This morning I helped out in children’s ministry at my home church. I was in the 2 and 3 year old class. There is a sweet little girl who is still warming up to the idea of being left in children’s ministry while her parents are in church. She isn’t a crier. She just stays standing or sitting by the door, sucking her thumb, snuggling her blankie and waiting for her parents to come back to get her. She doesn’t talk much, but she loves books read to her. So I grabbed a stack of books, plopped down next to her and began to read.
I read one book to her that struck me. (I love how God uses the simple things in life.) This book was about a fox who was pretending to be a duck in order to be close to a family of ducks, including 5 little ducklings. The mama duck knew what he was trying to do, so she took him around and had him do duck things. He didn’t like duck things, and he didn’t do them well. Eventually, the mama duck called him out and he left defeated. He was not a duck. He couldn’t be a duck no matter how hard he tried.
It overwhelmed me because the task set before me is a bit like what the fox was trying to do in the story. Only, I can’t fake it. I need Jesus to truly change me, make me into someone I am not.
I recently received my job description for my first year or two on the field. There is a section of it that has been on my mind a lot. It’s driven me to prayer and is a humbling reminder of how much I have to depend entirely on Jesus. The section reads, “NCLA (which stands for National Culture and Language Acquisition) is much more than simply learning— or acquiring—new information, the learner must actually change, becoming a different person, one who can live in a different way in a new world. Therefore it can take a new missionary between 1-2 years to acquire the language and culture.”
I think about what Ruth told Naomi when she decided to go to Israel and not return to her people. “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall become my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse if anything but death parts you and me.” This was a different circumstance, but Ruth’s heart was to become someone else in her new home, her new culture.
In the next few months, I am leaving my home, my culture, to make a new home in a new culture. I’m not sure that I’ll ever look like I am Brazilian, but my prayer is that I become Brazilian. From what I have heard, Brazilian culture is about as far opposite as you can get from my stoic, New England culture. I am going to have to become someone foreign to myself.
Jesus left Heaven and made His home, for a little while, here on Earth. He became human, to live a perfect life, take my sins upon Himself and pay for them upon the Cross. He became to save me. Next week, we’ll be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus. Because after He died, He rose again to give me and you and the whole world new life in Him.
When put into eternal perspective, this becoming someone else isn’t as scary or daunting. Because, the truth is, my home, my true identity and culture is found in Jesus. So if I need to be stretched and become someone else for His name’s sake, it’s all worth it.
In I Corinthians 9, Paul says, “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, sot that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”