Before we could call ourselves missionaries, we had to jump through some hoops. Like circus dogs, leaping through rings of fire. We were reluctant, we hesitated, then jumped as far and as fast as we could, eyes squeezed shut. Terrified. Each time we got to the other side unharmed, hair smoking, we celebrated for a second and then said to each other, “Ok, Let’s NEVER do that again.” But then the prodding came back, the poking, cajoling, the constant urging from God; move forward, jump through the next hoop. So we did, again and again, until there were no more hoops to jump through. And then one day we were sitting on a plane in the sky over Guatemala with our entire lives zipped up in 10 bags and 5 backpacks. When I looked at El Chupacabra from across the aisle his tired face said the same thing as mine:
“How the hell did this happen?!”
It’s funny, because, not even kidding, the whole time we were going through the process of becoming missionaries - receiving the churches blessing, applying, raising support, training, saying goodbye, driving to the airport - we just knew that God couldn’t possibly want us on the mission field. We were fully anticipating that God would end the shenanigans. Pull the plug. Put the kibosh on it. Yank the carpet out from under us.
So we tried to help Him along at every opportunity.
We told ourselves that all God really wanted was for us to be obedient, for us to be “willing”. We agreed that God would have to be either crazy or stupid to send us out into the world to make a claim for Him. And since we knew he was neither of those things, we knew He would never actually send us. We’d proven our “willingness”, we’d said “Yes!”. Now it was God’s turn to say “Thanks, now go back to what you were doing.” We didn’t want to rest on our laurels while God did all the work, so we actively participated in every way we knew how to bring this missions train to a screeching halt. We were certain that we weren’t ever actually going to be missionaries. And we were 100% okay with that.
We were counting on our church to be the first to say, “No.” We thought, because they knew us so well (and we made sure to remind them of all of our dirty...you know....dirtiness) that they would graciously let us know that we just weren’t a good fit for missions, we were too fragile, too immature, too...lame for this path.
Then they said, “Go for it. We think it’s a great fit. We think you’re ready.” And when we got home I cried.
The same thing happened when we applied with our agency. We filled out the strengths and weaknesses section, paying particular attention to our weaknesses. Then we put them in the mail and prepared ourselves for rejection, patting each other on the back for being willing to follow God’s leading. Then we got the email that said “You’re in.” And we were stunned. And I cried.
It was obvious that God wanted us to try harder to not be missionaries. So we filled out our psych evaluations in painstaking detail. We practically submitted an itemized statement showing every malicious thought, every pornographic binge, every bulimic barf-fest, every parenting disaster, every drunken night out, every socially smoked cigarette, every dirty little secret we could drag out of the closet, every wound - inflicted or received - in our entire lives. We told ourselves we were doing this in the name of being “fair” and “honest”.
But, really, this was an act of sabotage.
We were desperate for someone, anyone, to tell us, “Sorry. You tried, and we really like you, but it’s just not a good idea, you and missions.” Then we could die happy, knowing that God asked and we responded, but that it just didn’t work out.
When the Psychiatrist working with the missionaries in training for our agency called and left us a message saying she needed to talk with us individually, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Finally. This whole cruel joke could come to an end. She would be the one, the voice of reason, she would say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” We scheduled our phone conferences for as soon as possible, anxious to be done with it all. She talked to us both, for a long, long time, told us how we scored, who we look like on paper, explained out personality profiles. It was all very fascinating stuff. And then she got to the part called “Red Flags”. “They’re all true!”, I blurted out before she could even say what they were. She laughed, but she didn’t add, “And these things will prevent you from being a missionary.”
Instead, she thanked us for submitting one of the most honest and forthcoming evaluations she had ever received, that it had helped her to see that we would be fine missionaries, that we were exactly the kind of people that should go. “Real people, with real problems, who have really turned to God.” That’s what she called us.
She said that what she read in our two separate profiles showed her a picture of a couple that knew how to fail in front of each other, but also who knew how to lift each other up to the only One who could heal our hurts. Then she said, we needed to quit trying to sabotage God’s work in our lives, and let Him direct our paths.
And I thought to myself, “This lady knows what she’s talking about.”
We need to quit trying to sabotage God’s work in our lives, and let Him direct our paths.
Um...Ouch. Nearly three years later, those words still resonate somewhere deep in my soul. I still find myself doing it, sabotaging God’s good work. Thankfully, I am, apparently, not very good at it. I mean, my kids are amazing, even though I’ve done my absolute best to screw them up. My marriage is still in one piece, while I have tried again and again to ruin it. God still loves me, in the face of my unfaithfulness. I’m even a missionary, by some miracle, despite the fact that I’m completely unqualified, unlikely, undeserving, and occasionally unpleasant.
Sheesh, I am, like, the worst saboteur that ever lived. So why do I still keep trying so hard?