Confessions of an Uncertain Missionary

I love certainty. I would worship it if I could carve it into a little statue. Because I want it to fill the hole in my heart where uncertainty lurks. I confess my idolatry and wonder at its mean tenaciousness. This is what it is to live by grace.

I received an email today from another missionary. He spends most of his time on leadership training and discipleship in a "burgeoning church movement" of over 11,000 Christians who meet in more than 100 churches. After five years, our four house churches just reorganized into two because of inconsistent attendance and struggling leadership. I would confess my jealousy, but this paragraph is transparent. So I add to the confession my uncertainty, about the calling and the gifting and the way forward. Insecurity makes trust seem like blindness, and as I stumble, frustration and anger hover nearby. This is what it is to live by faith.

I spoke again on Sunday about following Jesus into a life transformed by the power of the Spirit. As some nodded reflectively, I had eyes only for the others—the blank stares of the distracted and weary. And uncertainty lapped steadily against every word. Not a tidal wave but a relentless, erosive wash. I confess my despair. How many seeds will sprout over rocks? How many among thorns? This is what it is to live by hope.

I'd rather love people than like them. I love the poor—the idea of them, at least—and my heart breaks for them, and my pulse quickens at the thought of justice and mercy. But then I meet poor people, needy people, inconvenient people, and I get over it. I would just love them, with money and service and Bible words, in contained moments, at a safe distance. Problem is, I'm to love as I've been loved. And I've been loved with friendship and patience. I've been loved with permission to be needy and inconvenient. I've been loved this way even though the idolatrous, jealous, angry, pessimistic me is unlikable. So I'm uncertain whether I can stand the dissonance between the kind of love I've received and the kind of love I've given. I'm uncertain of my own heart. This is what it is to live by love.

I hate confessing. I would pretend to be better than I am, mostly so I could lie to myself about the uncertainty that lurks in my heart. It's true, I'm uncertain about how others will read my confessions—whether it's necessary to be transparent, whether it's beneficial to be unfiltered. Whether it's prudent to be me. But the real uncertainty is whether the truth can set me free. If the truth hurts, is there really freedom in pain? If the truth is dangerous, is liberation worth the risk? What can I say? I'm uncertain. But let's be honest: this is what it is to live by the truth.