Mumbai and Feeling Inadequate

The sounds of Mumbai blare through the window, and they’re different than the sounds of wintry Massachusetts: car horns, a broom on concrete, motorcycles, and crows.

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Having been here for almost 24 hours, I’m already very thankful for so much: Our gracious hosts have lavished us with their time and taught me a great deal about India as we’ve driven and walked through this part of town. Our guest house is actually a convent, and the sisters are very kind. The food is delicious; I can’t quite figure out if Pastor Shirish is taking it easy on us or if lots of Indian food is similar to the Indian food I’ve had in the States, but either way we’ve eaten two delightful meals with a few delightful people, and that is my favorite symbol of God’s everyday grace to us. Even when we go somewhere “to serve,” we still need to eat, and we so often get to enjoy it.

However, internally, being here has been hard. I feel very inadequate for this ministry: Will my contribution really be worth the pastors’ time, our money, others’ money, and missing a week of class? I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way on “mission trips.” I said that at least half of our goal in coming here would be to learn, but honestly learning, in the moment, can feel so…selfish.

I’ve been praying about it this morning and I don’t think there’s any peace in trying to make my contribution “worth it.” In fact, it may not be “worth it” in the end, and though I will do my best, worrying about it won’t make it so or make it better. This idea of being “worth it” might be one of the habits we Westerners need to kick if we want to move from patronizing to true partnership with our brothers and sisters in the Global South. Practically, if I am trying to be “worth it,” every kindness from my Indian brothers will be received with greater anxiety, not joy, and that’s just rude. Theologically, keeping track of whether I’m “worth it” is contrary to the gospel, since I never will be nor was to be worth Jesus’ loving sacrifice for me.

So, I’m committing to let go of “worth it.” I would love for you to pray this for me and to join me in this commitment for you own life, where you are. I think that God’s word encourages this shift in focus from ourselves to our God and spiritual family, as expressed in these two verses I’ll be clinging to today:

“With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted, it is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 John 3:19-23).

I can focus on those two today: believing that the risen Christ is here among us and loving like him. I’m going to devote my energy to continuing in those two things rather than trying to be (or even judging) whether I’m “worth it.”

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