I was just trying to practice my language. Try out this new Indonesian word I’d learned. The word for talisman. Or charm. Or in simple English, some physical object believed to have special powers.
I asked the sister of my friend who I’d known for years if she’d ever had one. She showed me hers—a string of rocks that she wore around her waist. She told me her mother gave them to her.
Her mother, the witch doctor. The powerful witch doctor who spends her nights dispensing her powers to whoever needs them.
Her mother, in whose home I’d brought my kids to play. Her mother who always has a smile for me, and a hot meal for me, and an afternoon free to chat.
Her mother, who, when she gets angry, has enough strength to throw motorcycles. And who people believe has special magical powers to bless and curse. To heal and make sick. The woman who says a spirit came to her as a child and convinced her to let him control her so she could have power.
And when my friend told me this piece of news that was truly new to me, I felt sick. With fear.
I’m a westerner who believes in science. God, too, of course. But not magic. Not witchdoctors, Not curses and fortune telling and spells.
And I found myself among people who believe in very dark things. And even if I am not convinced about the power to curse, I certainly don’t like the motive behind it. That motive that wants to hurt others. That wants to control people. That wants the worse for someone else.
And it scared me.
I went home and didn’t return to my friend's house for days. Fear paralyzed me from doing what I'd previously enjoyed doing. And then Brad reminded me of what I believe.
That I have Someone bigger than curses and death and evil. That He protects and strengthens and gives life. And that He cares. For me. For my kids. For my friend who is the witch doctor.
As I mentioned last time, I’ve learned that we should not be driven to serve by guilt. And so that brings me to the second motive that should not be part of our ministry.
We should not be paralyzed from serving because of fear.
If I let myself think about my life on this small island, I could come up with a long list of fears. Cobras. Terrorism, Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Dengue fever. Airplane crashes. Motorcycle wrecks. My children being harmed.
I have other fears that may seem small and silly to others. The fear that my kids will live their lives confused about who they are and where they are from. The fear that I’ll miss out on so many more things in my stateside family’s lives.
And when it comes to serving, sometimes I fear rejection. Sometimes I fear that I’ll say the wrong thing, or not understand what someone is saying to me. Sometimes I fear that I’ll get it wrong. That I’ll mess up.
But when I let fear stop me, I miss out on the joy of serving, the joy of seeing things change, the joy of watching Him overcome evil. When I give into fear, I give up on trust.
Guilt can be overcome with grace. And fear can be overcome with courage. Both grace and courage can clear the way for God to do His thing in others and in our own hearts. But how do we get those abstract things into our real, messy lives?
Next time, I’ll begin to share the healthy motivations for service that can give us the grace and courage to serve.
photo credit, Au Kirk