One of my favorite things about the internet is that it allows me to read in other people’s words things that I have always felt, believed, or thought but have never been able to (or willing to, perhaps) express in a way that makes sense. For example, when reading in Brittany Gibbons’ book, Fat Girl Walking, about her experience as a “secret girlfriend” in high school I felt completely understood in a totally new way. I had no idea that there were other girls who had legitimate relationships with boys, but only in private!, while the same boys paraded around the halls with their hot girlfriends suitable for public display. I thought that was totally unique to my high school situation and to read about someone else have the same experience felt awesome. Bloggers talk about it all the time – the “me too!” moments.
Well today I read Forgotten God by Francis Chan and while I didn’t find him on the internet, I had one of these moments. One of those, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve always thought but never knew how to say,” moments. The subject matter is very different from that over which I connected with Brittany. Which isn’t surprising if you’re familiar with either Brittany or Francis’s work.
In the afterword of Forgotten God, Francis talks about how – well, I’ll just tell it in his own words.
My wife and I recently decided to give all of the royalties from my previous book, Crazy Love to the Isaiah 58 Fund. All of the money goes to the needy in the world – the starving, sick, impoverished, and to those in the sex-slave trade…. I was a bit shocked and discouraged by some of the responses we received.
People told us that we were being foolish and irresponsible with the gifts God gave us. They said we should have at least put some away in case of an emergency. My response back was, “Is it not an emergency that children in Cambodia and Thailand and even the United States are being raped every single day of their lives? Why is that not an emergency?”
I’ve wanted to teach Spanish speaking children in a Spanish speaking country since I was eleven years old. This is all I’ve ever seriously wanted to do. And yet I never wanted to be a missionary. I wanted to be a teacher who happened to teach in a country other than the one I grew up in.
I was very hesitant to identify myself as a missionary even in the months preceding my move to the Dominican Republic. I was hesitant for a couple of reasons. One, my picture of missionary women was that of stay at home moms who home-schooled their kids in long jean skirts. The missionary woman, in my mind, wasn’t single or tattooed or opinionated or even bilingual. She was the pastor’s wife and maybe the children’s Sunday school teacher.
Second, I had no desire to live off of other people’s money. Paul was a tent maker, I am a teacher. I have been trained to teach and I wanted to then be paid to teach. So instead of going on a months-long deputation, I asked one church, my home church, to support me. They said yes, and I considered myself taken care of.
Every missionary has a different story and a different situation and one of the very first lessons God taught me in the Dominican Republic is that I cannot know what God has asked of others; I am only in charge of my own obedience. That being said, there are many missionaries (missionaries here meaning “those who live off of support”) and non-missionaries who have expressed surprise and even concern at the small amount of support that I have coming in monthly. I explain that I have just what I need to make it through today and even tomorrow and that is a lot more than many people in this world can say.
Some might say, “But what if there’s an emergency?” To which I respond, “I cannot justify hoarding someone else’s money for ‘what ifs.’ That money could be being used right now today. If there’s an emergency God is still good, God will provide as He always has.”
There have been times, especially during my first year, that I felt pressure to seek out more supporting churches. I have a TON of student debt and no savings, so seeking out more supporting churches makes sense. But I prayed about it before making any decisions. I also put it off because asking people for money SUCKS. And while I was praying and considering, I was offered a couple of tutoring jobs. Jehovah Jireh.
After my second year, when I was thinking about seeking out more supporting churches, I was offered a week long paid position with YouthWorks. God provides.
At this point I am secure in my obedience. I have decided to follow Jesus and Jesus has not asked me to seek out more supporting churches. Jesus has not asked me to ask for more money. What Jesus has asked me to do is keep my eyes open and my faith in Him. What Jesus has asked me to do is stop judging other people and let Him worry about what He’s asked of them.
One of the biggest discouragements can be when a fellow Jesus person hears about a decision you’ve made and says, “What?!” or, even worse, comes up super quickly with a list of reasons why that decision is stupid. Which is why a personal relationship with Jesus and personal knowledge of Scripture and a personal daily tuning in to the Holy Spirit time is VITAL. Because the ways of Jesus are nutso bananas to the world and even those of us who have decided to follow Jesus can get so bogged down by the ways of the world that we miss the ways of Jesus.
Remember when God asked Noah to build a giant boat and everyone was like, “What are you doing Noah?” And remember when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son?! Remember when God asked Jesus to die on a cross even though He did nothing wrong? I am not Noah. I am not Abraham and I am certainly not Jesus. But we all serve the same big, crazy good God and if obedience worked for them, it works for me. If Abraham had built a giant boat instead of sacrificing Isaac, that would’ve been disobedience because that’s not what God asked him to do. If I sought out a bunch of other churches to support me instead of tutoring students and pinching a few pesos here and there, that would be disobedience because that’s not what God asked me to do. Not because building boats or seeking supporters is wrong, but because obedience is better.
(For more words of wisdom from Forgotten God, click here.)