Missions or Wanderlust?

It happens often. We get an email from someone who has a passion for missions and a fire lit within them to make an impact in the world.

“They aren’t content living in the states anymore.”

“They are tired of doing the same old thing.”

“They believe that God wants them to do bigger and better things with their lives.”

Our responses are usually a nicer missionary-esque form of saying “Hold on there, speedy.  Before you go ordering your tickets and planning your goodbye parties we have some questions”:

“Are you currently serving in your local church or loving your community?”

“Are you a faithful church member?”

“What are you currently doing in the form of discipleship or ministry?”

“What counsel have you been given from your church leadership about this decision?”

Sadly, more often than not, we never hear back.

We ask those questions because it is important for all of us to realize that if we aren’t being faithful in our home context then it will be nearly impossible to commit to ministry in a foreign country.

The trouble is that we are often seeking to fulfill a “secondary calling” in our life while neglecting our primary calling.  As Christians, our primary calling is to know and love God.  Of course, when we know and love God we are better equipped to love others.  There it is.  Pretty simple. But it may be too simple for our liking.

We all want to do big things.  We aren’t content with “the same old way of life that our parents had”.  There is always something bigger and better beckoning us to follow.  There are more pictures to be taken.  There are more inspirational quotes promising us that “adventure awaits” and that “the world is ours to be discovered”.  There is always more potential for fulfilment somewhere else; somewhere new.

This thinking, though perhaps not intrinsically sinful, has leapt into our theology and created a new form of Christian legalism, which I have affectionately called “The Radical Effect” or simply seeking to find fulfilment with our great actions.  This effect can also deceive us into thinking that only radical living can “please God”.  What kind of hope does that give us “ordinary” Christians?

Paul Tripp says, The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process than it is a series of a few dramatic events.”

It seems that as a culture, we are searching to create big moments for ourselves while missing the millions of small moments in which we are called to be faithful.

“If God doesn’t rule our little moments and doesn’t work to recreate us in the middle of them, then there is no hope for us, because that is where you and I live (Tripp).”

Almost seven years ago we packed up our family and moved halfway across the world to begin our journey into missions.  We live in a bustling African city, speak a foreign language, serve in various ministries, raise goats with Maasai, sometimes eat weird food (sometimes imported mac’n’cheese), and last night our dinner table was filled with the usual 14 as we talked about the elephants and lions coming through our farm and how exactly my husband and one of the interns had killed a large venomous snake the day before.  Anyone who took a snapshot of our life would probably say it’s pretty radical.  But it really isn’t.

A lot of my life is lived fighting to be obedient in the small mundane moments.  I fight for joy and a grateful spirit while doing the laundry, shopping for groceries, or cooking for my family.  I fight contentment if I spend too much time on social media. Why do I all of the sudden start caring about the shape of my eyebrows or how to eat for my blood type? And is it just me or are all celebrity women starting to look like the same identical person? Like, I seriously can’t tell them apart. Just me? Okay, moving on.

I don’t live every day in a crazy and wild African safari adventure.  I live with people.  It’s messy just like your life.  Sometimes it is hard to love others…especially in hot season (seriously, I can’t snuggle anyone for like 3 solid sweltering months).  Sometimes my win for the day is just speaking to my husband with a kind tone; even bigger win if my evil heart actually means it.

It never feels radical.  Sometimes it’s even boring. It doesn’t feel very big.  But it’s the life that I have been given.  And all of those small mundane moments are making up my existence.

The “boring” makes me ask myself: What if God’s plan for my life is not to do big “radical things”?  What if I am being called to be forgotten?  What if I am called to be bored or small or of little impact in the world, and just…faithful.

The sad truth is that a lot of our “big plans” can be described more as wanderlust than a calling.   And when the adventure wears off we are quickly on to the next good better best thing.  Marriages, jobs, churches, friendships, families, and missions are all being affected.

We all need to be willing to ask ourselves what our “mundane obedience” looks like before we ever attempt the “big”.

Today, radical for me, was taking the time to sit and talk with some lovely people, who had some annoying questions, when all I really wanted to do was read alone in my room and drink the coffee which was getting cold in my kitchen.

Maybe my radical tomorrow will be loving my kids when it’s stupidly hot or listening intently to their little stories when my brain just wants to check out.

Radical is often taking God’s Word at face value and obeying even when it hurts.

Radical may be confessing our sins and getting the help and accountability needed.

Radical is forgiving when we are hurt.

Radical is asking forgiveness…when it hurts.

Radical is commitment even when we are hurt or offended.

Radical is commitment even when there is something new or someone “better”.

The truth is that the most “radical” thing you and I will probably ever do is simply obey.

Who knows where that will take us… (insert inspirational Pinterest quote here).

Grace and Peace,

Steph

19 Comments

  1. Lord keeps reminding me that intimacy with Him& surrender are what He wants from me!! Takes a load off & any service happens from that. I’m finally letting the “I’ve not done enough for Him go…sometimes anyway!! This wisdom you share comes straight from Him❤️♥️👏

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  2. Oh yes, yes, yes! We are missionaries in Europe. So many are excited about mission trips; but if we ask them, the chances are high that they don’t even know the names of their next door neighbors in the US. Funny how unsaved people in another country somehow seem like better candidates for gospel ministry. 😊 And yes, mundane faithfulness is the backbone of true Christianity regardless of our location. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Eye opening.
    This is so right-on!!! We need to be faithful in our churches and communities for sure. Sadly too many of us walk into church, then walk back out at the close. That’s it. We did our good deed for the week. Sigh

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  4. Oh so true. Many new missionaries don’t understand when they get to this point in their “missionary life”. You have it spot on!!! Especially the “radical” quotes!!! Love it!!

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  5. I hear you on such a deep level! My parents were missionaries when I was younger. It felt so normal. It wasn’t radical at all to us, but even to this day when I tell someone about my childhood it’s almost like my family becomes superheroes. But we aren’t. My radical today and for the unforeseen future is to love my husband and children faithfully and fiercely in a world where so many families are broken. My radical is to care for my two special needs children and a toddler even when I’m exhausted from dealing with autistic meltdowns all day. My radical is to love God out loud here in my neighborhood where my impact is greater with the people I know. Missions…starts at home! Thank you for this encouraging message!🙏🏻😇❤️

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  6. This is right on target! We often work with young adults who have done multiple mission trips and when the “high” from those adventures wears off, they feel “called” to do another one – yet at home, they completely flounder. Thanks for the reminder that simply being faithful is one of the most radical things we can do – and if we can’t do that at home, then it is doubtful that we will do it “out there”!

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  7. AMEN. I’ve been learning this for the past 2 years in a “secular” job working with “the world” in alll of its messiness…radical is me being faithful, reliable, and kind in the workplace. Going the extra mile-I fall short many times, but He is my strength. As I transition into full-time ministry, I want to remember that “radical” is humble service.

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