I realize that the Stewardship Series appears to have come to a grinding halt, and appearances, in this case at least, are correct. While I do intend to continue with the series at some point in the near future, I know that I need to be practicing stewardship as well as writing about it; based on my current schedule, therefore, I may not be able to produce new posts about stewardship for the next few weeks. In the meantime, for what it’s worth, I’ll be trying to post drafts of old posts that have just been waiting eagerly in the wings for their moments to shine.
I’m one of those people who carry the concept of preparedness to mentally maladjusted levels. Whenever I go on a trip, I morph into a crazy packrat of doom just before walking out the door and begin to scurry about grabbing items at random to stuff into my suitcase “just in case.” On my recent camping trip, I brought everything from nail clippers to baby powder (presumably lest I give birth in the 4 days that I was gone) and packed enough clean clothes to see me through 2 weeks of monsoon season. I currently have 6 different tubes of Chapstick in my purse, lest one of them suddenly run out. When I come to campus each day, I pack practically every textbook I own, even ones from previous semesters at other schools, just in case I need them.
If there is any possibility of danger, discomfort, or inconvenience looming on the horizon and I can reasonably or neurotically circumvent it, I will do so.
I came to CIU because I wanted to go back to Turkey to work, but knew that I didn’t really have much to offer with regard to practical skills. I also thought it would be important for me to live as an adult, or something like it, before I ventured out onto the field and promptly had a nervous breakdown. Pursuing graduate education seemed to be the wisest option on my plate at the time; I still think it was the best move, and I don’t regret it, though there are times that I want to chuck it all in lieu of becoming a wandering minstrel or a champion in the competitive hot dog eating circuit (though I don’t think vegetarians really have eating contests. Tofurkey, anyone?).
But since coming here, I’ve noticed that my emergency preparedness button has gone into overdrive. Suddenly, I’m wondering if I need to get a Master’s in Theology before I go; and what about getting a PhD in clinical psychology? That will be useful to my clients. And if I’m working toward more degrees, anyway, how about if I pick up a degree in ICS or Muslim Studies? While I’m at it, I want to be involved in community development somewhere, just in case, and I need to be networking so that I can raise support, and I need to learn how to teach, in case I ever need to teach something while I am there. . .
And so on, and so forth.
In all my ambition, I have to wonder whether I will end up so prepared that I will no longer be useful. God gets kind of gleeful about using people who aren’t particularly impressive, ala I Corinthians 1:27. Joseph’s role as “slave” was certainly not training him to assume the second-highest position in one of the greatest empires of the time. Moses, as a terrible and terrified public speaker, was promptly installed in the position of “great leader of Israel.” David’s key developmental years were spent learning how to protect and pasture a flock of sheep, not preparing to draw up plans for military strategy and lead a nation.
The key thing God appears to be looking for, in terms of preparedness, is relationship. Joseph was ‘just’ a slave, but he was a slave in tune with God. David was a ‘only’ a shepherd, but he was a shepherd who loved God with all his heart. Moses. . .well, Moses appears to have been a bit of a bum before he finally followed God’s lead and returned to Egypt, but his story illustrates, perhaps even more than those of Joseph and David, that God can and does use fallen people, cowardly people, stubborn people, and so on and so forth.
Certainly preparation is important to any walk of life, and it becomes absolutely critical before engaging in cross-cultural ministry. I do, therefore, intend to continue to work toward the development of necessary skills and character before I go.
The moment, however, I allow my skill-building attempts to take precedence over the development of my relationship with God; when I begin to assume that I need to have all my ducks in a row, degree-wise, before I can be of use to God; in short, when I try to control the nature and outcome of my service to God, rather than allowing Him to use me as He sees fit, I have just shaken the foundation of my usefulness, as far as He is concerned.
Quite frankly, there is a very good likelihood that He will choose to use any and all of us in ways that we never could have foreseen and in areas for which we do not feel equipped. But He asks for submission, not perfection, and He can use our mistakes, defects, and yes, even our unpreparedness to demonstrate His own awesomeness and glory.