“What am I doing here?”
Working in cross-cultural missions, that question flashes across my mind pretty 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 difficult circumstances.
Navigating in a car through North Africa, we slow down as we see a flaming barricade blocking our highway. As we follow a truck breaking through the barrier local protesters who had been caught by surprise run after us throwing rocks. “What am I doing here?” I ask myself.
In South Asia, walking down the street of an enormous red-light district with my wife and co-workers, I know that many of the young women who line the street on either side have been sold into the sex trade by their families. I wonder to myself, “What am I doing here?”
Dancing and processing around a church in South Sudan on Palm Sunday many years ago, I feel out of place, not really knowing the culture or the needs of the people I was to speak to that morning. But speaking to the translator briefly, I compose my thoughts before my sermon and pray “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.”
God has been faithful to answer that prayer. And as we’ve followed him we wound 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 loves the world.
He promises the Holy Spirit will lead us and use us to expand the Kingdom of Jesus.
And so, when 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 have been amazing rewards along the way.
Today, in North Africa, Serge has missionaries sharing the love of Jesus, in spite of the difficulties. And in the South Asian red light district, missionaries look young prostitutes in the eye, see them as real people, and provide space for economic transformation and healing.
For me, these glimpses of God’s great mission moving through the world keep my heart from fixating on my struggles and inadequacy.
God is more willing to change us deeply and use us more powerfully than we are usually able to believe.
But when we do, we begin to understand what we are doing here.