Over the past few days, I’ve been meditating on a devotional that I gave at our organization's spring conference, which we attended remotely about a month ago.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
We all have expectations: of our jobs, our families, of what our lives and futures will look like. It’s a natural part of being human. As missionaries, part of our job is to hold our expectations lightly. We never know when we will need to drop everything and be flexible so that we can meet the needs of the people to whom we’re ministering, or the demands of a culture in which we are foreigners.
But I think that missionaries, just like everyone else, often have expectations that they don’t even realize they possess. Before leaving Canada, we tried as much as possible to shed our expectations and come to Japan with an open mind. But as we’ve gone through the journey of injury and recovery I realized that there was one expectation that I’d still possessed when we came here: the expectation that I would be able to serve God, uninjured, in whatever ways He or the church requested of me.
My journal from March 5 reads:
“I’ve been ruminating on two phrases over the last few days. The first is ‘out of commission’. I’ve caught myself almost using it to describe myself over the last little while, but I realize that it’s a bit of a misnomer. A child of God is never out of commission. He always has some use for us.
“At one point in this journey, I read Psalm 43:5, which says ‘hope in God, for I shall again praise Him…’ I said to myself, ‘Yes, when I am better I will praise Him again.’ There is another psalm that talks about declaring God’s glory in the assembly. Again, I thought, ‘I can’t wait until I’m better so I can do that.’
“The other phrase is something that someone else said to me: talking about him looking forward to me being better. ‘You have so much to offer,’ he said. I know what he meant, and the surface sentiment is lovely, but I wonder if such a statement has a faulty premise.
“‘You have so much to offer’ – what does it mean? You have so much potential (thank you!), but maybe you’re not living up to it? What if potential – if fulfillment of potential – is a subjective human construct? What if this statement does not take into account the plans that God has for us – plans that are so much higher than human ones that we can’t even begin to comprehend them? What if God’s plans for us are higher than our own plans for ourselves?
“What if the only potential that I have in and of myself is the potential to go to hell? All other ‘potential’ is God’s grace to me – giving me His gifts.
“My potential doesn’t lie in the things I could do. It lies in the One who makes all things possible.
“My being injured is not wasted potential. I am not out of commission. I am still a commissioned officer serving under Jesus, my commander. I am still useful in God’s kingdom. [Lecturing myself:] Don’t be lulled into seeing the world through your physical eyes.
“My mission field is different. My relationships with people here are different, but by saying ‘you have so much potential’, you invalidate my ministry now – the new, different ministry that God has given me.
“We give lip service to putting our relationship with God above ministry. But when our expectations of ministry are taken away – when all we have left is God – are we content? Do we really believe what we have been saying?
“When God chooses to give us a different ministry than we expected, is it good enough? Or do we stomp our foot like an obstinate toddler – demanding the ministry we wanted?
“Ministry will flow out of our relationship with God. It’s simple. It doesn’t matter if we can run and jump and play, or if we are bedridden. The question is: will we see it? Will we allow God to work in our weakness? When all eyes are turned to people more able than me, will I still be an instrument of God’s glory?”
John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”