I was such a good missionary. I had given up so much. Surely God would respect that. Right?
In 2008, I felt like I was already sacrificing things. As a bride, I didn’t register for china, didn’t ask for fancy wedding gifts, and returned things that would have been “too big” to take to South America where God had called us. The sacrifice felt good. It felt praiseworthy.
As we prepared to leave for language school two years later, I gave away or sold all our worldly possessions except what would squeeze into 20 plastic bins. When we finally arrived in Colombia, we were living in temporary housing, and I felt pride when I looked at our meager 20 bins. I felt like such a good missionary. God must be proud that I had given up so much for Him.
But I had no idea what God had in store for me.
Throughout the next 12 months, God began a slow and deliberate pruning in my life. One by one, items that I had carefully selected and lovingly packed in my plastic bins, began to break. They were wedding gifts, things you couldn’t simply replace, things you couldn’t even get in South America, and they were breaking. Some were knocked over during Bible studies, some got spilled on by guests, and some were dropped by people who had come to hear about Jesus.
I was frustrated, and then, as we were about to go out the door one Sunday morning, two figurines that I had since I was a little girl fell to the floor and smashed into thousands of pieces. I couldn’t take it anymore. I fell to the floor weeping. Why did this keep happening? Why was God doing this? I had given up so much to go to South America to share His gospel. I already had so much less than the average American, so why did He keep taking things from me?
I was overwhelmed with emotion, and my hands felt limp as I tried desperately to pick up the pieces. But even through my tears, I could see that no amount of glue would ever put the things back together again. I felt like God was taking my clenched fists and slowly, purposefully, painfully, prying my fingers apart until my hands were open and empty.
While I knew we needed to go and minister to people that morning, my thoughts were filled with my broken things. I couldn’t get past it. I was still angry. Even bitter.
Finally, I sat down and began to make a list of all the things God had taken from me over our 12 months in Colombia. I wrote and numbered each item He had broken. I stopped at 32, because my face was drenched with tears. I was broken. I cried out to God in my distress and He heard me.
I gave that list to Him, and as I surrendered, I felt like He was gently lifting my view from all my things. Those things were wood, hay, and stubble which would all burn someday, and God was trying to show me the eternal. When I lifted my view from all my precious things, I realized that each time something had broken, there were people involved. People with precious eternal souls. I saw in the darkness of my own heart that I had resented people coming for Bible studies because they inevitably broke things, spilled drinks on my couch (three times in one night!), and dirtied my apartment. But by examining that darkness, Jesus lifted my chin and showed me that people are always more important than things. Always.
Over the past five years, this has been an ongoing lesson. But now I hold my things lot more loosely. And if God needs to break more things in my life so that more people hear the gospel, I am ready. ▪
About the Author - Jennifer and Daniel are ABWE missionaries in Bogotá, Colombia, focusing on church planting and seminary teaching.