Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thinking about the Future

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately . . . particularly about the semester after I graduate from Northwestern. I'm graduating a semester early, so the plan has been me working for that spring semester and then going off to grad school the next fall. At least . . . that's been the plan until recently.

Last spring break I went on a missions trip to Tijuana, Mexico. We worked at a mission called La Roca . . . it's basically a shelter for battered women and their children, a place where they can stay as long as they're willing to earn their keep helping with chores and such, where the children can go to school, where they can learn skills to help them make it on their own when they decide to leave, and most importantly, where their souls can be fed. In the week or so that I was there, I absolutely fell in love with the place. The ministry is one that is very dear to my heart—it shares my passion for battered women. While I was there, I felt for the first time in my life that I could possibly live and work quite happily outside of the country . . . or even outside of the Twin Cities.

That feeling hasn't left me in the almost 11 months since I returned from that trip. I could probably count on one hand how many days have gone by since then that I haven't thought about Mexico. Now, I'm gearing up to go back in less than 6 weeks for another spring break missions trip to the same location . . . and I've made a decision that could mean me taking the greatest step of faith of my life so far. When I go back to Tijuana, I'm going to ask the director of La Roca about the possibility of working there for the 6 months or so between graduation and grad school.

Even as I'm writing this, the idea sort of startles me. I've thought about the possibility off and on since I was there last, but not until the last couple of weeks has it seemed real to me. Never in my life had I considered going into missions, even short term. I simply didn't see that as my future. Even now, going to a Bible college, I'm not majoring or even minoring in missions. All that I know of missions is what I have seen and heard from friends and family who have served/are serving around the world. I cannot see myself as a missionary.

However . . . I can see myself working and serving others in another country, at least short term. I suppose they're really the same thing, but me being a missionary is just . . . such a foreign concept. I can love people, I can serve people, I can help people . . . but win people to Christ? I'm tempted to laugh out loud at the thought. I know very well how wretched of a sinner I am. I don't need a fire and brimstone sermon to convince me of that. I fail in so many ways every single day of my walk with God. Half the time I don't even really know what I believe beyond the very basics of Christianity, but I do know that I do NOT believe in shoving my beliefs down anyone's throat. I can engage someone in a philosophical and theological debate, but unless I feel a clear nudge from God, I won't push such a debate into a "you're going to hell unless you believe in Christ as your Savior" conversation.

It's ridiculous that such an image comes to my mind when I think of myself being a missionary. None of the missionaries I have ever had the privilege of knowing come across that way. Unfortunately, that seems to be the general impression that the rest of the world has of Christianity, and because of certain encounters that I've had with other "Christians," I'm afraid I often find myself agreeing with that impression.

Maybe that's why I feel like God might be calling me into . . . well, a missionary role of sorts. Maybe He's calling me because I could use the proof that even someone as confused and sinful (and often stupid) as I am can be used by Him.

The idea of going into missions (at least short term . . . after grad school, God alone knows what I'll be doing) scares me. A lot. But not nearly as much as I would have expected it to. I know that I can't possibly do it on my own . . . but if God is working in and through me, the possibilities are virtually endless. So whether I wind up in Mexico, somewhere else in Latin America, or on the other side of the globe . . . I think it's going to be ok. Challenging, yes . . . uncomfortable, yes . . . but good. Because no matter what happens, God will still be good, and He will still be God . . . so what in the world am I worrying about?