“Let’s get tattoos.”
If you know me, this was a lifetime coming. My first (and what I naively believed would be my only) tattoo would be a tiny birthmark in the shape of Africa. Africa, the land of my calling. The only place I had ever wanted to end up for as long as I could remember. A birthmark because as far as I was concerned, Africa was a part of me, and also because I just liked the irony of the whole thing.
Sure, I was scared. Of the tiny needle drilling Africa into my arm and of everything that might happen before I finally got there. But I was also thrilled, because finally I was getting there. I was doing what I had been called to do and being who I had been called to be–a missionary.
Or so I thought.
You don’t know me, but here are some realities:
- I do not live in Africa.
- I did not end up in Africa.
- I still think I will someday.
- I hope more than anything that I do.
I actually just moved back to Ohio after two years of teaching in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In just a couple of months, I am headed back to Seattle, and I am currently working on my resume to break into “corporate America.”
If that’s your reaction to all of that, no worries, it’s mine too, quite regularly.
When I see it on paper, even when I say it out loud, it hardly makes sense. Isn’t this backwards? Isn’t this moving away from missions and stepping out of my calling? I ask myself and God these questions probably hourly. Church planting was a start, teaching in Mexico a step in the “right” direction. But going back to Seattle to work an office job…?
There’s this popular worship song that came out a few years back that has never lost its popularity for me. The bridge says, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the water wherever You may call me.”
One of my last Sundays before leaving Seattle, I had somewhat of a revelation surrounding that lyric. I think for so many who heard the song, that line was a challenge — to not be afraid to cross borders for the sake of Christ, to follow wherever He might lead even if it meant leaving everything familiar.
I had never been afraid to go and to go far. It’s all I had ever wanted. I was afraid of staying. I was afraid of comfort and familiarity and I wondered if I could be comfortable and safe and close to home and still living in obedience to my calling.
Trust without borders meant for me, willingness to stay and not cross oceans.
That leads us to the here and now — my here and now. My daily struggle to let go of my pride and my idea of what He meant when He called me all those years ago, to let go of my understanding because in the end it’s irrelevant. In the end, it’s always only been about obedience. My calling is not to understand. My calling is to accept that in this life there will be so many things I can’t ever understand and to obey anyways because He is God and I am not.
My calling is to live life with my hands wide open towards the sky ready to receive whatever He offers me and to give back whatever He asks of me. That includes my plans and my ideas and my timelines. They are His and not my own, and it is so much better that way.
While I’m not currently raising funds for Africa through a missions sending organization, I am stepping into the most missional phase of my life. I am beginning to see that His definition of missions is simply for us to go where there is need of Him and to be His light and love and hope where there is only darkness and hate and despair. That sometimes the location matters and other times it is simply about the call to be His hands and feet wherever He might lead. To trust without borders.
He is, after all, my beginning and my end. It’s been Him since the beginning and no matter what happens in the middle, it will be Him in the end. I am certain I will always end up back at His heart.