Monday, June 30, 2014

The Perils of Missionary Life

Growing up children are scared of strange things. Whether they'll be expected to eat goulash at Grandma's house, whether "we'll see" will turn into a "no" or a "yes", whether the monster they suspect is hiding under the bed will, one day, actually materialize and eat them as they're asleep. Or even worse, when they're awake. I worried about these things as a kid. But the one defining thing I was consistently terrified of was even stranger. I was worried I'd be called to be a missionary. 

Like any good Baptist kid I was in Sunday School as soon as the door was open. I knew all the books of the Bible by heart and could recite them, and could also recite the order of Hebrew kings from the very confusing books First and Second Kings and First and Second Chronicles. Even more importantly, I could distinguish between First and Second Chronicles and First and Second Corinthians. But when it came to the annual "Missions Month", a month which consumed every November, effectively blocking my favorite season of all which was Christmastime when we would get to sing carols with fake candles and eat cookies during Sunday School, I would gain all the emotiveness of Siri and shut down, becoming a little automaton reciting her memory verses. 

Much was made of Missions Week. They were clever with their marketing, too, showing exotic pictures of far away lands which were so hot it seemed to render modesty useless since there is no practical reason for wearing all the clothes you wear as an American little girl in a land where they have no concept of snow. The teachers would bring in letters from any friend of theirs who had graduated in their college classes and then self-exiled themselves to places like Papua New Guinea, Chile, and the Dominican Republic. And they would always end with reminding us how missionaries were extremely important and that God loved them and that we must all remember how blessed missionaries are. 

I had no interest in this. No interest whatsoever. I failed to see how the life of a missionary could be blessed, and though I knew by heart the verse about storing up treasure in heaven, I didn't see why I couldn't store up treasure in heaven by telling, (in my very best Hermione Granger style), little Billy the class reprobate that Revelation was ALWAYS the last book to be found in the Bible. 

To tell you the truth, I had no interest in being dirty, going without, or living in some far away country that I would never see my friends or family again unless on that magical time period known as furlough which only came every arbitrary four or seven years. I would save my dimes to buy little Charity's family enough grape kool-aid to last those four years, but since I myself hated grape kool-aid I counted my blessings that it would not have to be me drinking it and was quite thankful that a visit would not be expected, since Africa was quite out of the question for a seven year old girl. 

Then, when I was 13, I met Jane Eyre, a woman who felt no compunction to go be a missionary despite St. John's sanctimonious attempts to manipulate her into a missionary marriage. She said no. She wasn't called to be a missionary, and knew it would kill her. Suddenly truth flashed before my eyes. It was possible to not be a missionary. There was no such thing as a calling for everyone, and though people said this was the most noble of all callings, just because everyone says something doesn't mean it is true. As Jane Eyre measured truth against her own sense f right and wrong, so too I was allowed to do the same. The flood of relief that filled my soul was indescribable. Not everyone has to be a missionary. And even more importantly, not everyone is called to be a missionary. I leave the missionary things to those who enjoy things like that, and enjoy drinking non-grape-kool-aid drinks to my heart's content. 

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