The Profile of a Missionary

I have always struggled with wanting life to be perfectly scheduled, tasks lined up in neat little rows, each with its checkmark to the left. I turn my canned goods so that the labels face the same way; my clothes are divided by type, then subdivided by color. I like order, neatness, predictability. Everything needs to be just right. My husband marvels that I ended up a missionary to a third-world country; I definitely don’t fit the profile.

In college, my goal was to have a perfect 4.0 GPA. I spent long hours studying and managed to scrape by with all A’s each semester, with a few close calls in some of my tougher classes. I stayed up late and got up early, took copious notes, and labored over endless projects. And it was paying off…I had a perfect 4.0. I wanted to earn an award for academic excellence at graduation; to stand on the stage with the 5 or 6 graduates each year that managed to earn all A’s. I just knew I could do it…

Enter “Strings 101.” My junior year, I decided to take a “fun class” for one of my electives; I wanted to learn to play the violin. I was thrilled at the possibility of learning a new instrument and eagerly anticipated the class each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It would be a break from Shakespeare, Advanced Grammar and Composition, and Introduction to Spanish Literature. The only grades given in the class were for “playing exams.” We would play a piece for the instructor four separate times during the semester and she would grade our performance.

Well, the end of the semester arrived, grades were distributed, and I discovered to my horror that I had earned my first and only B in Strings 101. I talked with the instructor to be sure there was no mistake—she assured me that she had checked my average several times to be sure, because I had fallen short of the coveted A by 1/10 of a point. I could not believe it. I had aced World Drama, Latin American Literature, and Creative Writing only to earn a B for playing “Hot Cross Buns.” I was sick.

Looking back, I know the Lord was teaching me a hard lesson about humility and the futile pursuit of perfection. He knew what was coming down the road: a perfectionist living in a world of constant power outages, dirt roads, parasites, cow stomach soup, and muddy tap water. Something had to give.

I thank the Lord that He gave me peace about my grade, and I learned to enjoy my college experience for what it was. I focused on the joy of learning instead of my GPA, and was much happier for it.

Just a few months ago (almost 8 years after my infamous violin class), I got an unexpected letter in the mail.

You may remember me, perhaps by my maiden name _______. You were in my strings class. You were taking the violin, I remember. You came to meet with me after the semester to ask about your grade. Christine, you don’t realize how many times since then I have regretted not bumping up your grade...I spoke with one of the other teachers after our meeting and she shared that in a class like that, those taking it for personal enjoyment and benefit don’t need to be graded as hard as those who are taking it for their music major or minor….I know there is nothing I can do about it at this point. But I was so thankful to get your address so I could write you to explain and apologize and seek your forgiveness….

There was nothing to forgive…the Lord had used that instructor to teach me a valuable lesson about life. No, I don’t fit the “missionary profile.” I don’t have a small army of kids, I don’t always feel ready for adventure, and I still cringe a little if I have to bathe from a bucket or find a tarantula in my living room. But thank goodness the Lord doesn’t “profile.” He simply uses those of us who step up and volunteer.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. --I Thessalonians 5:24
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