Sometimes I get so jealous of people who live overseas full time, especially if they’re shacking up in Southeast Asia. I read missionary blogs and accounts of humanitarian workers who are on the front lines of fighting trafficking and ending poverty. Did you know that some men get to go undercover in brothels to collect evidence that will be used to rescue girls trapped in sexual slavery? That sounds beyond exciting to me, like modern day Indiana Jones. Sometimes I wish I could be the one covertly gathering evidence and raiding the brothel. Action/adventure AND helping children- how much better could it get?
These feelings become particularly strong when I’m doing something mundane like scrubbing jelly off the furniture. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and my life with my family; but sometimes it feels like I’m missing out on the ‘real’ work. I wonder in vain if there is any way I could convince my husband to quit his corporate job and join the Peace Corps. I already know that my husband is about as likely to leave America as Rush Limbaugh is to endorse Obama. It ain’t gonna happen. And while I know intellectually that being married to my husband and raising my kids is the most important work I could be doing, sometimes it feels like I’m not doing much more than barely holding back my house from utter chaos. I suspect I’m not the only mom who feels this way.
Raising children isn’t glamorous, but I’m learning that Kingdom work often isn’t. Sure some people will get to raid brothels, but most of us will do things like give our elderly neighbor a ride to church or babysit for a single mom. Loving and serving are usually ordinary and often thankless. People are introduced to the Gospel through simple acts of service and demonstrations of love. If you got into this Christian thing for action and adventure, you might want to rethink your decision.
Even things that on the surface seem very glamorous, like adopting an child from a foreign orphanage, are fraught with long, hard consequences. Late nights spent soothing that same homesick child, surgeries and astronomical medical bills for that child; none of these things are conveyed in the cute pictures of multi-cultural families. Kingdom work means digging in with people, walking together through all the crap in their lives while simultaneously dealing with all the crap in our own lives. In the case of the rescued girl from the raided brothel, someone has to counsel her and educate her and give her job training and help her heal. This process takes years. The brothel raid is just the beginning. While it is absolutely necessary and ever so important, it’s Chapter One in a very long book, a book that may have plot twists, setbacks and even a sad ending. People are complicated creatures after all.
In my moments of discontent, I try to remember that I am a product of my culture and my envy of adventure is fueled by a society that feeds me movies and TV shows with happy endings where the good guy always wins. Real life with actual people is far more complicated. Being a Christian means orienting myself toward another way of being in the world, a way that values steadfastness and self-sacrifice. My desire to do something “big” for God really boils down to my desire for a bit of excitement and a feeling of self-satisfaction. Just like the Pharisees with their showy gifts, I want to be able to check something off my list and satisfy my sense of guilt about having so much more than most people in the world. Yes, my heart breaks into a million little pieces over the thought of girls being trafficked, and that part is from God. But the discontent with my present situation and the feeling of inadequacy in comparison to others in the same battle are certainly not from God. I believe that God wants us to delight in serving him, even when that service comes in the form of wiping noses or overseeing time out’s.
We’re selling out to the world when we discount the small acts of service. We’re buying into a culture that says some of us are more important, more worthy, and that our value lies in what we produce. Our culture glorifies bursts of greatness because too many of us don’t have the attention span for anything more. If I’m going to follow Christ, I have to learn to be satisfied with the small and the slow.