Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A little potted history and why we don't have to be super.

Growing up, I devoured biographies about missionaries.  I was so inspired by the likes of Jackie Pullinger, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey and so many more.

As a student, my bedroom was decorated with an enormous world map and the walls were littered with quotes from missionaries who had given up everything to serve God in another nation.  I woke every morning to this prayer next to my bed:

'I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with your Holy Spirit.  Use me as you want, send me where you want, work out your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.'

This prayer was written by Betty Scott Stam, who served as a missionary in China and was marched naked through the streets and then murdered in 1934 shortly after hiding her baby daughter to protect her life.

I lived and breathed these incredible stories of courage and sacrifice.  

For me, following Jesus meant there was no other way to live.

Despite having 'settled' with three children for the last 13 years, these stories have continued to gnaw their uncomfortable teeth into the relative comfort of my world and they still make up a fundamental part of who I am.

That honest and powerful prayer is still written at the front of my bible.  There have been times when I have chosen to ignore it, but deep down I am still that girl who yearns to just be obedient to her God whenever and wherever he calls her.  That strand, woven into me so young, has wound it's way around the rest of my life and has made me the woman I am today.

But here's the problem.  When I look again at those tough, sacrificial people who spent years in remote jungles with no Facebook or Skype; when I read again about women living on their own in the middle of huge drug dens; when I remember stories of diseases rampaging and eight week boat journeys I wonder if those people are some kind of 'super-Christians'.

How can any normal person attempt anything like that?  How can I, so flawed and often so lacking in faith, say 'yes' to the call to something so far removed from any comfort zone I have ever known?  I'm no 'super-Christian'.  I shout at my children (shhh). I get cross with people who leave dog poo on the pavement.  I like to be comfortable.  I don't like spicy food.  I get tired and irritable.  I don't like camping in a tent for a week so I'd never be able to live in a mud hut for endless years.  I'm not super.  I'm just me!

And then I realised I don't have to be super.  In fact, there's no such thing as a 'super-Christian'.  All those people I read about were normal too, but they were following a super-God.  I don't have to be super.  I don't have to perform or look like I'm a very holy and sacrificial person to others.  I just have to love and follow my super God who was more than enough for those people who left everything to answer his call and He will be more than enough for me too.

He's enough.  And that's all that matters.  

So when He calls us to do something scary, whether it's boarding a plane to a far off country or showing kindness to a neighbour, we can say 'yes'.  It's not about us, it's about Him.  He's the one who gives us all we need and He's the one to receive the credit.

And, of course, a blog about my favourite missionaries wouldn't be right if I didn't end with one of my favourite quotes.  William Carey, a normal shoemaker turned Baptist missionary, lived in India for 41 years.  Often referred to as God's plodder, there were no big stages and bright lights for him but he loved faithfully adventuring with his God.  He said this:

'Attempt great things for God.  Expect great things from God.'

Let's live attempting great things knowing we don't have to be perfect, because we know the perfect One will give us all we need and more.

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