Preparation for the journey has not been all I thought it would be. Here are four myths I’ve slowly found my way through, as we prepare to leave one way of living for another.
1. Speed signifies the favor of God.
This is so subtle, and yet so incredibly overwhelming in the mindset of today’s culture. Why are things taking so long? Isn’t God’s blessing like oil on the cog of ‘getting things done’? Well no, no it’s not. There are so many stories of people in the Bible, and other Christians through history, where the cog was not greased and the Christian had to fight his way uphill and battle obstacle after obstacle to finally get where he had been called to go. And that’s because this is a marathon, not a sprint.
One incredible example of this – and I could spout off a thousand here – is the incredible story of Joseph, the son of Jacob. My pastor shared this story this past Sunday and renewed in me the sense that everything could be going wrong on the outside, but God is using that time to develop character and place you in circumstances that lead to the dream being fulfilled.
How was Joseph supposed to know that the pit led to slavery, which led to temptation, which led to prison, which led to Pharaoh’s palace, which ultimately led to a childhood dream coming true? Sometimes when we’re in the pit, we don’t understand the timeline, but God can see the whole thing. Speed is not necessarily a sign of favor.
Solution: Rest and slow down. Find the ways that God is using slowness to develop character in you, and take time to appreciate that.
2. We should be able to financially support ourselves somehow.
Modern missions should move with the times and move into tentmaking. Or at least this is something we get told a lot. And I understand the heart of it, and at times I agree. However, God develops something special when he calls on us to rely upon the obedience and calling of others. It’s along the lines of humility and patience, both words that are absolute nightmares to develop, but when achieved, are so refreshing in the character of a friend.
God sometimes does call us to use our talents and earn our way. Most of the people we know live this way! We study, we work, we earn. And that’s God’s blessing. But this should never be used as a cop out when God is asking something uncomfortable of us. And that’s exactly what I had been doing for first few months of this whole process, I had been relying upon my own ability to get me to Budapest, when God has been asking us all along to trust him, to obey him, to ask other people along on this journey with us.
Solution: Allow yourself to feel the discomfort of relying upon God for your life. That’s how it’s been all along anyhow, you just didn’t realise the extent of it, until now.
3. Things will start to change a lot when we move.
Actually, things will start changing now. When you change the focus of your life, things will begin to change around you. Things you found important before will seem trivial, and things that were small in your mind will become the things that you value the most. Friends that were a huge part of your life may start drifting off. And other people may slowly come into focus. Things you thought you needed in life to be happy and content will start to seem meaningless.
God is using this time to develop character in us that will make us fit for the field. I dread to think of what it would have been like if God waited until we were in Budapest to begin making changes in our character that would make us fit for the role. And when you see it like that, doesn’t it seem so silly to think otherwise? Allow flexibility in your life now, before you leave, for God to change things and adjust characteristics.
Solution: Lean into the change. Write down the ways you are changing so that the future you can look back and understand the necessity of change and the rewards of it.
4. Failure is a sign of doing something wrong.
If I could convey to you the anxiety I feel when cold calling a church or an organisation, no one would want to become a missionary. Thankfully, it’s one of those things I warm up to once I’ve started and I can bust out a few calls in one sitting. However, there is a massive rate of failure when it comes to this approach. And there are a huge amount of people we’ve talked to that simply did not feel our journey was something they connected with and wanted to support. Now, that does feel like a failure, and that failure hurts a lot.
My instinct when I’ve spoken to a group of people and have no response, nada, zip, is to ask myself “What am I doing wrong?” But because of my confidence in what God has asked me to do, I am sure that it is not a sign that we are on the wrong journey. And this wonderful quote from Karen E. Quinones Miller sums it up for me completely:
“When someone tells me “no,” it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.”
So simple and yet so true. When we face disappointment and feel like it’s failure, I like to remind myself now that it was not because I’m doing the wrong thing, simply that they were not called to be on the journey with us. And when we remove that sting, cold calling and approaching people becomes much more manageable. Failure is not always a failure. It can sometimes simply be God closing the wrong door. Joseph would never have become Prince of Egypt if he had remained prince of his family. He needed the pit and the prison to get where he needed to be.
Solution: Don’t take the no’s personally. Remove the sting by being aware that it is simply the wrong door closing so that you don’t miss the right one.
What myths did you have to unlearn on your journey to the field?
Naomi Johnston is a photographer and designer based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Along with her husband Glyn and daughter Minna May, she is currently fundraising on her way to joining the One Mission Society team in Budapest, Hungary. She will be part of the media team, and is also hoping to work in Human Trafficking Prevention. Naomi writes regularly on her blog at www.thejohnstonjourney.com