This journey has not been what I expected. Even though we spend pieces of training debunking the stereotypes of missionaries and their work, my ego clung tight to the hope of transforming into some sort of Jesus-following superhero.
Expectations are very limited. Expectations keep us from dreaming grand dreams or living into grander realities. I’m coming upon the end of my mission service, and I am not a superhero of any sort. And thank God, really. What pressure that must be. It hasn’t kept me from discovering the identities I do embody, though.
When I think about who I was and my societal labels at the beginning of this journey, I don’t recognize that girl. I use the word “girl” very intentionally. To me, a girl lacks maturity, both internally and demonstrably. A girl views the world through the lens of her own ego. So while it seems bizarre that it’s taken me (almost) 29 years, the first identity I have come to claim through this experience is “woman”.
Another significant identity I’ve embraced is “worthy”. Every morning I wake up and use a fine line Sharpie to ink an imperfect circle on the back of my right hand below my thumb. The context of the circle is unimportant, but serves as a constant personal reminder of my mantra: “I am worthy of love”. I have come to deeply love who I am, even if some who claim to love me have given me the metaphorical boot from the family because I refuse to deny my self-worth. (I’m a little bitter about this. I’m working on it.)
I’ve claimed other identities, too. Bisexual. Flamboyant liberal. Feminist. Educator. Urbanite. Protest-goer. Ally. All new. All authentic. Notice the absence of superhero.
My point is that transformation is only possible when we free ourselves from the imprisonment of expectation. The one identity I anticipated living into is the one I’m furthest from. And those I claim were the most unpredictable.
I hope to continue through life without expectations. I would much rather be surprised by the endless possibilities of grand dreams and grander realities.
General Board of Church and Society
Global Mission Fellow US-2, Class of 2015-2017