Our first missionary term was murder. In four years we lived in three countries, eleven houses, ended up in something of a war zone all while tending to two toddlers—the toddlers are the thing that put us over the edge.
Side issue but important lesson learned: Never negotiate with terrorists, teenagers or toddlers.
When we were at the breaking point our company sent us to Bangkok to see a counselor. It felt safe in Thailand, the counselor had a PhD and the breakfast was unlimited buffet with real bacon. It was heaven.
The counselor began by asking Ellie what it was like living in Kashmir and she gave him a brief insight into her day-to-day life. He was intrigued and asked more questions about security, her limitations as a woman in that culture, her isolation, etc. and after a while, he started whispering the word, “untenable” under his breath. He asked her how other women, in similar situations with our company, were coping and as he listened he kept whispering, “untenable.” I finally asked him what untenable meant and he told me that it referred to something that was impossible, suggesting that it is impossible for a young American blonde woman to function with young children in the environment that Ellie was describing. I’m still not sure he was using the word right.
He then recommended that we return to America and added that we had our understanding of theology wrong. Following Jesus, he said, is not like going down a path but is like going into a sheep pen. Once you enter through the gate you can roam anywhere that you want to.
That night was our wedding anniversary and we went to bed barely speaking to each other. Ellie had heard what she wanted to hear; it was okay for her to leave. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to quit.
I got up from bed about twenty times that night to pray and finally got to sleep as the sun was coming up. When I finally got up in the morning, Ellie came to me in tears, holding me tight. She had been praying and, as she put it, “God told me that He doesn’t want us to quit.”
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I could be wrong on this one, but I think the counselor got it wrong. Yes, grace is like a sheep pen where you can wander around in freedom, but following Jesus is a line, sometimes zig-zagging, but still a line. Sure, getting saved is God’s primary purpose for us, but doesn’t He have some more purpose for us after we get saved? Shouldn’t someone filled with the Spirit of God desire to go out and do those things consistent with the agenda of God?
In retrospect, the meeting with the counselor was hugely beneficial because it allowed us to compare conventional wisdom/poor interpretation of the New Testament, with the personal voice of Jesus and isolating out His voice gave us the strength to return to something that was untenable (I still don’t think that is the right way to use that word).
Main point: It isn’t a meaningless cliché. God did create you, when you were re-born into Christ Jesus, for a purpose.
So what: Are you finding and doing the good works that God prepared in advance for you to do?