Confessions of a Missionary: “Who is more hardcore?”

When comparison makes its nasty little bed in your heart…

 “The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else’s’ lake…” – Sebastian the Lobster

I’ve been involved in some sort of global missions since 1998.  And…the only reason I’m beginning this blog with that statement, is because I feel that it will give reference to what I’m about to write about. The last thing I want to do is type up some sort of resume in attempts to somehow “give weight to my words”. Truth is, it doesn’t matter how many short-term trips I’ve been on, or how long I’ve been on staff with a missions organization, and it doesn’t matter how long I’ve lived in Asia (because we both know, it’s not been that long….) What DOES matter, is that no matter where we’ve served, travelled, lived, taken teams to, pioneered, we remind ourselves daily that we are “but dust” and that HE is the one who is great, not us. (That was definitely not supposed to rhyme…) 

Taped onto my wall above my desk, I have written on a small green notecard this quote:
“There is NO win in comparison”  (Andy Stanely)
I stumbled across this quote several months ago and quickly wrote it down and taped it on my wall to always remember this truth. Some days I just stare at the notecard and think…“this is totally lame” and some days I stare at the notecard and begin to tear up as I meditate on how TRUE this really is….

At the time that I wrote down this quote, I was struggling with comparing my progress in language learning with others. I felt God take me through a season of trusting Him for affirmation and strength and to not get it via comparison. This is a continual season, BUT has managed to die down a bit by the grace of God. Do you know what I mean? Do you ever have those days where you feel very strong in your beliefs about who you are and how God sees you? Nevertheless, I was feelin’ pretty strong for a while…until the other day…

I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I began thinking about missions and this great big world we temporarily call “home”.  I started reading about what other people are doing and pioneering and where they are traveling and living and serving…and then that little lie came creepin’ on into my heart… “What they are doing is more hardcore than what you are doing”.

It’s odd isn’t it? My friends in the States often say things to me like “Anna, I wish I could be doing what you are doing. YOU are actually making an impact whereas I’m just sitting at home, making hamburger helper out of a box or taking a 9-5 job at the Mall, or going to university”. Yet, I’m here in Asia telling YOU guys that I too struggle with thinking that maybe other people are doing “way more hardcore” things with their lives. It is the same for me too. While you are maybe wishing you were in India, or serving in orphanages in Thailand or Mexico, I am wishing that I were in the middle of nowhere, Africa, or the same jungles where Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot served so faithfully because it is “way more hardcore” than living in a city with good coffee and air conditioner and familiarity to an extent. 

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while and even asked a few other “seasoned” missionaries their opinion on the matter. I asked a friend of mine who serves with her family across the oceans, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE what she had to share about obedience, serving and calling…check it out…

There is a lot of confusion about and competition in the christian world about who is doing the cutting edge, hardest thing and, by association, who is the most spiritual.  Where did we get such a barometer?  Not from Scripture. Reading recently in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline I was profoundly convicted by the chapter entitled “The Discipline of Service.”  
It reads “In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel than His word to wash feet.  Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure… But in service (loving others in action) we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves.  Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial. “

To be great in His kingdom means being a servant of all, whether slogging it out in some far-flung foreign land, working in corporate America, or living anywhere in between those extremes.  By God’s sovereign grace I happen to get to live among an unreached people group in the world’s highest mountain range.  By this same sovereign grace I get to be a wife to one man and mom to four incredible kids.  If I’m honest, the marriage and mothering part of this calling is a lot harder and more spiritually taxing than living in a place where black magic abounds, where “Get off the idol.  No climbing on idols.” are common reminders to my offspring, and only maybe a dozen people out of about 60,000 follow Christ.   My struggles with impatience, pride, and selfishness are demonstrated within our family far too often.

When we are back in our home country, other believers tell me the dreaded lie, “I could never do what you are doing.”  Um, you totally could if He called you here (and He might, don’t assume He won’t).  Our home is two treacherous days by road from the airport and I have had full-out panic attacks on said mountain roads.  I am not brave.  All you have to do is stay in the car, and you too, could arrive in this corner of the world and be a light.  But that’s not the point.   My tendency toward selfishness has not diminished at all in this location; I think it has actually increased.  Moving to this intense remote area did not suddenly propel me forward on the spirituality ladder.   I sin.  I yell at my kids.  I am petty.

Each of us will be accountable when we stand before Him and His standard is not how far did we live from Trader Joe’s, a mall, and reliable internet.  His question for each of us is how well are we obeying?  How are we loving the others in our immediate sphere of influence?  How are we loving the Lost who have never heard the Good News?   The unexpectedly single mom working a job she doesn’t love; the mom and dad who work long hours to pay for adopting kids; the teenager lifeguarding all summer who diligently keeps kids from drowning; the stay at home mom who cleans up more bodily excretions than she had thought possible, the high-powered attorney or accountant…each of us has a unique station in life, and God is not necessarily calling us out of that place.  He most certainly IS, however, calling each of us to obey Him well wherever He has placed us, to love those immediately around us, and to be prayerful  and obedient about our role in His pursuit of the lost in the whole world.

I am so encouraged by so many brothers and sisters who obey passionately all over this world: rescuing orphans; working hard 50+ hours per week and hosting Bible studies in their homes; raising children with a big worldview and bigger love for God’s glory in the earth; teaching; mowing lawns and babysitting to show His love.

I love what my friend shared here. I love how she totally champions the ones who are serving faithfully and submitting joyfully to the calling God has on their lives WHEREVER they may be living locationally. 

At the end of the day, when we follow Jesus our flesh has to die something…whether that is a relationship, job, friends, a certain school, access to good coffee, the comfort of carpet beneath your feet, or your own familiar land…and at the end of the day… it’s not about who or what is more “hardcore” it’s about Jesus. The question should never be “Who is more hardcore”….(and ironically enough…this question seems strangely similar to that of the disciples “Who is the greatest”….)
It’s about getting out there and sharing Jesus with people who have never even heard His name. It’s about praying for the sick, encouraging the weary, taking care of the orphans and feeding the hungry. It’s about humbling ourselves before Jesus and submitting our plans and desires to Him. And maybe it will be moving overseas. Maybe it will require you to take a massive step of faith into an unknown land to minister to an unreached people who have never heard about Jesus, and maybe it will be you this time next year packing your life in 2 suitcases for an undetermined amount of time, and maybe it will bid you come and die to your American dream, or to your ideas of success, and maybe it will require you to live completely by faith month by month with finances…
…And maybe it will be serving in the community that God has strategically placed you in…and maybe that place is your backyard, your home church, the elementary school down the road, and your household. 

There is no win in comparison. Nobody wins…nobody.  
 ** Thank you to all of my friends, family and supporters who are serving so faithfully in what God has called you to do. Because of your obedience, I am also able to walk in what God has called me to do in this season of life. I love how the body of Christ works and I love that we are all on the same team! I am so appreciative of your love and support over the years! **
Check out some more “Confessions” here….


27 Replies to “Confessions of a Missionary: “Who is more hardcore?””

  1. This post is awwwwwesome Anna!!!! What an incredible reminder to those ‘on the mission field’ and those at ‘home’. Blows my mind. Thank you!!!!

    1. I know you don’t know me but I worked with Cindy H in SC. I sat down today feeling kinda down laughing at the thought of feeling alone yet being connected to so many people (via the internet). Anyway, I happened to read this blog and I just want you to know how much it ment to me. I had just finished talking with my daughter about the fact that she can not compare herself to others. She “of course” kept saying , “Mom, you just don’t understand.” And the truth is I don’t, but we all feel similar when you compare yourself to others. You come out feeling unworthy, unloved, not as pretty, not as smart because YOU are doing that to yourself. Truth is, I have often wondered if we are not harder on ourselfs than God? Thank you for this blog today!!!!!! God is good!!!!!!!!

      1. Kelly, thanks for the comment! I hear ya on the weirdness of all things internet-y…totally amazing that you can somehow connect with friends of friends of friends and it not be considered “stalkerish” 🙂 I guess that is what networking is all about!:) Thank you for your encouragement, I am glad that this blog encouraged you today (or yesterday for that matter:) I think you are totally right…we are much harder on ourselves…and our assumptions of what others think about us, even harsher…I’m so thankful for Gods unconditional love in the midst of my habitual comparison.

  2. Great blog. Comparison is a killer. There’s always something “better” or “different” to compare us too. But if we are following Jesus then there is no more honour in serving in an unreached people group in the himilayas than in having a coffee at starbucks or working in an office. It’s all about obedience and following Jesus.

  3. Anna, such well written truth to debunk the lies that WE ALL THINK! Thank you for writing this! I see an amazing future for you my friend! You are Amazing! Lots of love, the other Anna in MT…. 🙂

  4. Anna, having lived awhile in one of those ‘hardcore’ places you’ve mentioned….I couldn’t agree more with your message. Thanks so much for sharing. Keep on, keeping on :).

    1. Stacy, good to know I’m not the only one wrestling with these thoughts:) Thanks for reading my blog, it really encourages me!

  5. Anna, you have no idea how much this message spoke to my heart! As a stay at home mommy, often times I feel like I am created for so much more. But seriously, this is the “more”. I am a servant to these kids and my husband- and that is how he wants me to show his love right now, in this moment- sharing Jesus in this way. Our hearts remain open to giving up all and packing our lives into two suitcases– maybe someday. I so appreciate the reminder from your friend– “Moving to this intense remote area did not suddenly propel me forward on the spirituality ladder. I sin. I yell at my kids. I am petty.” It sounds silly but sometimes I feel like I will finally be in my place when I “get over there”– but really? I am now seeing that I take all of my crap with me! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heart so openly. ❤

    1. Amy, thanks for sharing your heart here…it is truly amazing what God has called you to do. I am not married, nor do I have kids but I’m constantly impressed and encouraged by women like you who take seriously the role that you play in your children’s lives….it seems to be so essential in helping them shape their beliefs about Jesus..WOW….you have such a cool “job”/life!! I agree, my friend was dead on and I hope that when I have kids one day I can remember her wisdom in moments of doubt and anxiousness…because yeah, the crap will follow us until we get to heaven…(that sounds gross….but true) thankful for His grace! whew…

  6. hi anna! i don’t know if you remember me (danielle strannigan) from our dts in montana days . . .but a church friend of mine just posted this blog to fb! what a small world it is. on a different note, i truly love the point you are making here. living/working with the poor in america i have the exact same struggles, but i find it is just all too distracting to get caught up in those thoughts. much better to focus on what you are called to, just like you said. amen!

    1. Danielle!! Of my goodness of COURSE I remember you! Wow, really small world that a church friend of your posted a link to my blog. It seems like you are up to some really awesome , life impacting stuff! How are things for you? Do you have a blog? I’d love to hear about how God is using you and what you are up to! Thanks for reading my blog Danielle and really cool to connect with you again!

  7. Totally blown away because God has called me to Taiwan and I am planning on going next year to see what it is like before going to college and preparing to be a missionary. I was reading this and I was about to exit because I got it then God told me to read the last paragraph and I did and it talked about Taiwan and going next year…. God is AMAZING!

    1. Hi Bill! Thanks for reading my blog and for leavin’ a little comment! I’m really looking forward to checking out some of your writing as well! Thanks for posting your website on here! I always love hearing about how God is using people across the globe.

  8. This was so awesome to read! So encouraging for me and my friend who isn’t even a missionary. This is something that we all struggle with in our everyday lives as missionaries or just “current people” COMPARISON… God is good! This is exactly what i needed to hear. Thank you!!

  9. Such an incredible post! I totally love your honesty. I completely wrestle with this type of comparison and it often takes the life out of whatever God has called me to when I focus on wanting to be like so-and-so, living in the heart of Africa. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which part of that is dissatisfaction and comparison and which part is God compelling us to follow as He leads us into a new calling or different place to live out our calling. But He does tell us to live as we are called, and that it will look different for each of us. Following as He leads is definitely an adventure! Thanks again for your awesome post!

  10. This is so encouraging!! Especially when I feel so trapped being back home looking for a normal job compared with my life in a jungle-like place teaching children in Panama xD

  11. Reblogged this on Life on the edge of the margin. and commented:

    Well it has been a very long time since I have posted anything on this blog, so I thought why not repost one of my most read blogs. So, without further adieu, I give you (for the second time), “Confessions of a Missionary: Who is more hardcore?”

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