My eyes are hungry.
They have been for… awhile now.
On the front flap of my passport cover I had these words stamped “Show me something gorgeous, show me till my eyes get tired.” It’s a lyric from a needtobreathe song, but it’s also been my heartbeat for… awhile now.
When I was in college, we had a week-long missions conference every year. At the end of those full days of chapels and testimonies and stories from far-away lands, there was always a call for anyone who felt called to be a missionary to stand up.
There was always a heavy shame felt as I stayed seated. But I never felt called to go across the globe to tell hearts about Jesus, there seemed to be a vast enough need for that here. But ‘here’ wasn’t glorified or glamorous, and it was insinuated that being missional right here was a ‘less than’ kind of work.
I went on two youth group mission trips in high school … one to Georgia and one to, Illinois? Somewhere not far. I went on one missions trip in college, to the Bahamas. On Spring Break. (Trust me when I say, that although we stuffed those days full of good hard work and telling the good news of the gospel, my brother got more checks in the mail supporting his trip to an orphanage in Romania in the dead of winter than I got for asking people to support what seemed to be an excuse to get my buns in the Bahamian sun with a few of my favorite gal pals.)
After college I waitressed and worked as a personal trainer at an all women’s gym. Then I worked as the Activities Director for the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home. From there I worked for 120 specialized physicians at the hospital my dad broke his back to build. Then I moved to the city that had my heart … all of 60 miles north, and I had to waitress again while I found my footing. From there I grew in my fashion career, with fancier job titles embossed on each new business card… but you know what? Whether carrying an armload of Diet Cokes on a shaky tray or working 90 hours a week to make $1 million dollars a month with a staff of 73 beneath me, my heart beat the same … to know the hearts and stories of those around me, and to talk to them about the God of the universe.
I felt, and feel, that the good hard work of grappling and climbing under the saccharine surface of office small talk to get to the guts was missional. As the years have passed, I see friends skimming the shallow end of relationships in their work places, but sending money each month to a missionary from their church that lives on another continent, and my blood boils.
There isn’t a calling to missions that the Holy Spirit bonks some people on the head with while others pass by. THE VERY MISSION OF CHRIST AND INSTRUCTION FOR US ALL IS MISSION.
But, all these good hard years have passed by and I hadn’t “gone.” I hadn’t “seen.” I hadn’t done good hard work anywhere else but here.
“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’ … After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 6:9-15, 19-20
Sometimes we miss the need in front of us because we’re looking far into the distance, and sometimes we miss what’s far in the distance because we’re looking at the need in front of us.
Is the hurting heart in Uganda more important than the hurting heart in Utah? No.
But if the words were powerful enough to be uttered by our resurrected Christ as His last before ascending to heaven, maybe I needed to reconsider where in the world I was going.
Literally and figuratively.
So. I got a new passport photo. And I spent this past year traveling more than ever before. And my eyes seemed to get bigger by three sizes (much the way the Grinch’s ticker did on Christmas morn.)
All mixed together in one big wallop of a few months there were emerald isles and girls sold for sex, sunsets over new waves and centuries of war with remnants around every corner, there were castle ruins and orphaned babes.
And, straining against every fiber of my Baptist upbringing, there wasn’t much that I ‘did’ … didn’t dig a well or build a school or offer an altar call.
Was seeing enough? Was going enough?
Christ said to go, and He also said to tell the gospel.
So, conversations were prayed for and whaddya know – they popped up everywhere! In hostels and street corners and cafes.
And they were good.
(And hard, and sad, and life-giving, and infuriating – as variant as the hearts that sat on the other side and as wildly vast as my own.)
But still I struggle with feeling less-than.
Are the faces grinning at me from the refrigerator, the smiling families serving as “full-time missionaries” sending out their postcard updates to financial supporters, are they doing more? Are they doing it better?
Did my conversations about Christ mean more to hearts and to Him once I’d hopped a plane or crossed a border?
I don’t think so.
But I will say that a new kind of hunger grumbles in me like it never did before – the hunger to GO! to SEE! to TELL! and that rumbling harmonizes with the steady beat behind my sternum to SEE! and TELL! right here.
Could it be that since we’re all missionaries, that it matters no matter where we are?
What if this week we asked for prayer support to cover our co-workers in the next cubicle with the same vim as our brothers and sisters in Cambodia ask for prayer support?
What if we went to the Lord for instruction and inspiration as though we had a jungle survival pack packed and boots laced up to evangelize to unreached villages?
And what if… what if our rumblings yearn to GO! we go?
Down the hallway and around the globe?
We have a heavy call on our lives my friends, and it’s not for some – it’s for all.
Maybe let’s make Missionary Monday a thing, eh? And start the week bringing the kingdom to every corner.
If we climbed into a time machine, all the way back to 2002, and were smushed in the same auditorium pew, if a conservative Baptist pastor in a striped tie asked anyone to stand that felt ‘called’ to missions…
would you stand up?