I’ve had a lot of conversations with Luv-Luv and others over the past week, and I’ve realized that one of the hardest things about living overseas and missions is that there are very few things that are concrete. The language and culture don’t make sense, daily tasks like buying food are confusing and take forever, and measurable can be really vague (I mean, what does making disciples look like on a daily basis anyway?) For those of us who are task driven, it makes living overseas really hard. One of the things I’ve noticed is that whether we’re overseas or not we tend to take something that God called us to and take it one step further, which often makes it more concrete and tangible. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, it can just become a very slippery slope. I would often misinterpret things like:
-“Try to eat what the locals eat” would become “only eat what the locals eat.”
-“Don’t spend all your time with Americans” became “don’t spend any time with Americans”
-“Don’t go home until you get over culture shock, which takes about a year and a half” became “Don’t go home for a year and a half.” (My wife and I are currently working through this one…)
And I still believe that each of these principles are good advice for anyone living overseas. The problem is that we often take something good and make the burden heaver. We long for the concrete. If you ever want to see someone fall, just add to the command. And that’s true, whether you live in India or Indiana. And it has been true since the very beginning.
In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. In the very next chapter, the serpent asks Eve what God said and she told him “not to eat from the tree nor touch it.” She added to the command and made the burden heavier. And needlessly making the burden heavier has been going on ever since: whether it is Pharisees, Puritans or Prohibition. And when the burden becomes heavier, we often fall.
I often want to tell Christ, “Your burden is too easy and your yoke is a little too light. Let me add a few more things to it.” And one of the hardest things for me, whether overseas or at home, becomes truly finding joy in the freedom and not getting caught in the trap of legalism. Taking things like the principles above for what they are, just principles, and not making them the purpose. Trying to learn how to enjoy the vastness of the Great Commission. So if my wife looks up at me after several months overseas and says, “I want to go home and see my family at Christmas”, then we talk through that and not strain under the legalism that came from a good principle.