I was supposed to be a missionary.
I dreamt of it all through childhood. The passion grew each time I read a missionary biography, attended a missions conference, or drove by a Kansas wheat field “white to harvest” (John 4:35).
I traveled to Belize in high school, Papua New Guinea in college. I majored in International Ministries at Moody Bible Institute, intent on following the call of God overseas.
And I did.
My dream came true. When my husband Jarod and I landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2002, ready to minister, ready to take in our twin boys, I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone on the face of the earth.
I was a little fearful, yes. I knew trials surely awaited us. In fact, with the darkness of voodoo surrounding us in a nation that had been dedicated to Satan 200 years earlier, we sometimes felt we’d entered “Mordor” of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
But I knew my calling.
Until eight years later, when I didn’t.
After the Port-au-Prince earthquake, after God brought us through the “Red Sea” on dry land, after the adoption miracles, I found myself stripped of the identity that had defined me.
Have you been there?
In American Christian culture, or at least in my own little mind, there was something so noble about being a missionary.
I felt I’d joined the Navy Seals. I was in the elite group. I was one of the chosen, one of the few who got to pick up my cross and follow Christ to another culture.
Though the American Dream appealed to my flesh (oh, did it ever), I wanted to live in a fourth-world country more than I wanted a white-picket fence.
But eight years later, whether I liked it or not, the door to that country was closed in my face.
It eventually sank in. I was no longer a missionary.
Of course, I understood that my mission of reaching the lost would never change, maybe not even my calling to work with those from the Haitian culture, but my identity was gone.
And it needed to be.
He knows when we need to be moved to the next thing.
We may not see the next thing at all. All we see is emptiness, and all we feel is the sting of the slammed door, the disgrace of perceived failure, or the frustration of thwarted plans.
But that’s where Jesus wants to meet us, to refine us — to take knowing and trusting Him to a new level.
And when, after days, weeks, months, or years, we’ve surrendered our identities back to Him, remembering that our true identity is in Him, He sheds His light on a path we never would have found otherwise.
I’m not a missionary in the classic sense of the word.
When I read Kisses from Katie, or blogs by my missionary friends back in Haiti; when I listen to a missionary’s presentation at church or receive prayer letters from friends who are “answering the call,” there’s a twinge of jealousy in my heart.
That used to be me! I answered that call once. I lived an adventure. I shopped the open market instead of Target!
But if my identity was wrapped up in a calling — even a good and noble calling — it was in the wrong place.
God will keep using us, friend. He’s calling me to new things, and He’ll do the same with you. But neither you nor I have the right to tell Him how He should use us.
He’s the Potter, we’re the clay.
And as high as our hopes and thoughts for ourselves are, His thoughts are higher! (Isaiah 55:9)
Yes, God allowed me to flounder without the answers that I desperately wanted, so I would plant myself firmly in Him instead of in a title.
Truth be told, I’m still floundering. I laugh when required to fill in the blank marked “Occupation” on forms.
What am I, anyway?
I may not know what I am, but I do know whose I am.
I am HIS.
And that, my friend, is enough for any of us, isn’t it?