to tread carefully, but…bear with me here. We may blow something off.
A verse from Romans 14 has been running through my head lately:
Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
As part of the church, we are seen as a unit by God: we’re the bride of Christ, collectively. We have a group identity. And we’re supposed to hold each other accountable for walking with God with love in the front of our minds and hearts.
However, we’re also individuals who make choices. Some of you have made the choice or in process of making the choice of becoming missionaries. I couldn’t begin to tell you if it’s the right choice for you–it seems to be a very complex, multifaceted one for many women.
But I think back to a church presentation we did in northern Washington when we were just starting to raise support to go to Haiti…we’re up on stage, being introduced, and the pastor throws out his hand toward us, beaming, and says, “Now don’t we wish all our young people would become missionaries like these two?”
And my immediate thought was…”NO.”
This guy wanted to make me a success before I’d even done anything. Just on the virtue of me being willing to be a missionary. But being a missionary doesn’t make me a success, just as being a writer doesn’t. Or a mother. Or a daughter. Or a friend.
And I think this is where some of us get hung up when it’s time for us to leave the field. I’m not trying to say that being a missionary is like any other job–it’s not. It’s unique, not just because of the steep learning curve and the humility of needing financial support. But there’s a strong emotional component for most of us: “The love of Christ compels us.” We didn’t do this for ourselves; we did this for God.
So if we’re NOT doing it, who’s it for?
If I’m leaving the field for my physical health, my mental health, my spiritual health, my family’s needs…does that make me a failure?
I would like to gently suggest that since going to the field did not make you a success, leaving it does not make you a failure. Don’t ascribe too much value to other people’s opinions, supporter or otherwise. You served Christ in Botswana: great. You can serve him just as well in Cleveland, or Taiwan, or San Diego. Because your calling was never to a place: your calling is ultimately to Christ. He directed you there, but you needn’t stay there to honor Him. I’m not suggesting that you break your commitments, but I am suggesting that you not equate your commitment with loyalty to Christ. He is the Master to whom you stand and fall, and he sees you as righteous because of His sacrifice: let that be the yardstick of your success.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put strawberry toothpaste on someone’s toothbrush.
You’ve got this, mamas.
My house is haunted.
I’m sitting in Karen’s chair, writing this blog post. Amy’s fan is blowing on me, keeping me cool. Chris’s Kindle sits next on my desk. I look out the window at Liz’s plants, basking in the sunshine. Behind me, my daughter is sitting on the futon, which I actually bought new, but is now so old and funky that it requires extra padding to be sit-able. Ara made the padding when she crashed at our house while we were on furlough. The tiny kid chair I bought from Jennifer is acting as a table for her glass of milk.
Don’t get me started on all the books on my bookshelf…or the dishes and gadgets in my kitchen…or the clothes in my closet. Without even moving, I can touch things that have belonged to many, many friends, and this is a strange reality of missionary life: they leave, and you live on…with their stuff.
Some of it I’ve got because I wanted it (the piano, for sure). Some of it I’ve got because they needed it gone (spices. Always spices). But it all has some kind of attachment, some kind of significance. That’s what I mean by living with ghosts: most of the time, when I turn on the fan, I don’t think about the pressed, painful way Amy had to leave. But sometimes I do. Most of the time, I don’t think about how much I miss Liz when I put on my denim cargo pants. But sometimes I do.
I have no procedure, no plan for exorcising these ghosts. As far as I can tell, they’re not going anywhere. I share this as a warning only: if an object–a rocking chair, a rubber spatula, a book on the cross-cultural communication–is being offered/foisted/forced upon you and it is going to have a bad association for you, here is what you do:
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a space for that.”
You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have space for it: in your head, in your heart, in your house, in your life. That’s all. If she asks why, just shrug and smile. And if this is too hard, mama, I give you permission to throw it out when she’s gone. Even if she’ll find out. Even if she might visit. Burn it in the backyard if you need to. Don’t let yourself be haunted by anyone but those who loved you best. That’s hard enough to endure as it is.
This is my one consolation: I know they’ll never leave suitcases. 🙂
Happy Monday, mamas, if it’s still Monday where you are. Tell us about your ghosts if you’ve got time.
You’ve got this.