“What we do for God… becomes an idol if it replaces our relationship with Him.” – Mai’s story in For the Joy
I’m not a mother, but as I read Mai’s story in the beginning of our section for this week, I found my heart leaping as I related to the words she shared. So many of us, whether we are single or married, parents or not, can find our identity in the role of Kingdom worker. We look at the work we are doing for God, very good and important work, or the ways we aren’t doing the same work as others around us, and that becomes the defining mark of who we are. This can lead to pride or guilt, anxiety or shame, and impacts our relationship with God.
Though not the same, I understand the anxiety that Mai described in her story. When she talked about how “people would often stand and look in our windows… like we were a local attraction at the zoo”, I smiled but ached inside because I knew what she meant.
It would stress me out so much when people would just wander into our house in Southeast Asia to look at our furniture or comment on what my teammate and I owned. It was hard for me to let go of my home being a sacred space where I felt safe both physically and emotionally. I wanted so much to be a light to my neighbors and to be able to build relationships with them, but I also struggled on the daily as people commented and critiqued and fed their curiosity about the strange foreigners and how we lived.
Our personalities matter, don’t they? I know others are much more open and flexible than I am and so these types of situations are not as painful or uncomfortable. I didn’t give space or credence to the unique ways God wove me together or how that impacted my overseas work and life. While God stretched me in so many ways, it was also important for me to acknowledge the things that were more stressful for me and get creative to address them.
Is there something in you and the way God created your personality that feels in constant contrast to the culture you are working in? Has God helped you in that area or is it still a struggle?
I did love what the Father helped reveal to Mai. She said, “My identity as a mother, wife and [overseas worker] was no longer focused on what I was doing for God or where in the world I was serving Him, but on Jesus my Saviour and what He had done for me by dying on the cross for my sins—on my personal relationship with him.”
One of the things I’ve loved about reading these stories is that they are so different from each other! Not all of us who have served overseas raise our family in a bus transformed into a traveling medical clinic. In Liling’s story it was so neat to see how she and her daughters were able to do ministry together and how that brought them closer to one another.
Is there an aspect of your work and life that is bringing your family closer together? Or a way you would love to see that happen?
I’d love to know what you thought about the stories in this section as we discuss in the comments! Did you relate to something particular in what Mai, Liling, Sandra, Sarah, Gladys, and Linda shared?
We will finish up discussing For the Joy next week and read Chapters 17 to 21!
We are so excited to be partnering with William Carey Publishing for this book, and they are offering us a 50% off code for the e-book version of For the Joy! Click on the link HERE and use the code VABOOKCLUB50!
What’s Coming Up
In June we will be reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin! Here’s a summary of the book from Amazon:
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. This young adult novel is a fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore.