It’s Only Words

There were so many points at which I could have walked–at which I should have walked?–and didn’t.

I wanted to be a missionary and I didn’t want to be a cowboy. I wanted to be responsible and wound up submitting to all sorts of nonsense: “Do not taste. Do not touch” (Gal. 3).

I asked questions, but there was always an explanation. Ever notice how cults are like that? There’s always an explanation.

In Christianity, on the other had, there is mystery. How can one explain that Christ was fully man and fully God? And how can one explain the call to go abroad and advance an Invisible Kingdom?

Oh, I learned the lingo just fine: “I’m a cross-cultural worker.”

It sounds plausible, right? It’s only words…

For some reason, the lingo never worked in my circles. People could smell the counterfeit a mile away. Or maybe it was me who gave myself away.

“So you’re going off to convert people.”

“No, no, no,” I would explainexplainexplain. “It’s not like that.”

I would give my schpiel about–what?–that tried to make sense of the whole thing. Then I’d go home and wonder what I was doing. My explanations wouldn’t hold up in court, and that bothered me.

The truth is, conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t go out to convert people. My job is less to convert people than to pray that the Almighty God of the Universe turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 37).

I never tried that one out at the neighborhood potluck.

“Cross-cultural worker” sounds like a diplomatic position. Sounds lovely.

Don’t get me wrong–I loved the lingo. It meant much smoother conversations. Conversations I hated, but the point wasn’t to love it. The point was to get good at it.

Like learning French and getting smacked down over and over and over till you get it right. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

Anyway, I ignored the doubts that gnawed at me.

I knew my natural tendency was toward independence, so I tried my best to curb it and conform.

There were moments of lucidity.

I remember being at lunch with another North American cross-cultural worker who was working in Spain. She casually spoke of her partners funding her Masters in Cross-Cultural Ministry. I wondered what kind of classes those were. I also couldn’t help thinking it was bogus.

I remember explaining missionary support to a secular French friend who summarized it: “Partenariat. C’est beau, ça.”

At the time I thought he just didn’t get it. The ox, the treading of the grain, the money missionaries… Merited? Yikes.

Who wouldn’t want to be a missionary? Free Masters? Sign me up!

(Still, and here’s where the words start to hurt: I know people who have had funding for Bible courses and other training… It was completely legitimate. Where do we draw the line? I’ve had counseling classes paid for. That’s the kicker. I guess it’s a case-by-case basis.)

– Sister Still

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