“What am I doing here?” Working at Serge, that question flashes across my mind often. It usually comes up when I know I am over my head, completely out of my depth and feeling inadequate. I hate that moment, but it comes again and again especially in the work we do.
Navigating in a car through North Africa, we slowed as we saw a flaming barricade blocking our highway. As we followed a truck breaking through the barrier local protesters who had been caught by surprise ran after us throwing rocks. “What am I doing here?”
Walking down the street of an enormous red-light district with my wife and friends knowing that many of the young women who lined the street on either side had been sold into the sex trade by their families, I had to ask myself, “What am I doing here?”
Dancing and processing around a church in South Sudan, I realized this was an unusual Palm Sunday for me. I didn’t really know the culture or the needs of the people I was to speak to that morning. And after I spoke to the translator briefly, I composed my thoughts before my sermon and prayed. But I had to wonder, “What am I doing here?”
Almost forty years ago my wife Barbara and I prayed, “God, don’t let us settle for a comfortable life. We want to live for the kingdom and not just for ourselves.” And God has been faithful to answer that prayer. As we follow him we wind up out of our depth and past our limits.
When we ask ourselves, “What are we doing here?” God reminds us. We are here because he loves us and he love the world. He promised the Holy Spirit will lead us and use us to expand the Kingdom of Jesus. So we step out and learn to depend in new ways. We are exposed as weak or struggling. I hate that! But even in the moments I despise, God keeps his promises. He shows up in our lives. He uses us right in the middle of our confusion and difficulty.
Honestly, I sometimes regret that early prayer with Barbara. But there are some amazing rewards along the way. Now we have friends working in North Africa in spite of the difficulties there. My friend in India helped us look young prostitutes in the eye, smile, see them as real people rather than only victims. In South Sudan, the team is entering into a partnership with the church where I spoke.
For me these moments help me get a glimpse of God’s great mission moving through the world, and keep my heart from fixating on my struggles and inadequacy. The gospel is like that when we are willing to believe that God loves the world and will use even folks like us. He is more willing to change us deeply and use us powerfully than we are usually able to believe, but when we do, we begin to understand what we are doing here.