Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Character Page 3 of 6

Seeking balance or seeking the kingdom

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? – Luke 14:28

I am quick to “count the cost” when I am asked to do something on top of what is expected of me in my job descriptions.  Can I add this to my workload?  Do I have the capacity at this time to take on this assignment?  I wonder if maybe those are the wrong questions.  At least, those are not the first questions I should be asking.

Handling the What If’s

Over the years, I have often found myself struggling with the “what ifs”, primarily in regards to my relationships with people I work with (yes, with fellow missionaries). What if the person responds in a negative way to my email? What if that person decides to go in that direction, contrary to what I have recommended? What if they refuse to do anything at all in response to my request?  What would I do or say then?

I have far too often found myself absorbed and distracted by ongoing dialogues in my mind, imagining different responses from people to particular situations and what I would then do or say in response to their response. In these situations, I find myself falling into the trap of imagining various ways that I could retaliate, rather than responding in grace. These internal dialogues prove to be very unproductive, both because they tend to portray other people in a very unflattering and distorted light, and because my fantasized response to the imaginary situation would only make things worse.

Wearing multiple hats

Today, one of my students wrote a note on their assignment about job descriptions, “I think I have too many jobs.”

I can identify. I have two mission job descriptions. Both of them are leadership roles. One of them is supposed to take up about 60% of my time and the other the remaining 40%. I have wondered at times whether they are not in actuality two full-time positions that have somehow both found their way on to my plate. Following that analogy, pieces of both do fall off the edge and slop on to the floor every once in a while.  Maybe more often that I admit.

Designed by Onlyyouqj / Freepik

Valuing Conflict

I have just finished reading the latest edition of the Missio Nexus Anthology, an issue solely devoted to talking about conflict in the Christian community. It includes a few articles particularly focused on resolving cross-cultural conflict, and a couple of articles about dealing with differences between mission agencies. But the idea that most struck me was that conflict is important, even necessary for our development in our Christian life.

Ted Esler, in his closing article in the Anthology, talks about “Loving Conflict.”  Conflict, he says, deepens relationships, is necessary for good decisions and shapes our character.  He concludes,

Do you want to have strong relationships, good decisions, and a deeper character? Then learn to embrace and love conflict.

Tanks and training for missions

God can transform the most painful experiences of our childhood into preparation to bless others.  Joseph told his brothers many years after they sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20).

I just finished listening to a similar story.   In The Tank Man’s Son: A Memoir, Mark Bouman shares his gut-wrenching account of pain and misery, while growing  up in rural Michigan. He was the son of an abusive man who owned a tank, and ran a gun range near his home where military weapons of various kinds were regularly (and illegally) fired.  His memories are terrifying – and at times comical – but always highly unusual. As a young boy, he suffered shrapnel wounds while helping his dad with the shooting range.  He found a huge tree root sticking through the roof of their home when their father used too much dynamite to blow up a stump.  He watched his father and his friends play war games in his backyard at night. His parents’ home was unfinished, marked by holes in the floors and broken fixtures, and situated on 11 acres of garbage and various items crushed by the tank or left to rust.  But above all else, Mark’s childhood was ruled by fear of his father’s totally unpredictable outbursts of anger and regular physical abuse.

Achieving everything you desire by mid-career – not a recipe for finishing well

A month ago, SEND U conducted a mid-career retreat for those missionaries who had served at least 15 years with our organization.   This week, as I was reading about Solomon in 1 Kings, I was struck by how much this leader accomplished by the time he hit “mid-career.”

When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.  (1 Kings 9:1–2)

Who are the best students when God is the teacher?

In the past month, I have been meditating on the idea of awe and reverence.   A spiritual audit I took in early November asked the question, “Have I maintained a genuine awe of God?”   I realized that this was a weak area of mine, and I decided to take a month to reflect on different Bible verses that spoke about awe of God. One of my last meditations was on the passage from Hebrews 5:7-10 which speaks of Jesus’ reverence for his Heavenly Father. Yes, Jesus, though he was God Himself, had a deep reverence for his Father in heaven, a reverence that enabled him to be a great student.

 Hebrews 5:7–10 (NIV)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

In an earlier post on the value of crucible experiences, I noted how the suffering that Jesus endured, probably referring to his crucible experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, was used by God to perfect him (Heb 2:10).   Although Jesus was not disobedient before his suffering, he learned about the cost of obedience from his suffering.   In a later chapter, the writer of Hebrews goes on to talk about “the joy set before him” that motivated Jesus to persevere through his suffering (Heb 12:1-2).   Jesus learned that submitting to the Father’s will and pleasing Him is worth it all, even to the point of suffering excruciating pain and rejection.

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