Since I started this when I was on the mission field, and now finding myself not on the (same) mission field, I’ve kind of been at a loss as to how this little blog can still be a thing. Ideas of re-branding and changing the look to somehow make it fit more with my life now come to mind, but ultimately, I’ll probably write this blog, promise to write more frequently and then just pretend that’s the same thing as doing it.
(Side note, this article embodies the struggle of my entire life: “Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed”. Sound familiar to anyone?)
Upon my realization that I wouldn’t be going back to Tanzania, I was struck by a second upsetting realization: I need to get a job. I need to take care of my bills (few though they are) and occupy my time while I’m here at home (for however long I’m here), so I started looking for jobs. Through a series of favorable circumstances, I had and good connection at a high-end hair salon in town (read: my little sister has been working there for two years and helped get me the job) and so that’s where I’ve been close to 40 hours a week for the past almost two months.
It’s a nice feeling to make money again, mostly just because I feel like less of a burden to my parents when I’m not panhandling over dinner for gas money (my appeal ever grows, guys). My pride loves the illusion of self-sufficiency when I can take care of my own responsibilities, like my phone, car insurance, gas, students loans, and, as a new addition, an embarrassing medical bill that I procured back in July after fainting in a nail salon and being rushed to the emergency room for no reason.
Working at the salon has been an interesting place of growth for me. The general response from my closest friends was almost unanimously, “Does that mean you have to do your hair and makeup everyday?” to which the answer is yes, and to which we all had a side splitting good laugh because I kind of view myself like this:
Someday I’ll write about my thoughts on how I got so funny about trying to look pretty, but today is not that day. For now, let’s just say, I looked like Pete Wentz for the first few weeks getting used to using all the eyeliner, but I’ve mastered it and now and I own three lipsticks, so life is full of surprises and miracles happen every day. I’m enjoying working there and getting to know my coworkers, which is good because that’s about 40 hours of my week.
I’ve also gotten the chance to start working with a local safehouse for girls, which is really exciting for me because I’ve wanted a chance to do this kind of ministry for a long time. It’s easy physically, because it’s just essentially hanging out with teenage girls, but can be exhausting emotionally because it’s we’re all people and people are messy and people have hurts that we’re meant to help with living people who say Jesus can save anyone.
I can’t say much more about it for safety reasons, but I’m thoroughly enjoying a chance to be front and center with people who need the love and kindness that Jesus brings, here in the good old U.S. of A.
That brings me to what God has been working on with me the past few weeks.
It’s all too easy after spending time on the mission field to come back and nurse this sort of unbiblical worldview that the only people really serving the Lord are the people who are sacrificing in a “radical” or “big” way overseas. For me, this was not how I spent my year in Tanzania; I genuinely believe that I was meant to be there, and there was nothing wrong with the joy that I got from being with and teaching the kids and living how we did. That’s what life is meant to be like for someone who says they know Jesus.
And so it never started out in an unhealthy way. I mean, some of the people I respect the most (like my parents) function as spirit-filled believers creating disciples and ‘pouring out’ their time and resources are doing so here in America. I didn’t come home with that much disrespect for others.
What I did come home with, subtle as the subversive thought may have been, was this staunchly held belief that my particular life would only matter if I was doing something “radical”. That may be okay for others, I reasoned with myself, raising my faux-hipster banner high above my ombre-d hair, but my life is going to be different. I’m going to make the uncomfortable sacrifices. I’m going to be adventurous. I’m never going to settle. I shouldn’t have to. I am Generation Joshua (whatever that means). I’m in this world to make a difference and stand out… for Jesus.
If I could just jump on the bandwagon of disillusioned twenty somethings who create their identity by blaming all their character flaws on their upbringing, part of that mindset comes from having read a bit too much from the Harris twins in high school, and the other part from graduating from a university where I’ll only make it into the alumni promotional pamphlet if I get my own TV show, but not if I move back in with my parents and work a job outside my degree in order to pay off the loans I amassed from such an establishment (we are the 99 percent).
Now I’m going to be an adult, jump off that bandwagon and say that this attitude is obnoxious, that it reeks of self-adulation and that it is my responsibility to take that to the Cross and deal with it with Jesus.
God forgive me.
Forgive me for all the times I’ve confused obedience to you with ‘making a name for myself’ (Genesis 11:4). Forgive me for all the times where I’ve missed the mark by returning to my last point of obedience, instead of asking you daily how you’d have me serve you (Matthew 15:8 – 9).
(The silver lining is coming, guys, don’t give up on me now.)
I believe part of, if not the entire reason why God has delayed my overseas trips at this point is to free me from that that mindset that I have to do ‘big things’ for my life to matter. The reality is that I didn’t do anything more grand in Africa than I’m doing here: I am living, I am seeking to know God more, I am trying to serve others around me and ‘be a light’ exactly where I am. Just because I had no electricity and less food choices there doesn’t mean that the people and places here in the Western, developed world are less valuable to the heart of Christ.
This past Sunday at Summit, we touched on a passage of scripture that has freed me from the tireless circle of “am I in God’s will/where I need to be/doing what He wants me to do” that I’m so prone to fall into:
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5: 11- 18
While there is obviously more scripture to follow this about how we can live in a way that’s kingdom valuable, it’s a really good point to start at.
Let’s just talk about how none of these things depend on a particular location.
If I live my life in Normalville, USA for the rest of my life, but still engage the people and world around me in this way, I am okay. This is God’s will for me, because I belong to Christ Jesus. I can live in a way that honors Christ no matter which world I’m living in, whether it be first or third.
I do believe my future involves more overseas excursions, still, by the way. I just (clearly) have some things to learn first.
And so, I am thankful–thankful that God delays in giving us what we want, in order to show us what we really need. I am thankful that He removes dreams for a time, only to restore them in the future, when we aren’t in danger of exalting them higher than He himself ought to be exalted. What a marvelously kind, exceedingly patient, and good Father He is to do this for us.