Thursday, January 5, 2017

How Do I Make Goals for 2017 When I Know I Can't Meet Them?


Missionaries are experts in high expectations. 

I mean, who else has a job like this?  Most of us went through a stringent interview process just to get here.  Pages of applications, hours of interviews, weeks of training, our references were asked for more references.  We are held up as examples of godliness.  We have high expectations of the kind of people we will be.

And then, once we are accepted, our pictures are placed in the foyers of churches and on family refrigerators all over the country.  We are paraded around like celebrities.  Not only are we expected to write strategic plans every year and submit them to our supervisors and our supporting churches, but then we are required to write monthly reports to hundreds of stakeholders.  If it feels like they have really high expectations for how we will perform, well, our own expectations are probably even higher.   After all, if we are going to sacrifice so much, if we are going to ask others to sacrifice so much on behalf of us, then we better see results.

Based on our yearly goals (or you could call them glorified New Year’s Resolutions), and the amount of accountability we receive, missionaries should be the world’s most productive and healthy people.  And really, the world should be saved by now.  Right?

On one hand, I’m thankful for this aspect of missionary life.  I am a goal-oriented person, and I like the accountability.  I think it’s a great thing to think long-term about how we are going to accomplish what God is calling us to do.

On the other hand, we just never reach those expectations, do we?  We move overseas, and it brings out the worst in us.  As a spouse.  As a parent.  As a friend.  As a minister to others.  And as for our ministry?  What we felt called to do?  What we felt called to be?  Well, that just never goes as we planned.  And sometimes it’s even a total disaster.

So how do we find that balance?  How do we set goals for ourselves, for our ministry, when we have experienced disappointment and failure?  When we’ve been betrayed by too many friends?  How do we temper the anxiety of not being able to reach the expectations of those who are holding us up?

After 15 years as a missionary, it’s true that my early idealism was smashed a long time ago.  You know those times of wonderful rejoicing, when all is going the way it should?  Well, it just takes one stumble, one new piece of information, and suddenly it all falls apart.  What seems like a happy ending can still turn tragic in the end. 

Does this make me cynical?  It can, sometimes.  
Rest the rest here over at A Life Overseas.
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