"I could never do what you do..."

I have been told this many times.

"I could never do it!" people have told me.  I understand what they are saying.  Most of them, I believe, mean to communicate admiration.  Admiration is nice, as far as it goes. But it can also be isolating.

When people say this, sometimes as a missionary, this is what we hear....

"I could never do what you are doing.... therefore I put you in another category. You are a super-Christian"

"I could never do what you do..... therefore the challenges that you face must not faze you much."

"I could never do what you do..... therefore I can distance myself from your struggle, and admire you from afar."

I don't believe that most people mean to say those things. Perhaps I am the only missionary who has struggled with this phrase.  But perhaps not.

Missions work can already feel lonely.  I live in a culture foreign to the one I grew up in. And while I have learned to love my adopted country, and love it's people and customs, I will never really be an insider. I will always stick out in a crowd.  My local friends will always struggle to understand me, and I them.

But "coming home" also has it's complications, as I find my homeland much the same, while I have changed drastically.  The life I live in Panama is more different than most people "back home" could imagine.

So the last thing I want is to be put in a special catagory.  Sometimes "missionary" can mean "super-Christian".  I may live a life that is different than many of my friends, but in reality we are not that different.

I am not stronger, or more dedicated, or more holy than other Christians. My calling lead me to another country.  Other's callings have lead them to stay at home.

With so many pressures rushing in on all sides, what I really want is a friend, not a fan. I don't need someone telling my that I am somehow different than them. I want them to understand that we are the same.

I am a woman, so I can probably relate to 80% of what most women go through. I am also a mom, and we all struggle with similar stresses, fears, and worries as mother. We all want similar things for our kids.  I am a child of God, and God teaches his kids all over the world many of the same lessons.

If you find you can't understand what I am going through, or the stresses I face on the mission field, or the worries that I have there, then just ask.  Ask how you can pray for me.  Ask how I am doing and really listen to my answer.  Don't assume that I won't understand your struggles and fears because I am some kind of ultra-holy servant of God.

If what you mean to say is, "I admire you." than just say it.

Or maybe you want to say, "I am fascinated by what you do, but it seems to hard for me to do."

Say something that will open up communication, because most of us, even us missionaries, just want to understand, and be understood.

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