I think its safe to say that if there was a list of ideal candidates for missions, my name would not be on it.
2 years ago I came back from India, and upon reflection asked God to please not send me as a missionary to any place where my hair did not do well. It was a serious request.
As a teenager, I was less concerned about my hair and more concerned about why God let bugs on Noah’s ark in the first place. I was the kid who changed my pillowcase if an ant came within 2 inches of it, who refused to speak to my dad for 24 hours because he wouldn’t get up and kill the spider I found, and who to this day still sometimes goes to bed uttering the prayer, “Dear God, please don’t let any bugs crawl on me tonight.”
In fact, just yesterday I almost had a heart attack when a spider came down right in front of my face while I was driving. I spent the next half hour in Trader Joes compulsively checking to see if it was on me while my whole body shook like I had just endured a trauma. I almost refused to get back in my car, but seeing as I had to get my groceries home I sucked it up.
So with all of this in mind, let me dispel any romantic ideas you might have left about missionaries. Sure, I would like to think of myself as slightly heroic, brave, and tough in the face of adversity, but the truth is that I am actually the odd kid from girl scouts who would only wear tropical scented bug spray. In reality, I hate sweat, dirt, not showering, germs, and being uncomfortable. My idea of camping is the cabin I stayed in in North Georgia last week. It was in the woods and there were ants in the bedroom: I was camping.
The list of what I do like also sounds nothing like a missionary either. I like dresses from Ann Taylor Loft, good hair and makeup, splurging on adorable kitchen accessories, and watching movies from the 40s. I love air conditioning, cute scarves and hats in the winter, and getting my nails done. This one speaks volumes: my only ticket was received when I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt in the passenger seat. When the officer asked why this was, I held up my freshly painted fingers and innocently said, “My nails were wet?” I cried the whole way home over that fifteen dollar ticket.
The point is that when I reflect on all of this, its an absolute wonder that God chose me to be a missionary. You would think He would have lovingly patted me on the back and instead said, “sweetie, I think you might be better suited as a tv host on the Food Network.” But alas, He did not. Instead he chose to pull me out of my comfort zone and give me a calling in a hot place with tarantulas. He chose to change my life on a trip to Mexico, where He placed a bunch of dirty kids around me and told me to hug them, to hold them, to kiss their little faces.
And the amazing thing is that when I get into these contexts, all of my quirks and needs fly out the window. It doesn’t matter that I am surrounded by “germs” or that my makeup has all sweated off. I kill the bugs, I hug the kids in dirty clothes, and I sleep in a tent, or a mattress on the floor, or wherever else they put me. And sure, sometimes I complain, or freak out it, or ask God why, but here is what is so great:
God fills in the gaps. Where I can’t do it, when I am scared, when I feel so uncomfortable I simply want to crawl out of my skin, God fills in. He becomes the strength, the bravery, the hero. He dusts me off and reminds me that its ok to like cute dresses and kitchen accessories. It is because of these unlikely missionary characteristics that the work that God can do through me is so much more impressive. Its pretty evident that I couldn’t do any of the stuff He has called me to by myself, therefore it is the power of the Lord that has enabled me to serve Him in Mexico, India, and on the Apache reservation. The transformation seen in me is the stuff of a great God, who has infinite power, and who chooses to even use even the most unlikely servant in his mission.
And I thank Him for reminding me that though my comfort zone is not something I can stay in, I can still be a missionary with painted nails and cute shoes.