Friday, March 11, 2016

PRIDE AND JOY

A few months ago, I walked into my language school and was told that my regular teacher, Rath, was not coming in that day. Rath, who was pregnant at the time, was not feeling well and had taken the day off. The next time I saw Rath, I asked her in Khmer, “Did you not come yesterday because you were sick?” Except that I made a mistake. I actually asked her, “Did you not come yesterday because you were lazy?” Turns out that pregnant women love to be called lazy.

Since I’ve moved to Cambodia, my life has been made up of these kinds of mistakes. My mistakes are rarely as embarrassing as this one, but I can never count on being able to communicate what I want to communicate. Sometimes my brain is a clutch hitter; sometimes it strikes out.

All my life I have been told that I am a gifted communicator, both as a writer and speaker. Coming to Cambodia makes me realize how much I have taken for granted my ability to communicate well. My communication abilities here are advanced-toddler level, at best. My pride has really taken a hit since arriving here.


You would think that my daily life would knock all of the pride right out of me. You would be wrong. Despite my daily language mistakes and general helplessness, I still find a way to be proud. Sometimes, when I pray that God would bless my future ministry, I realize that what I really want is for God to make me look good. Other times, I think to myself, “If everyone knew how smart I was and how much I have given up to come live here, they would act a bit more impressed with me.” I could go on.

I like to get up early a few mornings each week and lie on the hammock on our balcony while I pray and read Scripture. This week, Philippians 2 has stuck out to me. Paul writes, “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (verses 3-4, The Message).

In other words, don’t rely on your good communication and don’t think about what you’ll get out of something or how impressed other people are with you. This hit me right through the heart.

What is it that gives me the power to live this way? Paul continues: “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself...He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion” (verses 5, 8). We know how that story ends, though: Jesus’ obedience to go to the cross leads to his resurrection and his defeat of death and sin. Good Friday brings temporary death, but Easter Sunday brings eternal life.

Jesus gave up more than I have given up and was a lot less whiny about it than I am. He then went to the cross for me and was resurrected to defeat death and give me the power to live by his example.

At first I was disappointed in myself for taking something so good—my calling to Cambodia—and being so selfish and proud about it. But that is why we celebrate Easter every single year. I need reminders. Yes, I even need reminders when I am a missionary.

This season of Lent, I am trying to dig up some deep-rooted pride so that I can experience true joy. I will accept language mistakes as God’s gift to me in this process. I will embrace the ambiguity of my future and not place so much of my identity in my accomplishments. I will face my perfectionism; if things get messy and frustrating sometimes, it doesn’t mean that I am a failure.

Of course, I don’t believe that I will be able to uproot all my pride and perfectionism this Easter. To say that I can perfectly give up my need to be perfect defeats the purpose, right? Instead, I’m simply taking this season of Lent as an opportunity to take my eyes off of myself and put them on Jesus. He is risen indeed.