“Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
I can trace the catalyst of this overseas life back to a conversation I had with my Momma when I was about 4 years old. It is one of my first memories, way back there with that time my baby sister bit me through the slats in her crib and a quiet night when my Momma rocked me softly in the wicker chair. I’m not sure why we had this conversation, but my speculation is that I was jealous about my baby sister getting more cuddles than me. I remember standing in the hallway, looking way up at my tall Momma beside the refrigerator, as she explained to me that babies need cuddling, they need that physical touch to survive and that there were places in the world where babies died because they didn’t have anyone to hold them. I remember exactly what I thought when she told me that.
“But I can hold the babies.”
I love this memory, because I love my innocent response, a pure desire to be helpful. A pure motivation to save lives. I had no idea then, that one day I would indeed move faraway from home and hold many babies, many children. And I had no idea the kind of glory that comes with doing this work. I had no idea that people would immediately become so interested in me, simply because I was so young and had lived abroad. I had no idea that I would be told, over and over again, how beautiful I was, how amazing. I had no idea that when I would speak in front of churches I would bring people to tears, leave people in awe. I had no idea I would be called special, incredible, a hero.
And I had no idea that I would believe it.
Let’s be honest, all that praise totally went to my head. And I know I’m not the only one. I know because I’ve lived in various communities of missionaries, and I’ve seen and I’ve felt how many of us, on some level or another, thought we were such a big deal. As if God had bestowed upon us the very highest & holiest of callings.
Missionary. We are many, we are diverse, and I’m not saying all of us struggle with feeling superior to those not living a “radical” life, but I am admitting that it’s been a struggle of mine, and I am saying I don’t think I am alone in that struggle.
I am so thankful for the life I’ve been living these past five years… I’ve grown to love other cultures, I’ve grown to love people from all over the world… and everything I’ve experienced in Mexico, Chile, & Colombia… has shaped me into a more compassionate and understanding woman. I am so thankful.
This life, while vastly different from the lives of most Americans, is no more special, no more extraordinary, no more holy, no more heroic, than anyone else’s life. Yes, I’ve seen God do incredible miracles. But that has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the Divine. Yes, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices… the biggest sacrifice being that I rarely see my family… but, that doesn’t make me amazing. Or if it does, it makes me no more amazing than all the Mothers & Fathers who cross into our country illegally in order to provide for their children back home on the other side of that border. That is an even bigger sacrifice. Yes, I’ve learned a new language, enjoyed (and been grossed out by) new food, navigated foreign streets, kissed cheeks in greeting. I’ve loved these countries children as my very own. But this does not make me a hero. I do think it makes me incredibly blessed. It is such an honor to live among these people. But it does not make me extraordinary.
Glennon Doyle Melton says that when others put us on a pedestal, it is our job to step down. When I read those words of hers I immediately thought of all the times I’ve allowed people to applaud me, to treat me as extraordinary, to treat me as a hero. All that glory & praise has felt so encouraging & affirming… but all that glory & praise isn’t for me. It’s for the One who has allowed me the blessing of living this life. So I don’t want to allow that anymore. Do I need to be loved, encouraged & affirmed? Absolutely. But not in the way that I’ve so often received it before… as if I am more, more holy, more amazing, more beautiful, than everyone else living Stateside. Yes I am beautiful, but so are you. Yes my calling is beautiful, but so is yours.
I see you, I see you living in the same state you’ve always lived in, the same town, providing for yourself, providing for your family, doing what you’ve been gifted & equipped to do, finding & creating joy right where you are. I see you laboring each day in your work as a stay-at-home Momma, I see you studying like crazy to earn that degree, I see you in your 9-5 job, I see you with your crazy food-service-industry hours, I see you making 12 cents an hour in your job within those prison walls… & I see the beauty, the holy in that. I see it every bit as beautiful as the life I’m living overseas.