That’s what I heard from someone the other week when I was attending a gathering of “missions-minded people.” Something about those words resonated in me. My plans. Oh boy, do I have them. Tired. Yeah, I kind of feel worn out from trying to make my plans work. My life goals are far-reaching and detailed. I work towards them methodically, purposefully, pragmatically. I see my plans through, and they don’t very often change. Have I been going about things the wrong way?
Missionaries get put on pedestals, that is not news. I’ve already felt that, and I’ve only been at it about 7 months. I get the sense that some view me as a person who is more sacrificial in her plans, more surrendered to God’s plan. Little do they know how guilty I am of going ahead and telling God what my plans are.
I’ve wanted to be a missionary for as long as I can remember. I’ve been steadily working my way towards a career related to Bible translation overseas since high school. In college, my Interdisciplinary Studies degree allowed me to study French, Biblical studies, and Sociology — all of which I was integrating in my mind to apply to Bible translation. Senior year rolled around and so did my looming college loans. I decided that I couldn’t go right into missions with my debt. Yet I was craving some cross-cultural experience, and more than anything I wanted to escape my Christian education bubble and work in a secular environment. Hey, if I was really going to be a missionary I needed to be able to engage regular, everyday unbelievers, right?
Along came an opportunity to be an English teaching assistant in France. Cross-cultural experience: check. Secular environment: definitely check. I did that for about 10 months after graduating in 2009. It was a significant time for me — I discovered that I love people, and that a part of me lies dormant until I’m living overseas. All the while, I was earning enough to start paying off school loans. My plan was working.
I came back to the States in 2010 determined to get out from under the rock of debt so I could get back overseas, this time for long-term. I lived at home, worked 2 jobs for about a year. In August 2011 I was debt free. Another part of the mission accomplished. Following the next part of the plan, I took the GRE in preparation for graduate studies in linguistics, applied to Mission to the World, was approved as a long-term missionary after several rounds of assessment, and began building my support base.
I don’t describe those events to toot my own horn. I can’t take credit for any of it. On the contrary I’m showing just how determined I am to follow my plan and wondering if that’s always a good thing. My parents have always said I’m stubborn. I can’t argue, and don’t you have to be at least a little stubborn to be a missionary? I guess hearing someone else say, “I’m tired of telling God my plans” just made me pause and wonder, “Have I been doing that? Would I even recognize it if God were gently nudging me in a different direction?” Thankfully I believe in a sovereign God who won’t be deterred even by this girl’s stubbornness and who won’t be boxed in to my linear plan. Still, I wonder how easily I’d relinquish my plans…
I was talking to my dad recently and something he said challenged that stubborn hold I have of my plans. My dad is a man who has had several job descriptions since I’ve known him — church planter in France, teaching elder and pastor, chaplain to the elderly. Even now, he is contemplating other options and reflecting on the various direction changes he has already experienced. He said something like, “But you know, I take a look around and think, ‘Here I am with plenty of opportunity to preach the gospel to people right where I’m at. And I’ve got Jesus, so what do all my dreams and all my plans matter?”
Well said, Papa. At the end of the day, when the plans don’t pan out and the dreams remain only dreams, I’ll still have Jesus. Let me never lose sight of that in all my planning.