The Idea vs. The Reality

So someone recently asked me, “Do you just love what you’re doing there at New Tribes?”  And my honest answer was, “Sometimes.  I really love aspects of it all.  But sometimes I love the idea of what we’re doing more than I love the reality of it.”

Does that make me the worst missionary ever?  Maybe so.

There are aspects of being a missionary, of being a missionary serving at a US location, of being a missionary serving at this particular location that I don’t love.  There are some challenges.  Plenty of character-developing situations, I guess you could call them.

And there has definitely been some adjusting to the smack-in-the-face reality check of the day-to-day, actual life as a missionary not measuring up to the pie-in-the-sky idea of what it looks like to be a missionary.  Did you know that my sin nature did not disappear when I moved here to FL?  And did you know that none of the other missionaries — not even the ones who were “real” missionaries in foreign countries — lost their sin nature either?

Yeah, well, I think there was this itty-bitty part of myself that sorta, kinda expected I would somehow morph into this amazingly godly superhero, MissionaryJenn, as soon as we crossed the state line back in 2007.  But it never happened.

So, yeah, the idea of being a support-staff missionary helping reach remote tribal groups with the Gospel of Christ is wonderfully exciting.  I’m very passionate about that idea.  However, my daily life — my day-to-day activities — are just so not exciting.

I do laundry and homeschool a child and cook meals and shop for groceries and Facebook far too much and pick up toys and nag children about homework and practicing the piano and blah, blah, blah — all the stuff you probably do.  All the stuff I did in Virginia.

And I also lose my cool when the TV is too loud and the chores are only half-done and someone is screaming, “He won’t get out of my room!” and someone else is screaming, “She just pinched me!”  And I walk through Target and covet the flowery tops that are on the corner aisle (the ones that mocked me from the Good Housekeeping photo spread of the floral trend that is all the rage now).  And I still love shoes too much.  And some days I grumble and feel ungrateful for this apartment and the nasty blue carpet that covers my living room/dining room area.  And then I feel guilty because now we actually KNOW people who live deep in the jungle with dirt floors and woven bamboo walls.  And I feel pure hatred for cockroaches palmetto bugs.  And then I feel guilty again because I KNOW people who live with Papua New Guinea cockroaches, which everyone knows make our palmetto bugs look like David next to their Goliath size.

The thing is I am still me.  I mean, I like to think I’ve grown and changed a bit in the past two-and-a-half years; but -for the most part- I’m the same.  I have a lot of the same struggles I had before.  Only, I also have some new ones.  And there’s just no escaping the reality of my own sinful nature and the reality of the difficulty of life.  Life is hard sometimes.

So sometimes the reality of being a missionary at the national headquarters of a mission organization is just not all sunshine and rainbows and fairy dust.  And it’s never as supernaturally spiritual an experience as I’d imagined it would be.

Fortunately, it’s not all about me and my emotional reaction to being here.  To tell you the truth, the day-to-day reality of my life would be the same no matter where I am living or what I am doing.  Because wherever I go, there I am.  There’s no escaping myself.  And if I weren’t feeling ungrateful and crabby about nasty blue carpet in Florida, I’d be feeling ungrateful and crabby about a tiny bathroom in Virginia or cold showers in the jungle or the lack of Reese’s cups in a third-world country.  Let’s face it, if we want to complain, we’ll always find something to complain about.  And sometimes it just feels good to fuss and fume until we get so sick of ourselves we can’t stand it.

And so, with that in mind, I do love what we’re doing here.  I love that it’s not about me.  I love that we’re involved in something bigger than me and my sinfulness.  I love that, in spite of my feeling unimportant and disconnected, God is working, and He is teaching me to be happy that I’m a miniscule, teeny-tiny part of it all.  I love that He has given me a love for the idea of it all.

And I love that He knows me — He knows I get crabby about nasty blue carpet and that I raise my voice when my kids are fussing and that I grit my teeth and take on a nasty tone when my boys throw trash on the floor; He knows that I love shoes too much and that I sometimes read People magazine and that I tend toward materialism when it comes to clothes and cheap jewelry from Kohl’s — and still He loves me, still He called me to be a part of something big He’s doing in the world.  He knows me and He still lets me be a missionary.  And I really love the idea of that!

Because I love the idea of that, I love the reality of His patience and mercy in my life in the day-to-day stuff I don’t love so much.

How about you?  Anything going on in your life that you love the idea of way more than you love the reality of?



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4 responses to “The Idea vs. The Reality

  1. Laura

    I love the idea of buying a house, but the reality of it stinks. I see what I want and what my heart tells me is my “dream home”, but then I look at what I don’t have, which is money, and it make me so discouraged. Will I ever get to the point where I can be happy with what I’ve got right now and not be always thinking ahead? It takes time. It takes patience. I’m working on the both of them. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not the only one that wants what I can’t have – from time to time.

  2. That’s so refreshing. Thank you…

    I live in a community of folk doing the best we can to be disciples of Christ, and I can greatly relate to the day to day gritty of doing what God has asked myself and my family to do.

    The wonderful and awesome thing, however, is that it gives Christ and His grace all the more chance to abound and continue to save us.

    Keep your head high in rejoicing that He grabbed us and chose us to be co-workers with him in this awesome life.

    I’d love to know more about what you’re doing down there in Florida.


  3. John, thanks for commenting.

    You mentioned one of my favorite concepts — grace abounding. I have a mental picture of what that looks like & it may or may not be theologically accurate, but I picture my sin all mucky on the ground and God dumping out this sudsy, cleansing grace that just gets sudsier and sudsier the more it mixes in with the muck. And the more muck there is, the bigger the cleansing suds grow. And that’s how I picture grace abounding more and more. Thanks for bringing that image to my mind.

    My husband and I work with New Tribes Mission at the US Headquarters. We work with the communications department doing everything you’d imagine a communications department for an international missions organization would do (website, news items, quarterly magazine, radio spots, brochures, books, short films, etc.). Right now, it’s way more my husband doing this stuff than me because I’m being full-time mom, part-time missionary.

    If you want to know even more, our site is and NTM’s site is

  4. Jenn,
    I was catching up on your posts and I started laughing to myself reading this one. I once heard a male PRC Director say “Because when I was a boy growing up I couldn’t wait to be a Pregnancy Center Director.” It makes me smile every time I think about it and helps me on those days when I am crying to God saying…Really? Non-profit ministry Lord? Really?

    But it is those days when you KNOW your work has made a difference, when you hear the stories- and you know what I’m talking about- when someone is crying so hard because the mission impacted them for Jesus- it makes it all worth it.

    Now I have to yell at someone to turn down our tv.

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