Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If You're Waiting for Me to Be Just Like You

As some of you know, I am not the kind of person who can fully enjoy a book without savoring it orally. I simply must share it with someone to complete the experience.

Owning a Kindle and downloading/ devouring free books almost daily has proven to be a character building exercise for me. So far I have resisted the urge to regale my friends, both IRL and in Cyberland with one of my long-winded book reviews. Until now.

Letters Missionaries Never Write* is an amazing book that every one of us can appreciate. It exposes us all, from singles to marrieds, veterans to newbies, short-term to long-term, home-schoolers to boarding-schoolers. The writer managed to nail each one. What a difference it would make if we could see each other’s hearts and the underlying frustrations that cause so much hurt and misunderstandings. I highly recommend this book!

Reading these hypothetical letters spotlighted for me again how diverse we are, and how vital it is that we embrace our differing viewpoints and backgrounds rather than fighting over them. I can’t imagine how uninteresting it would be to only relate with people exactly like me, supposing there were such a thing. We are all unique, and that’s a good thing.

The trouble comes when we think we know what people are like, and we start categorizing people and putting them in their proper boxes where we assume they belong. As much as I try to put my “people-pleasing god” behind me and to only care whether my ways are pleasing to God, I’m still aware that people misconstrue my words, appearance, and convictions.

Home schooling – Oh! One of THOSE! (So, Jamie Jo, do you think ill of me for sending my children to public school or – horrors! – boarding school?)
Big family – Oh! One of those! (So you must think I’m horrible for only having two children…)
Missionary – Oh! One of those! (Don’t you know there is plenty of needs right here in the U.S.?)
Sadly, I’m just as bad.

When I’m with ladies who wear a head covering or dresses-only, or have long hair and no make-up or jewelry, I automatically assume they are judging me for not sharing their convictions. Hopefully the ladies in the ultra- not-of-this-world group think nothing of my short hairstyle, dangly coconut shell earrings, and (gasp!) shorts on a hot summer day in Texas—any more than I would judge someone choosing to not home school, not to have a big family, or not to become a missionary. We’re all just different, which is a good thing. (Oh, I said that already.)

Sometimes it’s not only appearances that cause division, but our ministry focus.

In many cases we will never see eye-to-eye, but it is so helpful to consider the other person’s perspective. Last month I posted an article on my ministry blog about the pitfalls of literacy-based evangelism in the third world. I hoped perhaps it might provide some insight for those who are struggling to reach the unreached with the standard literate approach, as well as to explain again to our supporters why we do what we do (providing audio and video evangelistic materials for non-literates).

Inevitably it caused discomfort for some who connected the dots differently, who came to a different conclusion than the author of the article. That’s okay. We have to live with the constant tension of differing vantage points on many subjects. That’s just how it is. We’re all different. (yada, yada, said that!)

For those who are uncomfortable until peace is restored, I’ve got news for you. As long as you define “peace” as everyone being in unanimous agreement, it’s never going to happen this side of heaven, so just dream on.

IRL* Embracing the differences, and agreeing to sometimes disagree while still remaining friends.
*This book was sent to me by a df, and is not yet available in digital form.


  1. My all time WORST day as a missionary was when I went to a missionary women's tea and we went around the circle and introduced ourselves. I was the only mom of many who homeschooled, at that time wore dresses and had long hair. I also didn't have my "own ministry." I went home and cried and cried. I then decided that I did not know these women and they didn't know me. I wasn't giving them a chance and having a pity party was not a good thing. My best friend whom I met soon thereafter is a short-haired mom of two with her "own ministry." We've learned SO much from each other. I'm so thankful God spoke truth into my heart and I was able to hear Him and give these women a chance and vice versa.

  2. Exactly! What a great illustration of what I meant. Thank you for sharing this. What a blessing we miss when we don't give others a chance.

  3. Can't wait to look up that book!!! :) I think you should do a book review blog post at least once a week. :)

    I'm so glad I've been blessed with missy friends who wear skirts and head coverings and those who wear make-up and stinkin' cute earrings. Each one has enriched and challenged my faith on different levels.

  4. I want to find the book too. Kindle ignorance here--the book downloads are free? I assumed you had to buy them like you would a normal book. Thank you for reminding me that everyone in missions is different, and not to pigeon-hole anyone. That will be a focus as we move to the field!

  5. This is a great book review, and you make great connections to our lives. I felt convicted of judging others as I read this.

    The other day my 11 year old daughter ended a poem with these words: "If I try to be like you, then who's going to be me?" Your title reminded me.

    Let's Be ourselves and allow others to be themselves!

  6. Olive Tree, I LOVE your daughter's words!!

    I remember being brought up in "competition" to other missionaries. "The way we do it is so much better than the way you do it."


    I am learning to put down, to turn off, to tell to shut up that internal tape that criticizes others around me. I was raised that way... to judge others and to find out how we were more "right".

    We may have been "right", but I was deeply impressed by the people who were "wrong". Why? They loved each other.

    I spent a few months struggling with these questions and finally came to conclusions of what I now believe. I made my own "statement of beliefs" on my blog... rethinking my history.


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