My journey with living on Mission began the summer of 1983. I was watching T.V. with the other kids at the house of my brother in law’s best friend, Keith Green. I knew Keith as the crazy Jesus Freak friend of my sister who’d come over, bang on our piano and make me laugh. I also knew Keith and my older brothers and sisters had all been addicted to the drugs that was wreaking havoc on my family. Yet now, none of them could talk of anything else but Christ as their Savior. They talked nonstop abut their brokenness and how God was healing them. I coveted what they had. It was more than a belief, it was a testimony. They seemed to know what life was all about. At nine, my mission was still figuring out how to win at the Rubik’s Cube while stuffing a whole pack of Hubba Bubba in my mouth. But that day, sitting in Keith’s living room, I overheard him say something to my sister that stuck with me for the rest of my life. He leaned over to her, his blue eyes staring down at me and said, “Is your sister saved?”
My sister Alyson smiled at me and said, “Yes, she is.”
I looked at her and then pretended like I was still watching Tom and Jerry with all the other kids, but I could feel my ears going hot. I was so excited that my sister had called me a Christian. Of course I loved God, but was I really adult enough to be a Christian? I kept listening.
“I can tell she loves the Lord.” Keith said. “She’s going to be a Godly woman.”
And that was it. Those words spoken casually, yet prophetically in conversation, struck a chord in me. When I arrived back at school that September and my teacher asked me to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up I said, “A Missionary and a Veterinarian. I want to help people and animals.” At nine I didn’t know much about the exact qualifications I needed to possess to become a “godly women”, but one thing my sister and her hippie friends showed me was; a godly woman lives for those in trouble and anyone, even a nine year old, could become one and have a mission. In fact, there was no other way to live as a Christian.
That first step as a nine year old, was only the beginning of a life long battle to live the call to “Go into all the world”. Everything in all heaven and earth tries to prevent us from living missional as Christians. I believe the enemy of our soul actually finds greater satisfaction in seeing our God given gifts disabled, then listening to the Atheist’s boastful speech. Yet everything in all heaven and earth is also at our disposal for the battle. “I do not leave you as orphans,”says our Leader in John 14:18. Every weapon the enemy uses against us to disable our missional call, has a counter weapon.
For the next thirty-five years, that nine year old “godly-woman-to-be,” that “hopeful-missionary”, would face every possible tool the enemy could muster up to drive her from the mission at hand. The mission to lead the weary to a Refuge and the broken to a Strong Tower wasn’t going to be had until she herself clutched that Refuge and stood under that Strong Tower.
- At age 12, drug addiction would end my parents’ marriage and cause my family to become homeless, begging for money from relatives.
- At 15 I’d be sexually assaulted while walking home from school.
- At 29 I’d face the paralyzing pain of infertility.
- At 40 I’d face my first bout with cancer
With every attack of the enemy against our call to mission as believers, comes a counter attack from God equipping our souls. God’s desire is that we’d move beyond simply going on mission to truly loving those we are called to give to. In the words of Amy Carmichael, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” I know it was in the trials that my missional life took root in the Love of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 declares, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Everyone of those blows by the enemy, made me more effective on mission than before.
Here are some missional edges born from those battles:
- At age 12 I learned compassion for those addicted to and broken by substance abuse. Homelessness became a matter of the soul rather than an absence of a building and set me up for living 12 years in a foreign country, planting and replanting my life among the unchurched.
- At 15 I found the well worn path of Christ toward forgiving my enemy, something God was going to ask me to do for a lifetime in Ministry and Mission.
- At 29 and while facing infertility, our first Church plant was born. “A church for those who don’t go to church” we called it. It was here I learned what true missional living was about. I had to minister amidst my pain and not hide it. Living a missional life means inviting others into our most vulnerable places and loving there. Right there. Even amongst the blubbering.
- At 35 my infertility lead to the greatest blessing of all, a house full of kids! Without the childless mom, there is no one to embrace the motherless child through adoption.
- At 40 cancer gave me the gift of a few more days living a Missional life by slowing me down long enough to listen to the unchurched around me. It gave me time for those outside the church as they came into my home to care for me!
Mission is waiting for us amidst our trials, our fears and our insecurity. In the (very awesome) book Reaching The Unreached, Peyton Jones writes, “Unless you’re scared, you’re not on mission.” Being scared is what happens when we step out. It’s the first step. Being humbled by our compassionate God toward a world crushed under sin, is where our effectiveness takes root. And until we fight through those battles set up just for us, I don’t believe we have the compassion that is needed for a life lived on mission. In fact, our mission, like a dessert rose, will often blossom out of our most wounded places.
The challenge to the Christian, especially a Christian who has been in the church for a number of years is, we may feel unable to reach a world who seems to be speaking a different language. We know the church is often labeled by the unchurched as, unapproachable in our Holy, do-gooder robes. We often watch helplessly as the unreached withdraw from us, uninterested in being our mission. Here is where the lie lives. We are still in as much need of a Savior as they are. In fact, there is a much smaller chasm between the church and the unchurched than the enemy would have us believe. We are just as desperate. Sometimes we are just barely clinging to shattered pieces of our hope and Faith. When we stick around an unbelieving world long enough, we begin to see that all those areas we’re asking God to heal in us, are the very spots He is going to minister through us. Yet we need to be brave enough to not “Other” those we call our mission. We are called to be open and honest about our own trails and our own areas of much needed sanctification. Unfortunately, the Lyrics from the band Frightened Rabbit, sums up the attitude of many unbeliever’s toward us:
“While you read to me from the riot act way on high, high
Clutching a crisp New Testament breathing fire, fire.
Will you save me the fake benevolence, I don’t have time, I’m,
Just too far gone for a-tellin’, lost my pride, I don’t mind,
So leave me alone.
Aw, you’r acting all holy,
Me, I’m just full of holes”
This young man had an encounter with a Christian that left him feeling judged. He didn’t feel loved and he most certainly was not related to. In the end, this talented young Scotsman took his own life. His story has been haunting me lately. What if my sister and her friends had never really paid attention to my nine year old soul? Or what if they merely lectured me? What if they had simply wrote me off as too young, or not ready to receive yet?
I know the exact times in my life where I would have walked past a man like the song writer and judged him, “othered” him and labeled him as unapproachable. And I know the times in my life where I would have stopped and listened to his hurt. It would have been the times I was going through my own ache of soul and being shown tremendous love, grace and compassion from God.
Let me sum it up this way. There can be no mission outside of us, if there is no mission happening within us. Don’t despise your trials and temptations believers and think you can’t be used amidst the storm. It’s part of your witness. It’s part of your testimony and it’s where mere giving for the gospel’s sake, transforms into loving with gospel strength. As the church, “We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ.” (Eph. 2:10) Our trials chisel our beliefs into a testimony. That testimony is the heart of our missional life.