A friend teased me when I became a missionary, saying I was becoming a professional Christian. I knew my friend was joking, but the joke represented a mind frame among evangelicals that was deeply and fervently held: that pastors and missionaries and other ministers are (or ought to be) better Christians than everybody else. After all, they’re “getting paid for being a Christian.”
I don’t think it’s accurate, and I’m wondering how Christianity strayed so far from Jesus’s message that we all fall short of perfection and all need him for help.
There are Bible verses that talk about Christian leaders needing to be people of good character and being examples of how to live a life for God. But nowhere does that mean that Christian ministers have graduated beyond the need for Jesus’s help. They all have their own faults, struggles, and failings they deal with every day. The Christian leader whose example I want to follow is the one who, instead of being nearly-perfect, is the one who isn’t, knows it, confesses it, and tries better next time.
That’s the kind of Christian minister I tried to be among the people I ministered to, but had a much harder time among regular church-goers and financial supporters. I was too afraid church people would think I wasn’t worthy of being one of their missionaries if I showed how flawed I was. So I played the game: I kept my failings, doubts, and struggles to myself, and I tried to come off as the “good Christian girl” they assumed I was and continually praised me for being.
But I wasn’t. And I’m not. And I got tired of playing the game.
I don’t want to be an example to others of being a good Christian missionary, a good Christian girl, a good anything. Rather, if anyone thinks of me at all, the example and legacy I want to leave with them is this: being honest about my weaknesses, bringing my doubts and my difficult questions to Jesus, trusting that he is present with me despite my faults, asking for forgiveness for my shortcomings, and trying again.
I don’t want to be loved or respected for making all the right choices. I want to be loved and respected for being who I am, even if I make some really poor choices along the way.
If that sounds like you, too, then I welcome you on the journey ahead.
photo by Luis Quintero from pexels