As an MK, I often dreaded going to Sunday School.
Whether I was going to local church overseas or a supporting church during Home Assignment, the feeling associated with Sunday mornings was often one of pressure.
You see, all of the other kids usually had a least one Christian parent who chose a “normal” profession. A Christian who was a doctor. A Christian who was a dentist. A Christian who was a banker. But in a sense, being a Christian was my parents’ profession, and with it came a host of expectations and assumptions.
I often felt the sting of being different. I was in a different category of Christian.
Aren’t missionaries supposed to be professional Christians?
With the do’s and don’ts associated with that perception, I often lost sight of God. Along with many MKs, I lost sight of truth.
Here are four lies that MKs commonly believe.
Lie #1: “I should be at another level of spiritual perfection.”
I should already know.
That was the subtle belief that often pervaded my thinking, especially on Sunday mornings. I should already know that passage. I should have already memorized that verse. I should already have made that connection. Timothy Sanford describes a common pattern in his book I Have To Be Perfect (And Other Parsonage Heresies). Looking back, I see how frequently it unfolded in my own life:
– People knew that I was an MK and assumed that I knew more than the other children.
– I picked up on these assumptions and concluded that maybe I was supposed to know.
– Instead of looking stupid, I pretended like I did know.
– They saw me pretending, concluded that I really did know, and continued to assume.
– I continued to pretend.
Lie #2: “Other people’s needs are more important than my own.”
When reflecting on her overseas experience, one adult MK recently told me, “I was convinced everyone mattered above me and that I was at the bottom of the totem pole.”
I often watched my parents’ serve long hours. I saw their exhaustion, stress, and sacrifice. According to my nine-year-old thinking, I didn’t want to get in their way. In a skewed sense, I believed that my contribution to their ministry was to take my needs out of the equation.
“I felt like if I demanded their time, that I would be hindering my parents’ ministry,” an adult MK said. “I felt resentment building up and internalized it. It was toxic to me and our relationship…also to my spiritual growth. I felt shelved and not considered.”
Lie #3: “God is only for others.”
The essence of missions is taking the gospel to the unreached. Much of my childhood consisted of serving alongside my parents in their ministry. We shared the gospel with others. We taught the Bible to others. We organized outreaches for others. It was a truly beautiful experience that I would never trade.
However, I recently asked one MK if she felt like her parents valued time with her more than building relationships with nationals. This was her response: “I did not feel it was. I’m sure they cared very much, but no… I did not believe that at all.”
Although I never personally felt that way about my parents, my experiences often painted a version of God that was only for others. I knew God as more institutional than personal. He was for the Great Commission. He was in pursuit of the unreached people groups, the tribal villages in Africa, and bustling cities of Asia and Europe.
But was I as important to God as those He had called us to serve? Was He in pursuit of me?
Lie #4: “I have to protect God’s reputation.”
This skewed belief fueled my internal pressure to be happy all of the time and often caused me to envision God as disappointed with me when I wasn’t.
As one adult MK described, “My perception of God was based on rule-following and tightly-held levels of unrealistic faith devotion. I can still hear my mom say, ‘If you exceed the speed limit, God will not bless your journey.’ Fortunately, I have since come to reshape that view and see Him much differently.”
My fake happiness for God often prevented me from experiencing fullness of life with Him. This mindset of protecting God’s reputation acted like a spiritual defense for me, shielding me from feeling the brunt of my emotions, doubts, and questions.
While these lies often swing between unhealthy extremes, I’m learning that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The truth isn’t an either/or situation, but a healthy understanding of the word “and.”
The truth is that MKs are missionary kids AND they have spiritual journeys. They need reminding that there is space for them to grow in their journeys, apart from their parents.
The truth is that others’ needs are important AND their needs are important too. MKs need reminding that it’s okay to have needs and to express them.
The truth is that God is passionately for others AND He’s passionately for MKs. He is the God of the institution and also the God of the individual.
The truth is that God doesn’t need MKs to protect His reputation. They aren’t the poster children for modern missions. They are His sons and daughters AND they are allowed to be completely honest with Him. God can protect His own reputation.
The truth is that MKs aren’t that different from all of the other kids in Sunday School. While missionaries may be professional Christians, MKs are aren’t and shouldn’t be.
They are just missionary kids beginning their Christian walks, and that is exactly where they are supposed to be.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Taylor Murray is an MK and the author of two books on cross-cultural issues. Her upcoming book Stop Saying I’m Fine: Finding Stillness When Anxiety Screams will be releasing this fall. She is a familiar writer and speaker in the missions world and has served hundreds of young adults in the areas of soul care, pastoral counseling, and spiritual formation. Taylor is passionate about seeing her generation come awake to the love, presence, and action of God in their lives. Connect with her on Instagram here or visit her website at www.taylorjoyinwords.com.