Once, we went to the zoo and there was a python or some big-ass snake like that in the reptile house. A small crowd had gathered around its curved glass enclosure with the littlest children weaseling their way to the front to stand up on their toes and smash their fat hands and snotty faces against the cage for a better look. The people marveled, a few of them chuckled; some shook their heads in disbelief. The way they acted, I was expecting to find the snake standing upright in a limbless tuxedo, crooning Barry Manilow and smoking a cigar.
After a few minutes, the lady next to us moved off, taking with her a stroller the size of a mini-cooper, and we were able to get in close enough to see what all the excitement was about. Gotta admit, I was pretty disappointed. The huge snake was wound up in one corner of the cage, seemingly asleep, unmoving, and completely indifferent to the world at large. Just to the left, we found the object of all this attention – a fat, white rat – chomping away on the snake’s last six inches or so. I told you it was gonna be disappointing.
We watched him for a minute and I thought, “That rat is an idiot.” And I was right because everyone knows that, in the end, big snakes eat little rats and not the other way around. The whole scenario went against everything I knew to be true about reptiles and rodents, everything I’d ever been taught about them. In my heart I knew the rat was doomed to failure, and even so, part of me wanted him to win this one-sided battle. We waited there, a little too long perhaps, to see if the snake would awaken and squeeze the living daylights out of his miniature attacker, but the sleepy fellow never did move.
Instead, the prey had become the predator. And I can’t exactly say whether or not rodents experience pride, but, I swear, that little guy paused and stood straight up, looking at all of us with his beady black eyes, and python blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, as if to say, “Who’s at the top of the food chain now, bitches?!” It kinda made me want to put a little gold chain around his little gangster neck. Seemed he’d earned it.
In my estimation, me becoming a missionary makes about as much sense as a rat eating a python. It defies nature. It goes against everything I know to be true of missionaries and myself, everything I’ve ever been taught. Yet, somehow, as unlikely as it may seem, it happened. I ended up in Costa Rica, staring at the word “missionary” on my IRS forms like a glaring scarlet letter, and, much like my little friend the rat, biting off way more than I could chew.
Sometimes, failure seems inevitable.
A couple of weeks later, I was reading the paper and there was an article talking about how the snake at the zoo had died because in an unlikely turn of events it had been mauled by its meal which caused some kind of secondary infection, or something. Anyway, the snake bit the dust. And I thought, Score one for the underdog! And then I thought, you know what? Score two! Because, yeah, there are plenty of things I could be doing better, and most days I’m in over my head, but I’m still here doing this whole overseas thing even though it’s the hardest, scariest, most overwhelming thing I’ve ever done in my whole life!
I don’t celebrate that enough. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t purse my lips and cross my arms like, “Who’s a missionary now, bitches?!” Too often I act like the snake, sitting by idly letting the smallest thing take me down. Allowing the tiniest stuff to eat away at me, poisoning my own blood against me, like an infection. And I know this isn’t a perfect metaphor, and you may be inclined to ream me for implying that missionaries should harbor pride, or whatever. But all I’m really trying to say is that I want to be delighted by the place to which God has brought me. I want to be grateful. And I hope that those watching from the other side of the glass can see that God takes the mundane, the unlikely, the unlovely and redeems them in incredible ways.
Sometimes ugly sewer rats get to gobble up big scary snakes. And sometimes snarky, sarcastic, overly-skeptical chicks who don't always play by the rules get go be missionaries.
Impossible? Apparently not. Bitches.