It was a messy, finger-painted scene of golden intentions, scarlet insecurity, and uncomfortable white space where God was supposed to tell us our next steps – would it be Mexico or Storm Lake?
But God didn’t let us know that in our timing. So we commissioned Insecurity as our artist. We told him to cover that annoying white with some violet broad-strokes and grand, blue sweeps. It would look better that way. After all, we were supposed to be missionaries – how could there be so much empty space on our paper? We couldn’t leave it like that.
And then God gently pulled away the paper.
He pulled us on His lap, covered our do-good hands with those Ones with nail holes, and He began to show us how Divine scenes are formed on paper-Earth.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about? It’s those times in life when we’re eager to make the right choice, maybe too eager. Maybe it starts to become a bit about being right and proving ourselves. Friends, whenever good intentions mix with insecurity, we can expect a mess. This I know too well.
That was our mess during the summer of 2010. We had been accepted as missionaries with Christ For the City International (CFCI) in June. Over the course of the summer, we wrestled with our decision: should we stay in Storm Lake and continue with whatever was going on around our house – or should we go to Mexico to join missionary staff at a youth camp? (Of slight importance was the tid-bit about the camp being on a beach. Because, really, who would be swayed by the idea of waking up to waves and seagulls and such?)
Anyway, we hated the tension and the wondering and the waiting for God to clarify our next move. Under pressure and weights of insecurity, we decided to accept the plan to go to head South with CFCI – and flocks of wise birds.
But, while we were supposed to be preparing to go, the nations began to knock on our door.
If we ever going to realize our affirmation-seeking goals of proving ourselves in Mexico as amazing missionaries, we needed our refugee neighbor to quit stopping by to ask if we’d help him learn to read the Bible. Didn’t he realize we need to raise funds to get to the mission field? And, the kids without a parent home, who needed a place to eat and hang out – they needed to quit knocking on our door so we could go change lives and share Jesus’ love with the youth in the Mexican youth camp (you know, the one on the beach). And the kids who said they had never heard of this person named Jesus needed to quit asking us if He could maybe help them not be afraid at night?
We may have been misguided, but even we realized the God-ordained irony of what was happening: There we were, preparing to be for-real missionaries, yet unable to get to our for-real field because we kept colliding with the ends of the earth who were dropping by our house.
And that’s when God started teaching us to be where we were.
Bridge-builders need to focus on being – engaging the setting and people as they are, wherever they are.
This meant accepting our now and right here as God’s divine scene for us.
No, Storm Lake, IA wasn’t my top choice. I would’ve preferred the ocean view and the validity that comes with serving “over there.” But, God’s too good to leave me in my mess of finger-painting.
He knew I needed to be convinced of this:
Building relational bridges is not about me doing something important or going anywhere far away; it’s about being the type of person through whom God can love a hurting world back into His arms.
For more reading on being where you are, here is a post I wrote in October 2014:
So, where is the mission field?
While most people are still having conversations about what’s going on “over there,” the nations have moved in around us.
And so, maybe the question about mission fields is becoming obsolete. After all, missions isn’t about a location, but people – relationships, lives, families, humans – wherever they are.
But what does that mean for us, those of us living in the shadows of numerous steeples? What does it mean for those of us who have long accepted and cemented the concept of “sending missionaries over there?”
It means that mentalities need to be changing. Hearts and eyes and front doors need to be opening.
The two worlds – the far-off mission field world and the everyday, Christian living world – now need to merge into one, cohesive lifestyle of tangible faith.
I believe the same fervor and boldness for Christ that caused a church to lay hands on a missionary family and send them off to another continent must also empower its members to reach across the street and care for a refugee family.
I believe the same fervor and boldness for Christ that caused someone to raise his hand, saying “here am I, send me…to over there” must also compel him to move belongings to a different part of the city in order to engage people, with lives just as real as over there.
I believe the same fervor and boldness for Christ that caused someone to surrender her career goals in order to leave for the field must also compel her to intentionally, mentally surrender it still, while living out her faith in the everyday of that job with eyes wide open to God’s plan for it.
But, maybe it doesn’t seem as fulfilling or recognizable to just walk across your street or to just open your door or to just shine daily in your home or work.
Dare I say, it’s just not as neat, is it?
(Yes, I’m talking to myself.)
Not to mention, we crave what seems most worthwhile. The projects with the greatest potential impact. The meaningful. There is something magnetic about the big, the stuff that we can capture in pictures, the building projects we put money toward, the stuff we can report on during a Sunday morning introduction. That stuff.
But, what we do and desire to do are not the point.
Jesus nudges each of us into a life of surrender not simply service.
As we surrender to His authority, we forfeit the right to question the relevance or the worthiness of the position He appoints. It may be Africa or Asia, or a combination of the two in the United States. Yet, He’s not asking us to analyze the effectiveness; He’s asking for obedience and a trusting heart here as well as there.
So, today – in your world, who hasn’t heard or who hasn’t been stirred?
Be faithful to reflect His grace and love to that person. Live on mission, intentionally, and right where God has you.
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s as series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.