happiness is...

happiness is...
kenya 2010

Saturday, December 17, 2011

am i the "right" kind of christian?

i have been exploring the possibility of joining a faith based "sending agency" to help me fulfill my calling to cross-cultural missions. the application process has been really detailed and intense. i am glad that they are selective about who they "send" to share god's love and his word, don't get me wrong. there has to be a process to weed out the scary people, the unbalanced people, the spiritually mis-guided... but during the course of answering countless questions, filling out numerous questionnaires, doing hour long phone interviews, i started to wonder if maybe those "other" people were really ME!

i have never been so insecure in my life. well, that is probably not true- but while i'm in the midst of this, i certainly can't remember a time that i felt more insecure. i have been insecure about situations, but this is more of a spiritual angst...an insecurity about who i am as a person, and if i'm "good enough" for the task at hand. even as i write that, it doesn't feel quite right- not quite what i am afraid of... i think what i am really afraid of is whether or not "THEY" will think i'm good enough. will they believe i'm the "right kind of christian" to join their team? can i prove to them i'm worthy?

after the preliminaries, they sent me a packet of stuff. in it was something called a biblical beliefs questionnaire. i found myself calling my pastor and asking to speak with him about some of the questions. i said to him, "i need to know what i believe. can you tell me?" it sounds funny, but i haven't ever taken a list of topics and really hashed out how and what i believe about them. i didn't become a christian until i was 30- so my religious education has been zip except for church sermons on sunday, and a wonderful bible study once a week with good friends. we mainly talk about cultural and historical context,  philosophy and how scriptures make us feel, and ways they apply to our lives in the here and now- not the nuts and bolts of the bible and what is literal, what is symbolic, what we believe to be true about certain events, and more importantly how to articulate that to others. most of my religious background has been of the heart. it has been god planting himself in the center of my heart and trying to plant himself in the center of my life. it has everything to do with spirit and little to do with "knowledge". it's not that i'm not knowledgeable about scripture and the bible. i actually am- but i sure haven't ever had to articulate it to someone that would then analyze my answers and decide if they are "right" enough to represent this organization to the rest of the world.

yesterday was an hour long phone interview, which was recorded and will be transcribed and put in my file. i was asked 16 questions, ranging from which fruit of the spirit i embody, to who my favorite missionary is and why... with no feedback from the other end. no sense of if my answer was right or wrong. no leading so that i could tweak mid-stream if i was on the wrong track. just a silence to allow me to collect and express my thoughts. i never realized how much guidance i take from the feedback of others in a conversation until i was faced with none. so again...i was left to wonder, was i good enough? did i make sense? did i "pass"?

after that interview, i reviewed what is still to come in this process. there will be a physical exam, a review of my life history that covers everything from my sexual experiences to my childhood and relationship with my family, a 90 minute biblical beliefs phone interview, a 2 day in person consultation, (if i get this far) a week-long orientation, and more. i sat overwhelmed by the struggle between wanting to tell the complete truth and be accepted for who i am, and the desire to tell them what i think they want to hear so that i'll be accepted, period. i realized that my life will never withstand the scrutiny of others if i want to prove myself "worthy"....

...ahhhhhh...and then it hit me. i am not worthy. i am not perfect. i don't have to be. jesus redeemed me and my imperfections, and his grace is what makes me good enough. the point is not to be perfect. in fact, the point is to admit that i am NOT perfect and to ask for god's forgiveness and his guidance in the face of my imperfections. this process has been terrifying, but really good for me. it has helped me examine what i believe, and also examine those things that others might not approve of and start to examine them more closely to see if i really approve of them, or not. maybe there are some things that i am doing, or thinking, that need to be changed. maybe i'll find that all my ways are blameless- but more likely i'll find that i've been kidding myself. either way, it's time to find out.
regardless of how this application process pans out, i will embrace the insecurity as a blessing, and a chance for self examination, and personal and spiritual growth.

i may need a therapist when it's all over! :0)

(Note: a very good friend just emailed about my post, upset that this organization would "judge" me and others. this is what i told her:
"i am actually glad that they are asking the questions they are asking. they want to know for sure that they know me and what i stand for before sending me out to represent them and represent christ in their name. they honestly haven't said anything judgemental- they are just asking what i believe and what i stand for. it is ME that judged me in the process.")


  1. God knows your heart. If he wants you to do something or go somewhere then he will open the doors necessary for you to get there. If this does not work out then he will have something else for you. Have faith.

  2. Karin I so admire your ability to articulate this frustrating process- wow!
    After going to the INMED conference (where I met you) I interviewed with a group to go to Africa. They later contacted me and asked me to explain my divorce, why it happened, what I did to reconcile, etc. It was as if I had to answer to THEM and as you said above "prove myself worthy". I was shocked, then angry, and explained to them basically that the only person I have to redeem myself to is God".
    Your words "I am NOT perfect, I am NOT worthy, and I DONT HAVE TO BE" is what Christianity is all about -and I love the way you profess that!
    Thanks for sharing and may God continue to lead you to shine His loving grace in the darkness.

  3. Karin I posted the above- didnt mean to be "Anonymous"- Julie O'Connor

  4. If you get through this whole process, it will exactly where God wants you, and if you do not, it will still be exactly where God wants you. This process will be part of what gets you ready for His next step in your life. I'll be prayin'!

  5. I'm glad you came to the realization that the judgment you felt was from within. However, that doesn't mean that what you experienced wasn't incredibly invasive and overbearing (and from my perspective, laughable.) I won't presume to know what they do with your information, but I will say that supplying personal history of the sort you mention is always dangerous. Asking comparative questions about your faith as it relates to the group's mission should be expected; asking about your sexual history is off-base and should be off-limits. Outside of "will you respect the positions of this organization while representing us?" nothing more needs be asked.

    Hopefully, what I just wrote will be seen as friendly advice to someone I care about. The form of your service to the Creator is and should always be your choice - otherwise, it's slavery not service. I support your journey and hope it leads to what you want and need. Blessed be. Rick Piper