Thursday, March 25, 2010

Counting and Contemplating


Around 5 months ago I signed up to be a student missionary. I had no idea what to expect, but I figured it would be something like venturing throughout a tropical climate, perhaps a remote island in the pacific, sharing my faith with the indigenous people. I wanted to end up in a Spanish speaking country doing some practical skill rather than direct ministry.

You see the only thing I had ever really done was direct ministry, so naturally I wanted to try my hand at something different. When I heard about Kazakhstan I thought of Eskimos and cold weather. Then I heard it was a big city I’d be going to. I made it up in my mind that I would be going to a foreign-version of Chicago. When I got here I was surprised—surprised at everything. The city was big, intimidating, and more foreign than the imagined version in my mind. My apartment was small, unfamiliar, and dirty-looking. After living in this city and this apartment for over 2 months I have, like all humans do, become accustomed to my surroundings. I have adapted. I video chatted with my family this week and gave them a little tour of my apartment. I watched as their faces scrunched up at the sight of my cramped kitchen and Soviet-style bathroom. It was then that I started noticing things that I had learn to live with. I started to take notice of the simple things that I miss in America. For example I have to take a match to my stove and oven every time I light it. That’s not anything rough, but it’s inconvenient and I miss the automatic igniters back home. Another thing is a garbage disposal. That is one amazing invention that I think every American takes for granted. I mean really—who thinks about their garbage disposal? Try living without one and you will quickly realize that it greases the gears of life better than any other kitchen invention. Then there is the dryer. I cannot wait to return to that wondrous spinning machine that fluffs up my clothes, making them not only dry, by soft and smelling delicious. Aside from the things I miss I also realized the simple plights that have become routine to deal with. Things like Soviet plumbing (constantly leaking faucets and toilets) and a washing machine with a mind of its own (sometimes it will wash your clothes in 45 minutes other times you will have to wait 5 hours for it to spit them back out). However, I realize that I am not “roughing it” by any means. After all, I have indoor plumbing, electricity, endless hot water, a washing machine, a completely functional kitchen, and access to the internet with a high speed connection. These are only some of the blessings that I am constantly counting.

I was asked this week if I felt as though I was truly reaching out to people and touching lives for the glory of God. I had to be honest, and I had to honestly say no. Do I feel like a missionary? No, not in the glorified sense of the word. I feel like a wandering teenager who volunteered to add some adventure to his life and seek God outside of his normal frame of mind. I think that is important for people to do. Many people attempt to seek a spiritual experience with a Being that is immense, enormous, and beyond us with a very small worldview. If your view of this world is small then your view of things beyond this world is going to be a plethora of degrees beyond microscopic. I realized that I am perhaps an adventure junkie. I am a riotous human longing for experiences.

If you were to ask me what I like most about my experience here in Kazakhstan I would be able to come up with many positive things, but I think one that stands tall is the absence of micromanagement. Here, I am treated like a real adult. Normally, I am either at home where I naturally cling to the hood of my parents and become like a child or I am at school paying bucket-loads to be treated like a child. Here, I actually feel competent to make my own decisions and live my life as I see fit. I am an adult living in an apartment with a roommate making my own day-to-day decisions. As long as I show up for work and do my job, I don’t get asked any questions. I choose where I go during the day, when I sleep, where I sleep, what I eat and what I drink. I am living in freedom to make my own decisions—my own mistakes. I think this is where most of my learning experience is coming from.

I find it funny that many Christians are incredibly obsessed with micromanagement. Now, I’m not saying we should start having co-ed dorms in every Christian university and I’m not saying that we should open up Christian bars and nightclubs either, but maybe if we started letting young people feel like adults they would think of themselves more as adults? I really don’t know—just a thought. But, I was thinking today about how God has never been into micromanaging. He is all for helping us out when we have nowhere to turn and He promises a never-ending, colossal dose of love, but He is not into forcing any decisions or telling us what to do. He freely offers advice and I strongly believe He directs us in the right paths, but I don’t think He is really into our day-to-day decisions or nagging us into a specific way of life. If you took a second to think how God has led you, you would probably have a very vague strange twist of events where you might have felt a nudge or two, but ultimately made your own decisions. Now I know there are some people that will think I am saying God doesn’t care how you act, but that is a dumb conclusion. Of course a God of love would care about your actions. If you’re not loving, that disturbs Him, and if you are loving, that elates Him. So basically I have just been pondering God’s management style—in my life and in the lives of Biblical figures. He is a very unorthodox Manager. If I were God I would be the most awful and annoying micromanager, but luckily I am not God and the God that is in charge is so obsessed with love that He is unwilling to restrict it in any way. That means we get free choice, and that means that we make a lot of mistakes and many people’s mistakes fall on other people and we wind up in a horrible mess called humanity. God is a good writer, but fortunately he is not like Shakespeare. He doesn’t believe in tragedies—He promises a happy ending. Good thing I believe in happy endings.

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