This is a special day for us. Six years ago, to the day, we stepped out of the familiar to go live in Romania. Granted, we’d been to RO many times in the previous 5 years or so, but going on a short term mission trip is quite different from moving there.
I have to say that the title of this post is rather misleading — we haven’t actually finished learning ANYTHING. We will always be a work in progress, being confident along with Paul in Phil. 1:6 that “He who hath begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” So please understand that these are merely things that we have been learning and not mastered, by any means!
Missionary life turns a great many things into fun, albeit adventurously harsh lessons.Honestly, there are times I feel quite bruised from the learning and raw from the deep, soul-searching digging that goes on to discover heart motives and inner attitudes.
We can’t walk this journey and not have an attitude of learning. We can’t survive each day without the humble knowing that this lesson will spur us further on our faith journeys. We truly can’t grow without a willing bend of self will to the greater Heavenly will.
The life lessons become beneficial when we choose to follow, choose to grow. Choose to be weary in the learning. And these lessons learned, if embraced, are life changing and story altering.
1} Lesson 1: Choose Contentment
This is learned in letting go of comforts. Things like a dishwasher, dryer, garbage disposal or ice maker. No constant AC. Not being able to communicate well. Selling nearly everything. Flying away to a new place with just a few bins for each person. Landing in a new country with seemingly little to replace what was lost. Never feeling settled. Choosing contentment in a minimalist way of living. Keeping very little to move every year or so with less stress and being truly content right at this moment. Enjoying each day with just a few loved things.
2} Lesson 2: Slowing Down
Life on the mission field goes at a much slower pace than in the U.S. Days are doable only when you keep a realistic view of what could and should be done in a day. Learn to lower your expectations of yourself and others. An acceptance of the cultural pauses, the odd business hours and the great amount of time it takes to accomplish just 1 thing. Learning to patiently build relationships and let go of the intense push to finish a task quickly. Changing your view of time in a way that makes time for people, life and conversations. Knowing that your worth is not dependent on the amount of daily performance and production. Knowing you are valuable when all visible markers of worth and success are stripped away.
3} Lesson 3: Deep Dependence
The entire process of missions forces you into a new, deeper, beautiful dependence on God. Learning to depend on Him for every single minute of the day, every provision, every relationship, every trial, every hour of sleep and a million other things you might not have noticed before. Your way of independence is no longer viable. His way, His plan, His purpose for your heart is vitally necessary to survive. Dependence even when you wonder how and why you got on this life path and how God plans to work everything out for good.
4} Lesson 4: Always Be Willing to Learn
Every single day you must learn something new. You must learn new skills, new languages, new processes, new ways of doing things… even new ways to learn those new things. Life is one big lesson of learning. Embrace the learning. And it requires humbling yourself to be taught something new. Learning to laugh at yourself or repeatedly doing it wrong. Choose joy when everyone already knows it or has already learned it. Believe you can keep learning even when it is terribly hard and frustrating. Always be in a mindset of learning and give yourself the space, time and vision to see things completely differently than you ever have before.
5} Lesson 5: Accept Adventure
Missions greatly increases your sense of adventure. Every new experience, new place and new person will challenge and enchance your journey. You will walk exciting paths, go on wild journeys, cross rivers and mountains and find yourself looking around and thinking, “How did I get here!?!”
“Adventure is out there!” (from Disney/Pixar’s movie Up),
So grab a hold of it, jump in and grow, because you never know what God has in store for you. You might even find yourself asking for new adventures and wonder where the “old you” went! You must accept the challenge of adventure and let God give you the ability to thrive in an everyday roller coaster ride of faith.
And I must add in a #6 – Risk is Right so Face Fear
Let’s face it, doing the above 5 things involves a lot of RISK. In John Piper’s amazing book, “Risk is Right”, he says,
“A choice lies before you: Either waste your life or live with risk. Either sit on the sidelines or get in the game. After all, life was no cakewalk for Jesus, and he didn’t promise it would be any easier for his followers. We shouldn’t be surprised by resistance and persecution.”
Facing fear becomes a definite part of life, so face it head on. Walk towards it. Be brave, battle courageously and remember Whose you are. Stand firm in your faith and fight the good fight. The best lessons are learned by real life circumstances and by opportunities to put on the full armor of God.
Life lessons learned……. and still learning. They are chances to grow and live out boldly our relationship with Jesus.
What life lessons are you learning as you walk a journey through life?
Either for yourself or watching someone else? What is God teaching you through the process? Through the lessons learned?