Loosening My Grip
Jennifer McPhail, Cambodia
I was a small-town girl happy serving in a quiet, country church with my family, and that is how I envisioned my starry future. But what inspired me? Daring acts of faith or testimonies of miraculous provision for a need gave me chills. I could not hold back tears when I heard stories of lives redeemed and transformed by saving grace. I was a young woman clinging with one hand to a picturesque life like I had grown up with, yet longing to reach for the unknown, the uncertain, where God’s hand is clearly seen.
Little by little, finger by finger, God gave grace to open my hand and “let goods and kindred go” to move halfway around the world with my husband and baby. That was more than seventeen years ago, and I have to say there have been many times that I realized I was holding on to some temporal, transient thing I did not want God to take.
Maybe you have the same inner war, yearning to risk it all to serve the Savior you are learning to love more and more, but still clinging to the safe and certain. Maybe your passion for Christ and the Gospel has spurred you to look at your global opportunities.
Maybe when you read Christ’s words calling for denying self, taking up your cross, and following Him, you tremble like you are scared or excited, or both. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” our Lord continues in Mark 8:35. In strange paradox, He calls us to let go of this life so we can have something far better, the life He gives.
But how do we relax our often white-knuckled grasp? Or how do we even know when what we are holding on to is a weight we need to set aside? What can we do to be ready to reach out for the adventure He wants us to have, whether at home or on foreign soil?
It is true that at times God will wrestle a treasure out of our childish fist, and then we tearfully bring our grief and our loss to Him in surrender. Today, though, let’s simply consider how to loosen our grip in three areas so we can let go as He leads us to.
Loosening my grip on my “likes”
Our individualistic culture encourages us to define ourselves by what we like, as well as by how many “likes” we get for what we like. From the time we were tiny tots, we’ve been asked,
“What is your favorite color?”
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”
“Do you collect anything?”
“What music group or actor do you follow?”
“What is your favorite hobby? Sport?”
We learned to answer the questions in a way that declares who we are by what we enjoy. But what are the things that should determine our identity? Can I be too narrow and even confined in a box by my likes and dislikes? Perhaps our self-life has been promoted by the world around us and needs a demotion. We could expand our likes to include the whole color spectrum or every wholesome thing that comes our way. It can change the way we look at food. People. Events.
In this case, loosening my grip on what I like to do and have has helped me enjoy so much more of God’s world, like Cambodian cuisine. I don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around with me, because there is more to enjoy everywhere God takes me. I have freedom to grow and change as new opportunities develop, because I am not who I am because of a defined set of preferences set in stone.
Loosening my grip on my security
Let’s face it. Most of us girls are not daredevils. I loved depending on my dad, and I love depending on my husband. I am also an introvert, loving those “me times.” So when I tell you that I get up most mornings and drive a moped in nonsensical traffic to the market to buy the day’s food and talk to the women there, you must understand that there has been a big letting go to get to this point.
Right now, you may feel insecure just giving a testimony in a group or sharing Christ on your summer job. I don’t know what terrifies you, but often we have something we find security in that we don’t want to let go of. Privacy, finances, relationships, or even phobias can all be things that hold us back from considering a Gospel-focused direction of life.
Loosening my grip on my dreams
What do you aspire to do and be? We all have dreams, and the world around us is constantly whispering its mantra, “Dream big. You can do anything you believe you can. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart.”
When we step out on faith, we lay aside many of our own plans and designs for life. Peter probably wanted to be the best fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called him to feed His lambs and fish for men. Did Peter lose his dreams?
I envisioned myself changing the world through writing books. I had my husband and my life planned out. During my college years, the Lord challenged me to lay aside every plan I had made in pride and ambition. Since then, He has given more than He ever took away. His plans are breathtaking!
After the rich young man sadly walked away from Jesus, Peter remarks,
“Well, we left everything to follow you.”
When Jesus answers him in Mark 10:29-31, every question you may have about what will happen when you loosen your grip is answered. Sisters, this is not asceticism! We are reaching forward to a fuller enjoyment of the greatest adventure, following Christ.
The Single Missionary
Dr. Joy Anglea, medical missionary with Baptist Mid-Missions
What first comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “single missionary”? Is it Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Mary Slessor, Wilfred Grenfell, Gladys Aylward, Henry Martyn, or maybe even the Apostle Paul? I’d guess not. All too often our first thoughts might be challenges, loneliness, solo support-raising, tough decision-making, traveling alone, or even a very hard life.
Think about it for a minute. We rarely put the word “single” in front of other work titles, like “single nurse,” “single teacher,” “single accountant,” or “single businessman.” But adding “single” to “missionary” seems to conjure up something different in our minds—as if serving the Lord single is much more difficult than, say, serving married with several children.
The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to think that. Nor did Hudson Taylor, since he recruited both single and married volunteers for his early work, penetrating the unreached regions of China for Christ. He apparently realized that singles could be sent into regions with less educational resources and health care for children, and with fewer support dollars from home. Not that this made them any whit better, of course, but it did validate their usefulness on the mission field.
When Christ asks us to follow Him, He asks us to lay it all on the line, to be “all in” for Him. The invitation is not based on gender or marital status, academic prowess, personality, or talent. In fact, Jesus told His disciples that he rewards those who leave “house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for [His] sake, and the gospel’s…” (Mark 10:29-30) Relationships, including a marital one, may be part of the package of sacrifices we’re asked to accept in order to serve the Lord as a single missionary, but all missionaries make sacrifices—just the packages are different.
While none of us deserve it, the benefit package more than makes up for those sacrifices. The same passage states that Christ gives back by one hundred times. We sacrifice for love of Him, and He gives back for love of us.
So when I think of “single missionary,” I think mostly of one word: opportunities!
Opportunities to make the most of your life, to give your all to Him, and to see how He can—and will—use you. His goal and passionate desire is to reach as many people as possible with His love and truth, and marriage is (thankfully) not a prerequisite for engaging in that magnificent endeavor. If you’re single, you shouldn’t make marriage a prerequisite, either.
In fact, some of the most content and fulfilled people I know are veteran single missionaries. They didn’t specifically seek contentment and fulfillment, but they found it on the path of obedience and service. They invested their lives in something much bigger than themselves, and God used and blessed them.
The psalmist says that He opens His hand and satisfies our desires (Psalm 145: 16). If He calls you into missions, don’t let fear stop you. Don’t let anything stop you. He will meet your needs and satisfy your desires. Give your singleness to Him, and He’ll take care of it. After all, Christ really does understand singleness.
The Missionary Wife's Call
I remember the first time my husband brought up the question of missions. It was even before we started dating. I knew the question was going to come up, and I had been thinking about it.
Looking back, I think it was a very smart move on his part, and I am grateful for his discernment. I personally think that for any dating couple this is a conversation that should take place early on in their relationship. It is important to have similar goals or mindsets.
That being said, in answer to the question, “Does the wife need to be called to missions?” my answer would be no, not necessarily. However, there must be an attitude of willingness and complete surrender to God’s will.
Let me explain. At the age of 14, I surrendered my life to God with the intentions of serving God with my life. At the time, I thought that would look like teaching in a Christian school somewhere for the rest of my life. God obviously had different plans.
During my senior year of college, God began to do a work in my heart and gradually began changing my heart about missions. I had never been opposed to missions – I just never thought that it was in my future. However, God used my student-teaching experience and a trip abroad to really give me a desire for foreign missions.
I remember a particular conversation I had with my Dad before I was married when I was struggling with thoughts of the future. He told me that Matthew and I were on separate paths, but that if God wanted us together he would allow our paths to intertwine and become one.
God did just that. So on December 30, 2016, when I pledged myself to Matthew in marriage, I accepted the call to missions that God had given to Matthew. I was promising to share in the vision that God had given Matthew.
So yes, then I was “called” to missions through my marriage.
For me, my journey has been one of surrender and giving up what I thought my future should look like. It’s been putting into practice Romans 12:1 and offering my life as a living sacrifice to God. It’s been a journey of asking God to make known his ways as David phrases it in Psalm 25:4-5.
I realize my experience is just MY experience. It is different from yours. You may be single, or contemplating a relationship that may take you to the mission field, or maybe you are already married and God has given your husband a burden for foreign missions.
Whatever the case, missions is a matter of surrender. It’s surrendering your plans, your hopes, and your dreams. But the amazing thing is that God can change those desires and give us new desires (Psalm 37:4).
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.