Friday, January 11, 2013

Judge Not...

[Note from Phyllis: Christie is our newest writer. Please welcome her! Her bio is up on the contributors page now.]

I wish I could say that boarding that first flight out of the country automatically wipes out those ugly things that shouldn't be in the heart of any Christian, but I can’t.  One of the nasty gremlins that pokes its head up from time to time is a tendency to be judgmental, which can lead to bitterness if it’s allowed to stick around.

For those of us who've experienced first-hand how “the rest of the world” lives, dealing with our fellow Christians in the home country can be tough.  I have a tendency to get very frustrated, very impatient, with their petty grievances about what I deem to be unnecessary things.  I don’t always tolerate the drama over things that seem so trivial. 

It can show up on furlough, when good friends invite you to an expensive restaurant, call all the wait staff by name, and order the usual.   You've always avoided asking them directly for support, because, well, you’re good friends and that’d just be awkward.  While you’re praying that their invitation meant they’re picking up the tab (it didn't), they’re going on and on about how they admire those on the foreign mission field and just wish they could afford to support you monthly.

Or you visit your home church and hear there was a split over the color of the brand-new carpet, with half the church now congregating at First Other Temple up the street.  And you think about church service under the mango tree in your service country, or people living in dirt-floored huts, or why the home-church folks even bothered replacing the practically new carpet anyway?  Something in the missionary brain is wired to make instant calculations of all the things exorbitant amounts of money could buy on the field, or how many months of support that would work out to be.

Sometimes you don’t even have to be stateside to have this gremlin bite you.  Facebook and those let-me-fill-you-in-on-life emails are great places to find all sorts of things with potential to drive you crazy.

So how can we avoid this ugly, reverse form of culture shock? 

1.  Recognize that most people who haven’t LIVED in another culture won’t understand where you’re coming from.  Their level of exposure to real poverty may only be those starving orphan commercials that come on late at night.  I’m sure you can remember a time when you weren't as aware of the rest of the planet either—times you did things that make you cringe now.  We’re all at different places in this journey, so allow your brothers and sisters some grace if they just don’t “get it”.

2.  Share about your life.  Well, as much as you can.  It’s not cool to be “that missionary” who can turn every conversation around to a story about life on the field, and keeps a photo slide show on his phone to show everyone he meets.  But don’t reserve stories about everyday life only for your PowerPoint presentations, either.  Share bits and pieces with friends over coffee, show pictures when someone seems interested. And share about specific needs and projects that might cause your friends and church mates to get excited about what you’re doing.

3.  Don’t mistake their lives for superficial just because they aren't ministering in a far-off land.  Maybe Cousin Bob’s calling is to evangelize the guys at his job, and his shiny new iPhone is necessary for that job.  Maybe Little Susie’s going to be the next John Tesh, so refrain from telling her mom that in underdeveloped nations, the cost of those piano lessons would feed a whole family for a month.  

As un-fun as it is sometimes, we knew we were going to be living on donations when we signed up for this, and it’s not Susie’s mom or Cousin Bob’s fault that our ministry field looks different than theirs.  Nor does it make their ministry less valid than ours.  Recognize that God could be using their assets in another area for the kingdom, and that’s okay.

Are there things that cause this little gremlin to pop up in you?  How do you keep him from making himself at home?


  1. Hey Christie!! Welcome! :-)

    Nasty little (and sometimes big) gremlins... I find that what sets off those resentful and uncharitable feelings in my heart most often are when people complain or appear that they think they are entitled to those things that I know are not necessary and are true privileges - when they don't appear thankful for them.

    Vacations are a big one for me. Due to where we live and the size of our family, vacations are essentially nonexistent and stay-cations are difficult because everyone still knows where we live and because it isn't a part of this culture, our local friends don't know how to categorize that or respect it - even though I know they try. For us, flying is too expensive and due to security issues, you really can't drive much of anywhere - so our only real option is to stay here. I'm finally okay with that reality until I hear friends back home complaining that their Caribbean was only 3 days instead of 7... or that their motor home was in the shop so they had to tent camp instead... or my mom starts fussing about how she and particularly my dad never get any escape from the weight of his job - as they are driving through the western states photographing the sites together...

    and ...well, I'm sure you know what I mean!

    The problem isn't so much that I resent or begrudge what they are able to do; rather, it's thatI just become very discontent and angry with my situation, frustrated with the Lord, unhappy in this ministry and lose sight of the incredible privilege I have to serve and minister this way in this place.

    To help "combat" that very nasty and very strong and very prevalent tendency in my life, I started doing a weekly gratitude list where I intentionally count those blessings and ask God to show me His perspective on the things that happen here. So... for the most part, I never wallow in that sort of self-pity and anger for more than a few days and turning to gratitude to help me fall towards the Lord is, after several years now, finally starting to become a habit - most of the time.

    1. The gratitude list is a great idea! I've become very aware of how my attitude affects the whole family, so a public list--or at least my list in a public place--might be in order. Thanks for sharing! (And I totally get the vacation thing....)

  2. Hi Christie! Great to have you writing!

    Yes, this is a tendency. It's easy to begin to look down our noses at people's "first world problems" but you brought out some great points. Not everyone is called to the same thing but that doesn't invalidate everyone else's ministry. But still, I fight when a volunteer team suggests using funds to put air conditioning in the volunteer dorm room (with no clue about electricity costs), and I have to politely explain that we used those funds to help a single mom and her kids. The key is remembering that we don't have it all together either, and be patient with people wherever they are coming from.

    1. "remembering that we don't have it all together either..." So true, Danielle. Great reminder. :) Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thanks for your post, Christie. It can be challenging when you go home to people who lead such different lives!!! I can become judgmental too. I like your three points.

    For me the key is to TRY to keep a humble attitude and recognize that I don't necessarily understand the world better than the folks back home. My part of the world that I understand is small; it just happens to be over here on the Aegean in Western Turkey. I've seen different things, but they can probably teach me some things too.

    When I went home for a whole year three years ago, it helped because then I could see the situations people face at home and also I met wonderful people who had great ministries Stateside, They loved and served God as much as I do.

    1. I think you're on to something! The distance gives a sort of detachment, to the point that sometimes I can't even remember what life was like "back home." And we've only been stateside once in four years, for two months. That wasn't really time to get over my own re-entry shock and settle back into understanding that other world again. Something to keep in mind! Maybe I should pull out pictures of my pre-field days when the gremlin pops up.... Reminds me of the famous "walk a mile in his shoes" proverb.