By Joanne Johnson
My palms were sweaty as we sat together in the book-lined room. The 1970s wood-paneled office included the requisite massive desk, but the shag carpet evoked the strumming of “Jesus chords” and “Kumbaya, My Lord” and softened the lighting. We were here and my pastor was finally going to tell my fiancé that it was time: it was time he threw off all other plans because Jesus had called me to missions and Jesus had called me to him, so therefore … did I need to spell it out?
The thing is, that isn’t what our pastor with his bicoastal experience and 35+ years of premarital wisdom said …
He looked me square in the eye and said, “You know, Joanne, if God isn’t calling Evan to be a missionary, you will have to give that dream up.” Devastation does not come close to how my heart felt. How could this be? I had wanted to be a missionary ever since my mother had played the song “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa” back in 1980-something. How could this be, when God needs good missionaries? How could this be when I had already done foreign missions work and was ready, set, going … now that I had an almost husband?
The truth is, I had to step back and take a good look at my own faith and my reasons for wanting to be a missionary. It was sexy to run off to a foreign place and learn a romance language. It was sexy to be the martyr, missing my mommy and her Oldsmobile station wagon. It seemed sexy to be a little cocky because I could do it and others couldn’t handle it. What was not sexy was pulling into the same parking lot and loving the same kind of people in the same hometown I had always known. What was not sexy was knowing that I was not going to be the grass-skirt, bug-eating, cold-shower taking mud hut missionary I had always known I was brave enough to be! It was not sexy to stomp my feet, like my two-year old so easily mimics. (She must have learned it from her father.)
Here I was, sitting in a new reality. What was God calling me to do?
Well, after eight years of marriage and 15 years of teaching (11 in my hometown) and 3 children, here is what I have learned God is calling me to do as a recovering middle schooler stuck in a 30+ year old’s body:
1) I am called to love EVERYONE I meet, even in our country.
2) I am not always going to want to love everyone I meet.
3) My husband is one of the people I am called to love, even when he is grumpy, bumpy, a slug, or the handsome stud I married. (Vacuuming and folding laundry are very, VERY sexy. We are talking sexy, mud-floor, foreign land sexy!)
4) I am called to be Superwoman because only she can be as patient as I need to be with my children at times, but even Superwoman needs a wine/coffee relief service. That’s okay!
5) I am not going to be a missionary in a foreign country, but as I pull out of my church parking lot, I am driving into the mission field.
6) God has placed us in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and our family is going to use what He’s given us to support the heck out of missionaries! (This is a scary calling if you ask me and I once ate cow tongue tacos from a cart on the side of a Mexican roadway.)
We may not always like it when God says that He has other (unexpected!) plans for our lives, but changing our plans to flex with His plans will work when we are willing to be molded into God’s image.
Joanne Mai Johnson is a wife, mother of three beautiful little girls and a middle school teacher. She is also a consultant with Arbonne International. She has had the privilege to travel around the world a bit and teach in Central America. When she isn’t praying, singing (to Jesus, only – He is forgiving!) or loving everyone she meets, she likes long walks on the beach, wine, ice cream, looking at pictures of puppies and running … and by running she means the idea of running. Nutrition and hot yoga are passions of hers because she now knows what it feels like to be a cat. She loves writing, teaching, wit and humor. When she grows up she wants to be a motivational speaker or to learn to ride a horse. (The horse thing is a long shot though since while riding her snowboard she broke both her arms. As we all know, snowboards and horses are pretty much the same thing.)