I recently blogged about some of the lessons I've learned in my first ten years of ministry. A friend asked me to share some of my personal history with those things, and I plan on writing a few posts in response to her comment. But I need to start off by clarifying that when I say "lessons learned" I certainly don't mean "lessons mastered". Every single thing I listed is something I still struggle with in some way or another. I'm often hesitant to share things I've learned because although my sharing always comes from a place of journeying, not of arriving, somehow there is the implication in those words that I've figured it out. Hear me: I haven't.
But the other side of that same coin is that I believe there is value in speaking from a point of brokenness. Being a missionary doesn't make my life unrelatable to yours. I face similar struggles and challenges, and I write from that place, not from the awkward, lofty pedestal people often put missionaries on.
I recently spoke with someone about helping her deal with some issues in her life. I told her, "You need to know that I don't have any training in counseling or any experience in dealing with things like this. But I'm willing to walk that road with you, to figure it out with God's help as we go along." Her response was wonderful. "I think that's actually what I need. I don't want someone just telling me how to fix my life; what I need is someone willing to walk alongside me in this. I think I will get more out of that kind of help than I would from some professional whom I write a check to at the end of our meeting."
Her words seemed to sum up my thoughts on the perspective I have when I write. I'm next to you on the road, not miles ahead simply because I'm a missionary.
I've discovered that the expectations I often feel from others are ones that many place on anyone in ministry. Yes, we are to "practice what we preach", "walk the talk", and not tell others to do what we ourselves aren't doing. But---and this is a big but---if we expect people to only share what they've mastered, there would be much silence in this world. We will never arrive. Never. Expecting that of anyone, especially those in ministry, only adds undue pressure and burden to their lives.
Remember the humanity of the missionaries, pastors, and leaders you know. Just like yours, our lives are filled with more grit than glory. And since I'm trying to develop more authenticity and transparency in my life, that means the more you get to know me, the more grit you'll see. While that thought makes me cringe, deep down I know it's a good thing.