When you are called to a life on the mission field, be it in America, the Middle East, Europe, or the heart of Africa, I think there’s a natural desire to make the people around you happy, and rightly so.
Being a missionary, or just being a CHRISTIAN who loves Jesus and believes in His commands to serve, love, and sacrifice, it’s easy to put making people happy above anything else. It’s easy to even put it above what God is asking you to do.
Obviously, this is one of those subjects that I could talk about forever, but I’ll share from personal experience a testimony that is currently in the making in my life. I don’t claim to have all the knowledge around this subject, like I said, I’m in the middle of this journey too, but I’ve been pondering the meaning of it all, so here are my thoughts.
The Journey’s Just Begun
I wrote an article a few months ago called, “Life as a Missionary in a First-World Nation” that was a glimpse of my life as a missionary in Northern Ireland for the last year and a half. It detailed my huge heart for this island and the journey that led me to where I am today.
Little did I know that a couple months later, God would begin to speak to me about making the transition of heading back home to America for the foreseeable future. This was a serious challenge to my obedience.
There were at least ten reasons that I could think of, on the spot, for not going back home. I had made a two-year commitment that didn’t end until January 2017: would people think I was a gung-ho twenty-one-year-old who couldn’t fulfil a commitment?
I had helped to pioneer a team: what about all the connections I’d made? Would it seem irresponsible to my peers and leaders?
I am committed to Northern Ireland; does this mean the end even though I’d told so many people that I felt called long-term there?
So many questions, most of which were based in fear of people not being happy with my decision. I am a very logical, goal- and commitment-driven person, and to leave my life here in Northern Ireland early to go what felt like a step backwards to home made absolutely no sense to my logical brain.
That being said, though, I have made it my goal in life to always have a “Yes” in my heart towards the Lord. I have had times where I have actually said “No” to Him and quite possibly missed out on some really amazing opportunities, but He lets us make the decisions that we make because He’s not a dictator.
He gives us the freedom to make choices, but I really want to make the right ones.
When I first felt the draw to this idea of going home, I rationalized it by deciding to just go one month early to join an outreach happening in December from the YWAM base where my parents live.
A couple weeks later, I learned that my best friend was getting married in November, so that made it easier to say I’d leave then. It was a good excuse, right? No one would blink an eye at that.
After many conversations with friends I realized that that I really needed a break, and that God was really wanting to do something in my heart, and the safest place for that to happen was home, so ultimately I felt God was leading me to leave in September. This was very tough to come to terms with, as it meant that instead of leaving in four months, I was actually leaving in two, but there was a strange peace that came with the idea.
Despite the fact that my goodbyes were going to have to be faster, and I was so nervous about what people would think, I knew that this is what God was asking me to do. I also KNOW that this is not the end, but actually the beginning. Being in Ireland has changed my life dramatically in the best of ways.
I’ve grown exponentially, learned so much about myself and what it means to live in community, and I have had some of the most amazing experiences. I know that I will be back to this beautiful place. I don’t think I could stay away for very long.
Integrity vs. Obedience
As I mentioned above, one of the biggest struggles for me facing this decision was what people would think in regards to my integrity.
I was leaving early, not fulfilling my commitment; I’ve started long term projects (with a group of people) that I wouldn’t be able to continue in; I’ve made friends whom I don’t know when I’ll see again; and I have built relationships in this nation that will be much harder to continue in America.
Sure, maybe I jumped into some things a little prematurely, not knowing what was coming around the corner, but I’d rather jump into something whole-heartedly, then not start anything at all because of a fear of failure. Integrity is very important to me. I like to do things well with quality, conviction, and commitment.
Sometimes though, God will ask us to do things that seem to break the rules, and that’s hard. He’s still good in it all, and ultimately I trust Him with my future and that He has my best interest in mind, but that doesn’t mean that I get to just drop everything I’ve started and leave everyone in the dust.
It is honoring to others to tie everything up well and Jesus honors honor. To have the necessary conversations, to spend time with my friends before I leave, and be intentional about continuing the relationships I’ve built here, even while I’m at home in America, are the right things to do.
Just because God had other plans for my own commitment to Northern Ireland, doesn’t mean that everything else just goes with the wind.
At times, what we see as “integrity” is actually just expectations we’re fulfilling for others rather than living a life of righteousness, obedience to the Lord, and good character.
What Jesus tells you to do always takes precedence over what people expect of you. I need to do what I can to finish my time on this island well, but I also need to trust that He finishes what He starts and we all play different, integral parts of His broader plan.
Luckily, I have been blessed with an extremely releasing and encouraging community around me. Even though there’s been a war in my head regarding this subject, everyone that I’ve talked with has been in full agreement with what I feel like the Lord is saying, and that has brought so much peace and confirmation to my heart.
All that to say, the truth is that God is SO pleased with you no matter what. When you know and love Him, He is just pleased to know that you love Him and you’ve accepted His proffered hand.
As we’ve heard a thousand times, you can’t earn His love through doing things. You can’t earn His love at all. Jesus earned it for us. He already loves you, but I think there are paths that He prefers us to take, and sometimes we don’t take them. As long as there’s a “yes” in your heart to Him, though, He is pleased and He will lead you well.
Just know that following Him is always so much more rewarding than following others’ expectations of you. Sometimes they go hand in hand, but sometimes they’re totally different and it can be a little messy.
We can be assured, though, that God is the best leader and He always wants what’s best for us. So don’t do something you don’t want to or wear yourself down unless He tells you to, because obedience to Him is way more worthwhile than unnecessary sacrifice for the pleasure of others.
~ By Rachelle Butow