Why Missionaries Don’t Have to be Superheroes

September 29, 2016

why missionaries dont need to be superheroes

Recently, I went back home to visit my family in Virginia.

There’s nothing quite like your family to bring out all your crazy. They know I love them to pieces, but for some reason when I’m around them I go into “fixing mode” nitpicking and criticizing about different behaviors and commenting on things that could be changed. (I’m sorry family!)

Family is a pressure cooker that brings all your impurities to the surface. 

Maybe I’m trying to make up for months of not having as much influence in their lives because I don’t live close.

Maybe I’m still working out this whole boundaries thing. And taking care of myself in the midst of wanting to take care of them.

For some reason I transform from my hippy dippy peace loving, yogafied California self into a mean, maniacal police officer patrolling the room.

I hate this worst version of me.

I’m in lots of therapy to heal this part of me that clutches for control, but the outcome is always the same: they feel terrible and I feel terrible. They get defensive and I get defensive. And round the crazy circle we go.

I long for things to be better. I see people’s potential. This is a good thing.

I guess deep down I still want to be Wonder Woman, I want to be the Superhero (I do have a girl crush on Gal Gadot)

But then I go and ruin it by trying to force people into my mould of their “highest potential,” instead of accepting where they are, and who they are.

It hurts because then I feel like all the progress I’ve made in healing over months of hard work, goes down the drain.

I feel like I’m going backwards.

What I’ve gathered from my time with my family is that people really don’t like it when they feel you are trying to “fix” them.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in missions or anytime we enter a new “culture” whether that be overseas or within our own family system, is we assume we know what’s best for them.

We see the flaws, we see what’s broken, instead of seeing what is good that is already there. Then we begin to form judgments and make assumptions about situations we don’t really understand.

I read an article recently called What’s Wrong With Western Missionaries and I found myself thinking back to my early years of ministry and the mistakes I made trying to only give, and never being “needy” enough to receive.

But that’s not how real relationships work.

We need the ebb and flow of giving someone our time, energy, resources, and then asking for help when we need it. This is vulnerability. This is intimacy.

It is our pride that says we are all good. We don’t need help.

As time progressed in Uganda, I learned how to ask my women to pray for me, how to say I was tired, how to share my burdens with them, as they shared theirs with me.

I learned how to accept their offerings and it humbled me.

I learned how to be a real person, not a superstar, not a “Ms. Perfect has got everything right and now I’m here to fix your life,” person. Just me.

I learned to not always have all the answers.

I learned how to sit with someone in their pain and simply say “I’m sorry” without trying to change them or make them “better.”

I learned these lessons overseas and yet I often forget to apply them to my own inner circle, to those closest to me.

When I got back from Virginia, I came home to the trees in my back patio, crisp leaves alighting the ground. I came back to my inner stillness, my introvert time, my peace, to the “good” version of me I know is inside me somewhere, and I sat with her and with God.

I cried and I told God I messed up.

A lot.

That I didn’t want to be this meaner version of myself.

He let me tell Him why I was sad and why I was angry, and why I was so disappointed in myself. Because it was important to feel those things.

The old version of me would have felt guilty about this for days. I would have thought, “I’m just not a good person. That’s why I do these things.”

But this newer version of me is learning it’s ok.

It’s ok I make mistakes. He forgives me. He says its not my job to change myself, that as I come to Him, He’ll change me, all he longs for is a humble heart.

He says in His word, “I dwell in the high and holy place with him who is contrite and has a humble spirit. To revive the spirit of the humble, to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57

He already sees all my ways. He restores comfort.

My need of Him is what draws Him near.

God can revive us even when we’re not superstars. He longs to do this for us.

God doesn’t need missionaries to be superheroes. He doesn’t need me to be a superhero. He just needs me to be willing to grow, willing to change. He can work with that.

Where have you learned you don’t have to be a superhero?