I walked into ministry in New York City fully confident that my identity was grounded in Christ – that the truth of my salvation was the source I gained my strength from and from which I gave my strength away.
However, four months into this new job/lifestyle/calling/or whatever you want to label it has shown that I was probably a little too confident. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father isn’t surprised by my lack of perspective.
Being Shaped for God’s Purposes
October was a month of having areas of my heart hammered into its proper “function,” much like a piece of steel being shaped into its functional purpose. Let me tell you what I mean…
The struggle of perceived failure. The struggle of comparing and competing. The struggle of striving to prove you’ve done enough. These are the struggles of full-time, cross-cultural ministry. These are just some of the struggles of becoming a missionary.
The way these struggles have rattled me, shaken me, and distracted me show how much I am still counting on my “success” to tell me who I am supposed to be. I was looking to my achievements to validate myself and my calling to ministry with Arab Muslims – to define my identity of being a “good” missionary.
What is Good?
But what is “good” anyway? I’m not “good.” I am nothing without Christ. Even Jesus says I can bear no “good” thing without Him; and apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:4-5). So why do I buy into the lie that I can?
I believe this is a lie we all allow to be whispered in our ear in all spheres of influence. We strive in the workplace to earn purpose, we strive in the home to prove our value, and worst of all we to strive in our relationship with God to be worthy of righteousness.
We live in bondage to this world with a belief that we are supposed to achieve a level of “all is well” here. We even begin to believe that we are deserving of it. We fall into self-sufficiency, staying where things are comfortable and controllable.
To quote C.S. Lewis,
“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Why must it be pain? Why can’t He wake us more gently, with violins or laughter? Because the dream from which we must be awakened is the dream that all is well. Now that is the most dangerous illusion of them all.
Self-sufficiency is the enemy of Salvation.
If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do no seek him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him. God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering, we release our hold on the toys of this world, and know our true good lies in another world. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.”
Why do we so often run and cling to the things of this world to define our identity?
It’s because they are things we can understand, things we can explain, and things we can control. At least that’s why I find myself constantly chasing after them. The problem with this belief is that our identity, who we are meant to be, was conceived and purposed into being before we ourselves come to be.
We are not made purposeless with loose ends waiting to be tied up into titles and positions this world has to offer us. Rather, we are made from the core of all creation. We are made from the identity of God Almighty, the artist of our reality.
Whether you have a secular job, or like me, becoming a missionary, the real journey we are all on during this side of eternity is not fighting to create who we are going to be through success and achievements, but instead rediscovering the identity we were fashioned and formed from since the beginning of time.
We cannot find our true identity in the things this world possesses simply because we were made from a heavenly identity, one that supersedes the earthly reality in which we presently live.
This is the lesson God has been whispering to my soul in the quiet moments, and this has been my greatest takeaway from full-time ministry in New York City so far. Like I said, becoming a missionary isn’t always easy, but God is teaching me valuable lessons to help me grow in my walk with Him and in my ministry.