One of the most difficult parts of this “missionary” life for me has been accepting all that I am missing out on. In my lowest moments, I think about missing my family, my close guy friends (it is so hard to make authentic peer-to-peer friendships here), my god-children, career development, saving for retirement, my familiar culture, and things like this. It’s taken a few years to come to terms with all that I need to give up in order to be authentic to God’s invitation for me to become more loving, which at this present moment keeps me in Ethiopia. Now, most days I feel at peace, which is a logical effect of voluntary sacrifice. But I have learned that the most important effect is an opening of me to others, a widening of my horizons away from myself to the needs of others. Thomas Merton’s writings, particularly from “No Man is an Island” have been a great inspiration:
“One who is content with what he has, and who accepts the fact that he inevitably misses very much in life, is far better off and more at peace than one who has or experiences much more but who worries about all he may be missing. For we cannot make the best of what we are, if our hearts are always divided between what we are and what we are not.
The relative perfection which we must attain in this life if we are to live as children of God is not the twenty-four-hours-a-day production of perfects acts of virtue, but a life from which practically all the obstacles to God’s love have been removed or overcome.
One of the chief obstacles to this perfection of selfless love is the selfish anxiety to get the most out of everything, to be a brilliant success in our own eyes and in the eyes of other people. We can only rid ourselves of this anxiety by being content to miss something in almost everything we do. We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, visit everywhere, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything go, we will probably be able to retain the one thing necessary for us – whatever it may be. If we are too eager for everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need.
This type of authentic happiness consists in finding out precisely what the “one thing necessary” may be in our lives and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”
Maggie, Mark and Emebet Banga, Comboni Lay Missionaries, Awassa, Ethiopia