Something God has been reminding me of for oh, about the last 15 years, is that we are only in charge of ourselves. I tell my students all the time – your responsibility is you. And God is telling me constantly – Suzanne, your responsibility is you.
True confessions: lately I’ve been feeling the ol’ missionary judgment that I thought I had kicked sneaking back up in my life. Here’s how it works – from my perspective, all of the missionaries* I know have more money than I do. And that makes me feel some type of way (namely, jealous and self-righteous).
(For the purpose of this post, “missionaries” here is being defined as people who receive the majority of their financial resources from individuals, churches, or organizations. We are all called to do the same things – act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly – no matter where we live or how we pay for things.)
In my mind, missionaries are those that are sacrificing things for kingdom work. And apparently in my mind all of those things that missionaries are sacrificing are supposed to be things that you can buy with money.
Now, please note the very important words there “from my perspective” and “in my mind.” Because the truth is, I don’t actually know anybody else’s financial situation, nor should I. Because it’s none of my business. And the truth is, as God reminds me all the time, I do not know what God has asked of people. I do not know what people have given up to be serving wherever and however they are serving. And the bigger and truer and more important truth is that IT DOESN’T MATTER because nobody has to pass my test of missionary-ness in order to be or do anything.
Over the past five years living and working with and around missionaries I have realized, by the grace of God, that my preoccupation with how much money missionaries possess has less to do with my concern for the kingdom (“That money could be better used elsewhere” is a phrase that rings a bell) and more to do with my concern for my financial security (and excess). It has also revealed how much of an idol money is to me and how concerned I am with the perception people have of me as it relates to money.
Throughout my time in the DR I have, in stops and starts and only just barely, started to untangle the complicated view and relationship I have with money and how that affects my relationships with others and my thought-life. I fancy myself free from the ties of money. I don’t have much of it and I never save it, so obviously it doesn’t have control over me! (*she thinks erroneously from a place of blissful and willful ignorance*) But my preoccupation with others’ money, especially in relation to my own, reveals a deeper, darker, sadder truth. Money obviously matters to me more than it should, so much so that money – if I let it – colors my opinion of others.
I hate even typing it because I know how gross and perverted it is. I know that I should mind my own business. I know that I do not know what God has asked of other people. I know that money is not the only thing we offer up on the altar of missionary/overseas living. I know this all in my head but it has yet to fully penetrate my heart. Or my heart knows it deep down but the knowledge hasn’t made it’s way up to my head. One of the two.
But I want to know it fully and completely – that the amount of money I do or do not have and how many jobs I work to obtain the money I do or do not have and how much of that money I use to buy pizza do not define me. And how much money someone else has and how many supporters they have and how much they have to travel to get that money or how often they go out to eat do not define them either. Money doesn’t define our spirituality or our usefulness or our righteousness or our worth. I think I need to write that again because it’s setting me free a little bit.
Money doesn’t define our spirituality or our usefulness or our righteousness or our worth.
You know, this is not the way I wanted this post to go. I totally sat down to write thinking about other people. I was going to write about being the change you wish to see in the world (implying that I am the change I wish to see and that others should follow suit). I was going to write about how it’s a lot easier to criticize than it is to change. But that’s the magic and wonder of writing. That, for me, is the holy act of fingers on keyboard. God reveals Himself to me through this practice and reveals myself to me, too – both equally important I have found, and as long as I am faithful to keep showing up and putting my fingers on the keyboard, willing to own whatever comes out, He will keep showing up too, I am sure.