I sat in my elven-sized, silver Toyota Yaris, crying. My family was miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I was alone with my husband of 15 months. But that’s not why I was crying. Not this time anyway.
I sat in the parking lot of the first supermarket to come to Port Talbot Wales, holding a packet of Naan bread. It was NOT like tortillas. I don’t care what the grocery girl said. I took another bite. It wasn’t even close. How long would it be before I’d see another Mexican restaurant, let alone taste a great taco? I hiccuped my way back to my little cottage, reminding myself to stay to the left side of the narrow road, and wondered why I was so weak? I’d prepare since the age of 9 for this moment. To be a great missionary. To plant churches in places others didn’t want to go. I’d read Amy Carmichael, quoted Jim Elliot and had countless journal entrees dedicated to the writings of C.T. Studd. But tortillas? This was going to be my breaking point?
No, this was my beginning point. But I hadn’t realized it yet. This was the beginning of a 12-year journey into the heart of what bravery really meant as a church planter. Tortillas were just my flat training ground.
Sometimes in church planting, it feels like we lose our bravery through a thousand little paper cuts. And we sit and cry. It might happen the third time we get lost going to our kids’ school, or after walking around in crunchy clothes all day because we have no tumble dryer. Whatever brings us there, we all must come to our breaking point. The place where our journey toward bravery truly begins. We are called to be brave for a purpose, and as strange as it may seem, that purpose isn’t to look good in a memoir! In fact, it can be downright embarrassing when it comes to the final straw that breaks us. Looking good in a memoir wasn’t the point anyways, for the Christian is called to live an anti-memoir. That’s because it was never our story to promote. It is His. Perhaps it isn’t until we taste hunger, that we can preach satisfaction; or until we admit we’re lame, Jesus is able to say, “Get up, take your mat, and walk.” And it wasn’t until I was sitting alone and afraid, far from everything I saw as familiar, that I took my first step toward being brave.
We often look at our circumstances to confirm to us whether or not we are on the right mission. And when the figures don’t line up, our knees begin to knock. Perhaps it’s not the lack of tortillas that has brought us to our knees this time, but the number of new converts to our church, the health of our kids or the betrayal of friends. But one look at Paul’s missionary journey route, or shall I say detour route, and circumstances are revealed to be a fickle barometer. Paul’s bravery as a church planter couldn’t be dependent on outward appearances or even inward peace. “I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me (that nasty thorn). But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Dressed in their Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtle outfits, my kids hit harder when wrapped up in their lightweight toys. But our Father loves us too much to let us play with plastic and think we’ve arrived. Not until the spiritual sparring begins, do we realize there are gaps in our armor. Every once in awhile the plastic breast plate of righteousness needs to take a good hit and crack, just so we can see where we are weak, and surrender to the One who makes us brave. Our weakness. His power. The beginning point of our bravery starts when we step out despite the thorn wedged into our side.
Before my tortilla experience, I’d have considered myself pretty brave. After all, I’d left everything and traveled half way around the world to take the gospel to the streets. I knew how to plan, organize people and make things happen. I had no thorn. Or so I thought.
Many Church plants fail within the first three years. Often it’s because we think weakness, small numbers or trials mean we have somehow misheard the command to go. We haven’t. We’ve been called to go. We simply need to be ok with the fact that ship wrecks, thorns and snake bites, lay ahead. If you’re out of your depth, scared and feeling weak, you’re doing it right. Your weakness, fear and confusion are proof of your boldness as you move forward in the little things as well as the big.
What about you? Have you felt that a tortilla could break you? What was the beginning of your bravery in church planting?
Published January 26, 2017