I wrote a separate post earlier broaching the topic of transparency among believers, and how I think it is a necessary part of a healthy Christian life to be honest with one another about where we are in our spiritual journeys. Basically, that whole post was a set-up for this one.
As a family, we just finished up our first 4-year term over in Papua New Guinea (PNG). We came back in the summer and are currently 6 months into a 9-month Home Assignment (HA). As you might imagine, much of our time at home has been spent processing what we have been through over the past several years overseas. And now that we are entering into the final 1/3 of our HA, many of our thoughts are beginning to move on to what things we will most likely be facing when we go back.
And here’s the truth of it: I don’t want to go back.
You may not know this about me, but I don’t like intense heat and humidity. I don’t like poisonous insects in my underwear. I don’t like malaria infested jungle swamps. I don’t like being the on-call, go-to guy for third degree burns, bush knife gashes, and cerebral malaria. I don’t like learning a (before 2 years ago) unwritten language. I don’t like trying to function in a culture that is drastically different than my own in almost every way. I don’t like living off of non-perishable food and not having fresh produce available for my children. I don’t like being 9,000 miles away from all of my family.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that I genuinely DISLIKE all of those things. I hope it isn’t too shocking of a thing for you to hear me to say that. But it’s true. I would much rather stay here than go.
I feel like it’s worth me mentioning this, because as I have been sharing with different people here in the States about what we have been up to among the Iski over the last few years, I don’t feel like I have expressed this sentiment all that well. Usually, when I finish sharing about some of our context in the bush people will come and strike up a conversation with comments similar to:
“Wow. I can’t imagine trying to raise small children in the jungle!”
“That’s so great what you’re doing. I could never do that. I hate bugs!”
“I hated taking a foreign language in high school. It’s a good thing God called YOU to work with an unreached people group. I couldn’t do it!”
What always stands out to me in those conversations is that those comments are usually exclusive in their nature. That is to say, they are framed as if it is mutually understood that the speakers believe that I am an outlier in regards to the emotion they are referencing. THEY couldn’t do it, because THEY don’t like bugs… but I can, because I DO? THEY don’t like learning language… but I DO? THEY care too much about their children’s well-being… but we are unfazed by the idea of homeschooling in a jungle swamp?
Those types of conversations make me think that there may exist a bit of confusion in the minds of some as to why we choose to live among a remote people group halfway around the world. I think some people categorize it similarly to how most of us would view someone who likes eating partially developed bird eggs*: “I think that’s bizarre and gross, but if that’s your thing, then go for it.”
Another way of expressing this sentiment might be, “Because I don’t want to do what you are doing, but you ARE doing it, you must not feel the same way I do about the things that make me not want to do it.”
And that’s where I take issue. Rochelle and I are not exceptional people with an odd fascination for hard living. We do not get any special thrills out of experiencing any of the things that I mentioned in my big, whiny paragraph at the top. We do not enjoy a vast majority of the aspects our jungle living entails.
I was privileged with the opportunity of sharing at the Ethnos360 Bible Institute a while ago, and I left this thought with the students: “God doesn’t ask us to do what we want to do. He asks us to do what He asks us to do.”
It’s not overly profound, I know, but I feel like it is an oft-overlooked pillar of the Christian life. My natural enjoyment, or interest, in a particular aspect of what Christ has called us to do here on earth is irrelevant as to whether or not I should be willing to do it.
Has Christ clearly charged the Church with reaching the ends of the earth with the Gospel? Are there still over 2,000 languages without access to that Gospel message in their mother-tongue? Am I physically healthy enough to able to take an active part in seeing the Gospel brought to those people?
If my answers to those questions are yes, then I don’t really see where my antithetical opinions hold a whole lot of weight. I couldn’t even get out of jury duty with the excuses I try:
Jesus: “I have been given ALL AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth. I want my Church to take my Good News to every tribe, tongue, and nation!”
Seth: “Sorry, could I be excused from that, please?”
Seth: “It’s just that I would much rather NOT do that. I’ve made a bunch of plans already, and investing everything in reaching those people would pretty much ruin everything.”
Jesus: “But I have ALL AUTHORITY… and I just told you all to get busy on this thing.”
Seth: “Yeah, but the thing is, I also really don’t like poisonous centipedes. They’re super scary and icky.”
Jesus: “Yeah, you’re right. They are pretty icky. OK, you can go follow your dreams instead.”
See? Conversations like that just make me sound like a weenie.
That leaves me in my current situation, asking myself questions like these: Am I willing to partake in a task, the details of which I do not enjoy, because it fulfills the expressly stated desire of my Savior? Whose priorities are more priority, mine, or God’s? Is the chief end of man to glorify God, or to serve his own desires?
And then there’s this follow-up: Is it possible that I could find joy in the act of obedience, even though the task itself is undesirable to me, and might that joy possibly be greater than what I might have derived from my own ambitions, as it is rooted in the person and plans of Christ?
So, there it is. I’ve said it. I don’t want to go back to PNG. I want to stay here in the States instead. I really, really like it here.
We’ll be shipping our passports off to the embassy next week to get our visas renewed.
*The Iski do this, by the way.