A few days ago, we took a Skype call in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn't the wee hour in California, where they were making the call, but here, we were pretty zonked waiting for 2 AM to roll around. Needless to say, it was really late by the time we went to bed.
An early morning visitor at the gate seemed to come just a few minutes after I'd closed my eyes. I'd normally ignore it, thinking it was just a door-to-door salesman, but their persistence made me think it was an emergency.
I grabbed my robe and unlocked the front door, hair all crazy, eyes puffy, all the while freaking out that I'd been "caught" sleeping in. Women rise before the sun here, and I could already imagine the thoughts in their minds before I even opened the door. "Lazy foreigner. Does she just sleep all day?"
It turned out to be a couple of government agency gals sent out to poison any standing water in our community because of a dengue outbreak. They wanted to inspect the inside of my house and our back yard. WHAT?!?! For real?
I almost had a panic attack at the thought of not being able to prepare before letting them inside. Paraguayan women have a very high standard when it comes to floors. If they live in a home with a concrete or tiled floor, it WILL be mopped and shined at least once a day. If their living area is a dirt floor or simply the yard, then they will have swept that yard so clean that no grass grows and the dirt is packed tight like concrete.
As these girls were looking around our home, taking notes on that official clipboard then tilting it slightly so I couldn't read it, I was just sure it said, "No standing water. Adequate drainage. Dirty floor. Unkempt yard. Lazy. Sleeps too late."
Truth is, I've never had to live off the land, so I don't rise when the sun does, nor do I sleep when it goes down. In fact, my body rebels against this heat so badly that I reserve most of my manual labor until the sun is long gone. And homeschooling two high schoolers doesn't leave much time for daily floor scrubbing, which, considering our dog, would have to be done several times a day to keep a Paraguayan-style shine. Nor do I have much skill in whipping up a totally-from-scratch meal several times per day.
So I can either let this drive me crazy, exhaust me from trying to "do it all," or go for option 3. I'll take door #3, Monty. I laugh about the areas I don't measure up and let them poke fun at what they consider my laziness. I ask for their advice on recipes and housecleaning. I let them see my embarrassment as I humbly reveal my inadequacies. I defer to them and choose to be teachable, so that they understand we are on level ground.
And do you know what I've found? That these shy, closed people who see themselves as inferior to neighboring countries, who have had not-so-positive experiences with foreigners in the past, view me as a peer rather than an authority. Someone they can let in to their circle. Someone who needs help and isn't afraid to admit it. Someone who came to teach and to learn.
They let down their guard, that protective stance that expects me to tell them that what they're doing is all wrong. And the door opens to friendships that give access to more important things than cooking and cleaning and what time I wake up.
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 1 Cor 12:9bDo you ever struggle with living up to the expectations of your neighbors? Folks "back home"? Other missionaries? How could God use your weaknesses for His glory?