One year ago we loaded up two brand-new suitcases, squeezed them into our trunk, and hopped in our hoopty of a car to drive Florida to the New Staff Training of Cru. And thus, we began our missionary journey.
We really had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Often, I hear people say something along the lines of, “People who decide to become missionaries are really brave.”
I’d like to suggest that there are actually two types of people who decide to become missionaries:
1. The Really Brave
2. The Really Cowardly (Who Know That They’ve Been Called and Go But Go With Knees Knocking)
I am part of the latter. Yes, friends. I am a coward.
There. I said it. Right there, for you to read forever, in all its pixilated glory.
I. Am. A. Coward.
I really am. I’m just your run-of-the-mill, everyday, old-fashioned scaredy pants. My parents affectionately refer to me as “anxiety girl.” (Wouldn’t that be a great super hero? I could write a lot of comics about all cool things I thought about doing and then didn’t because I was worried I’d do it wrong. Best seller, for sure.)
And lest you think I’m just being self-deprecating to make myself sound cool because that’s what the cool hipsters do now, please let me describe to you what our trip down to New Staff Training looked like. I managed to make it North Carolina, no problem. Easy! Then our car broke down. And then they told us it would be $600 to fix it. Oh, and it would take until sometime the next day. Every bit of the “I’m-brave-and-can-totally-do-this” attitude that I’d spend months building up crumbled to pieces when the mechanic told us that. I literally burst into tears and ran out of the shop. (I think I scared him, because he ended up staying late into the evening to fix it instead of it taking until the next day.)
From then on, I spent most of the remaining 9 hours in the car in tears. When we hit the Florida state line, I started bawling and begged Clay to turn the car around. I’m surprised I didn’t sink that car (it did have a nasty habit of collecting water in the passenger side whenever it rained…)
I was overwhelmed with my fear. I knew that being a missionary was what God had called me to do but I was terrified. I mean, if anyone in the world was less naturally suited to much of what missionary life entails, it’s me.
I don’t like flying. I don’t like driving. In fact, although I love new places, I don’t particularly enjoy any part of what it takes to get there. I can’t sleep well in anything but my own bed. I’m kind of a picky eater. And then of course – I love my family and my friends more than almost anything and the thought of not being with them destroys me.
And yet God chose me.
This past year has given me a lot of time to dwell on that fact. To ask “why?” And to listen for His answer.
“…God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:27, 28)
God chose what is weak. What is lowly. What is scared and small and fragile.
So that no human being might boast. So that no one can look at what I’ve done and think, “Man, Emily, she’s so great. So bold. So awesome!” Instead they’ll think, “Look at what an amazing God we have.”
So why am I sharing this with you?
Because I wish this was something I heard talked about more often. I wish it was something more missionaries were open about. I’m sure I cannot be the only one who was shaking in my boots after taking up this call.
I can understand why we don’t. I mean, who would want to support and pray for a scaredy pants? We all want bold, brave, strong! We want someone who can march up to the front of the church and share stories about how they bush-wacked into enemy territory with two broken legs and malaria, brought a whole village to Christ, ended a decades long tribal feud, and then translated the entire New Testament into the native language. No sweat. “Fear, what’s fear?!”
Well, me too. But the reality is that I’m not that person. And you probably aren’t either. And that’s kind of my point.
If we only ever see people putting on a brave front about the missionary call, we might begin to think that only people who can take up a missionary call are those who are brave. And then we might think, “Well, I’m not brave. I couldn’t do that. She can do that. She’s bold. She’s gutsy. But that’s not me.”
Listen to me. If God has called you to this work, know one thing. You CAN’T do it. But HE can. You do not have to be brave. You do not have to be bold. You don’t have to be fearless. Because HE is brave, bold, and fearless – and He is the one who is going to equip you with exactly what you need to do what He’s called you to do.
Almost every single day this past year, I’ve gone to bed and thought, “I cannot possibly do this one more day.” But each and every day He has met me with enough grace and bravery to get through that day. Every. Single. Day.
And now, a year later – I’m still here.
I can’t say I’m any less fearful, or any more brave. But what I am is more dependent on Him. I am acutely aware every day of just how much I need Jesus. I’ve put everything in my life into His hands – my career, my livelihood, my happiness, my marriage – and said, “I am going to choose to trust you enough to take care of these things, even though I am afraid.” He has yet to let me down.
He is so good, and so faithful. Even to scaredy-pants like you and me.
“For consider your calling brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God.”
-1 Cor 1:27-29