Welcome to our new missionaries! By now you are probably learning the art of pretending to know what you’re doing when you really don’t. Being a missionary is humbling for more than one reason. But one reason is because is because you’re entering a whole new world, and it’s hard to learn everything really fast. It’s hard to feel like you’re messing up all the time. It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong.
Many of us unintentionally go through life acting like we’re experts. We wouldn’t want anyone to call us a “know-it-all” or anything; we just want to hide our embarrassing ignorance. We often get so good at hiding our ignorance that other people actually think we know something and ask for advice. And if we make up an answer…we find ourselves deeper in our “expert” camouflage. There is another option though: humility and honesty.
A few weeks ago I went for a hike at a state park I’d never visited before. I enjoy first-time visits, because I kind of like not knowing where I’m going—it’s more exciting to figure it out. But this time I felt like God was trying to teach me something. Within my two or three hour visit, I was asked for directions or tips seven times. Seven different people apparently thought I knew what I was doing when I absolutely did not (well, I did have a few clues for two of them). I couldn’t help but wonder what made people think I was an “expert” on this state park—my day-pack? My Chacos? I’ll never know, but what I did discover was how much I enjoyed the interactions. I actually enjoyed telling people, “I don’t know, I’ve never been here before. Maybe it’s this way?” My favorite was the very last one. Just as I was leaving, a family pulled up in their mini-van asking where the road was to exit the park. Suddenly realizing my ignorance (yet again), I told the family I was sorry that I didn’t really know, but gave them my best guess, and ended with, “I’ll be figuring it out with you!”
The challenge is simply this: Don’t be an expert–be an encourager. Be humble and honest. Ask questions, and share what you do know. Whatever you do, share the journey. Keep it real with God, and keep it real with each other—fellow missionaries, administration, those you are serving. And remember, there’s no need to fear, because you are walking this path with the only true Expert on this journey of service and humility—Jesus.
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” – 1 Cor. 1:26-29
*Once or twice a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This was written by Andrea Keele, and sent on Aug. 13, 2015.