Tag Archives: life purpose

Faith is the evidence of things not seen

Standard

I woke up this morning with a “Summer Head Cold”.  (It is still Summer here in Costa Rica, even though my Minnesota friends have recently had another foot of snow dumped on them in a rare “Spring storm”.) I automatically wondered, “Where did this cold come from?”  I spent a few minutes reviewing the events of my week, searching for a particularly germy location where I could have picked up a bug.  It was a toss up between being at school with 150 children or spending hours in the Immigration office, which was air-conditioned.  Costa Ricans firmly believe that a rapid change in temperature can make you sick (or kill you).  Apparently they were proven right today.  It’s no more ridiculous than American mothers ordering their children to put on hats to prevent a cold.

Anyhow, once I had settled on a possible source of my cold, I actually felt more at ease.  Silly, I know.  I am one of those people who feel better with more information.  When things are left vague, I am uneasy.  I am hard-wired to sift through the grains of life searching for nuggets of information to guide my decision-making.  When I can’t find those nuggets or the sifter is torn from my hands, I feel like life is out of control.  I am programmed to search for purpose and meaning in life.

For me, faith is going forward with insufficient information.  I do not consider it faith when I witness a miracle, or when I pray in another language, or when I observe the physical effects of contact with the spirit world.  No, for me those things are logical manifestations of the supremacy of our God.  We should by fact have a physical reaction when a Superior Being gets close to us- that’s normal, in my mind.  That requires no faith, for me.

Where I am stretched is when I am required to take a step without being totally secure of my data-base, when I don’t see a purpose.  If I know the WHY, I can proceed without fear.  If I know the final destination of these steps, the WHERE, then I can walk forward without concern.  If I can see an obvious HOW, then I have no reason to draw on my faith.  But when those questions are left ambiguous, or worse when they are completely unaddressed, then I frantically cast about for something else to hold on to like a drowning person searches for a life preserver.  The thing I seize upon is where my faith is anchored:  the personality of God.  God is the rope that I cling to.

What I believe God to be is the core of faith.  I cannot see Him.  But I can see the EVIDENCE of what he is, of who he is.  Just like I can’t see wind, for example, but I can see the evidence that wind exists- so it is with God.  Having faith is like being a forensic investigator.  We have to look for clues, finger prints, that God was here.  We build up our knowledge of him, our data-base, which gives us a larger and stronger rope to grab on to when the trail has taken an unexpected turn or the lead has gone cold.  In those times, when I am left without a WHY or a HOW or a WHERE I hold onto the rope, which is my faith in who God is.

I say to myself, “I don’t know why I am going through this, but I know that God has already approved this trial because he is all knowing.  He is in control and nothing surprises him.  He has promised that he only has good plans for me.  He will not harm me.”  When I can’t make sense of my reality, I hold onto my faith in the Goodness of Almighty God.  God is always good… even when I have a cold.

What the heck am I doing here?

Standard

Every once in a while I go through a “What the heck am I doing here?” phase.  Other missionaries might relate to this feeling.  I look at the things that consume my time every day, and I feel like very little that I do has spiritual significance.  I sweep and mop floors, I fold laundry, I teach ordinary school subjects to fifth graders, I make dinner, I pack lunches, I pick up toys, I walk to the grocery store to buy bread… I do all the ordinary daily life tasks.  However, here it takes me twice as long to do most things with twice the effort that it would in America.  All that to say, daily life kicks my butt most of the time!

kitchen-sinkI start thinking about how easy it is to live in America, how I could do twice as much in half the time and still have time left over to minister to people.  I wonder why I’m here.  How can THIS be considered Kingdom work?  I imagined being a missionary to be more like living on a missions trip!  But it’s not.  Daily life becomes daily no matter where you live.  I DO love when teams come down on trips because I get a taste of what drew me to missions in the first place… but that’s not how I live every day.

It’s a part of my personality package to search for significance and meaning in my life.  I would be happy and fulfilled if every detail of my life had spiritual implications, but I just can’t reconcile washing the dishes for the Kingdom of God.  That doesn’t equate in my mind.  If I were the apostle Paul, I would want to spend all my time preaching and none of it making tents.  But the bills must be paid- so I teach school.  Dinner must be made- so I go grocery shopping and prepare meals.  Children must be cleaned- so I do laundry and bathe the kids and teach them to brush their teeth, etc.

I start to feel like a fake when I call myself a missionary and the next question is, “well how many people have you gotten saved?”  It’s as if my life is being weighed in a balance and I come up short.  I am worthy of my calling only if X number of souls have come into the Kingdom.  When that’s not how the Kingdom works at all.  God’s Kingdom is not mathematical.  If it were, then the worker who worked all day long would receive more wages than the ones who arrived on the job in the last hour or two of the day.  But in that parable, Jesus said all the workers get paid the same regardless of how long they worked.  That’s neither fair, nor logical, nor mathematical.  If that’s not proof enough of the inefficiency of the Kingdom, then just look at the life of the missionary for more evidence.

woman-washing-dishesIf God were interested in the efficiency of numbers and equations then He wouldn’t ask a foreigner to go to a strange country, learn a new language, and speak to people with child-like simplicity and painful inaccuracy of pronunciation and grammar.  That just doesn’t make sense.  But He does.  This is how He works- mysteriously and sovereignly.  But I still think he could do this thing quicker and cleaner if he called and equipped locals only.  Why throw the messiness of missions into the pot?

When I am deep into my “what the heck” phase, I see all the messiness of missions.  You can’t bring cultures into close proximity without both of them being changed- and not always for the better.  Early missionaries brought sicknesses and diseases that the natives didn’t have the immunity to fight off.  Imperialism was a blight on early missions efforts- and this deadly fungus is still infecting the image of missions to this day.  Modern technology literally destroys simpler and older ways of life, often creating new problems even as it solves others.  Nothing we do is clean cut and free of the tarnish of human motivations.  Everything we touch becomes tainted, and God asks us to put our hands all over every detail of this life.  “How could he WANT it this way?” I question.

I don’t have any answers to this question.  I muddle through my own feelings of uselessness and futility even as I long for purpose and meaning.  I long to be useful.  Yet the only thing within my power is my own obedience.  I wish missions were clean and tidy.  I wish obedience was simple and easy.  But it’s not. It’s daily.  It’s messy.  It’s complicated.  It is impossible to sound the depths of the human heart and it is impossible to write up a how-to manual for building the Kingdom of God.  It can’t be done.

Photo credits:

Kitchen sink, Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeangenie/178780382/”>jeangenie</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</>

washing dishes in Honduras Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lonqueta/3532526536/”>Lon&Queta</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/People/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Happiness within the Call

Standard

From the time my sister was in college until just a few years ago she has worked at various positions with Senior Citizens.  She loves old people.  (We always joke that I get the kids and she gets the old people.)  She can hug someone over 100-years old (very gently) any time she wants!

But there was a time when the company she was working for was under lousy management and working there become stressful.  Fortunately another position opened within the Christian university that we both attended.  It paid more and offered a fresh environment with a challenge.  She worked there for about 5 years, and though she enjoyed her job, she missed her old people.  Always missed them.

We talked about it.  After all these years, I think she finally realized that working with Seniors is what she was MADE  to do.  It was her Calling.  She would only feel fulfilled in her work if she was working with old people.  So when all the doors suddenly opened up for her to return to her old company as PART OF the management- to really do some good and affect some changes- she jumped at the opportunity.  We all encouraged her to follow her calling.

This last week my sister wrote this on her Facebook page:

Two moving moments today at work:
1) Having a grey-haired, 60-something adult child tear-up while I was counseling him about getting though his parents’ move.

2) Having an 80-something resident make ME tear-up. He lived at Augustana back when I worked there before and was one of my favs. He said to me, “Back in 2003, you did one of the kindest things that anyone has ever done for me. When we took a trip to Lakewood Cemetery, you offered to visit my wife’s grave with me. I’ve never forgotten that and it will be the last thing I think of before I close my eyes for the last time.” UGH! Tears!

I have thought many, many times about my purpose in life.  Personally, I feel most fulfilled being a missionary.  I feel that this was what I was MADE to be.  My sister feels that working with Seniors is what she was MADE to do.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing when you find the purpose and meaning for your life?  I think there are a lot of people out there still working in jobs they don’t love and wondering if they missed their occupational calling in life.  That’s sad.

Even though no one calls her a “Minister”, what my sister does IS ministry.  She ministers to old people and to their families who are struggling with the transition that their loved ones are going through.  She treats her job as sacred and sees it as a chance to share the love of God with people.  And THAT is how you handle a Calling.  When you KNOW that this is what God wants you to do with your life, you treat it as sacred.