by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry
For Part 1 in this series, click here
My Personal story of SUB-mission
Often, when a young woman asks me about my views about being a woman, what I think about submission to my husband, or today’s view of feminism . . .
I go and find a simple blue-and-white vase, and tell a little story:
The story of the blue-and-white vase
Jon and I were overseas on one of our first mission trips . . .
I was a young and adventurous twenty-two-year-old, recently graduated from college, pretty much still a newlywed, and a fairly new mommy (with a toddler in hand and baby number two on the way). Both Jon and I felt “full of faith,” and we were ready to do anything for God. We had been preaching throughout remote Filipino villages and sharing in Hong Kong churches services for several weeks.
On this particular morning we were preparing to smuggle Bibles (for the second time) into Communist China.
God blinded their eyes . . .
One week earlier, we had loaded our suitcases with Bibles and fearlessly transported God’s Word through the Chinese customs department. On that first attempt our blond-haired toddler totally distracted the security guards, and no one even checked out bags!
It was like we were living our very own missionary adventure; and just like the stories of Brother Andrew smuggling Bible behind the Iron Curtain, God was once again “blinding the eyes” of foreign officials.
Although we were directly disobeying a man-made law,
we were totally confident in our radical obedience to God’s higher law.
We knew that God was blessing our actions, and we were excited to deliver His Word to believers who so desperately needed it.
But this time, Jon felt I wasn’t supposed to go . . .
However, on the morning before our second Bible-smuggling mission, my husband woke up with a feeling of apprehension in his spirit. It wasn’t that Jon was fearful of what we planned to do; he just didn’t have a peace about me going. Although he didn’t know why, Jon simply felt I was not to participate in that day’s outreach. Instead, he felt I was supposed to stay back and pray.
But, to put it mildly, my strong-willed, goal-oriented nature didn’t quite agree with my husband’s simple idea.
“You have got to be kidding!” I protested. “Do you really think I’m going to just sit here in this little room all day while you’re off on our mission? I know you think I’m pushing myself too hard, but I am not tired, and just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go! I’m just fine, and I’m not going to miss out! You know, God didn’t tell just you to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel’; and I’m not going to sit here doing nothing! No matter what you say, I am going!”
I felt justified in my radical obedience . . .
Just like before, I felt justified in my radical obedience to God. Despite my seemingly defiant attitude, I felt totally submitted to God and His Word. (Wasn’t I?) And I was steadfastly determined to fulfill God’s mission.
I still had a lot to learn.
Later that morning, at our pre-delivery meeting place, I crammed my bags totally full of Bibles–completely assured that God would once again “blind the eyes” of anyone who would oppose us. Jon and I were assigned to cross the border at the same time as two other American pastors.
As we all advanced toward the border, we hooked our little little “blond-haired distraction device” into the baby-pack on Jon’s back.
As the five us us came to the customs area, the two pastors decided to go through first . . . and just as we had prayed, there was no problem. Next, Jon and our son went through their line . . . and once again, there was no problem. It was as if the bags were completely invisible.
So with total assurance, I stepped forward and approached the customs desk.
Yelling guards and flashing lights . . .
But suddenly, a guard grabbed by heavy bag and began to unzip it. He pointed to my stacks of Bible and began yelling in Chinese. A flashing red light began spinning above my aisle as more guards came toward me. Security guards halted Jon at the exit door, and then they ushered us into a stark room with brick walls and mean-looking officials.
I tried to hold my composure and appear brave, as an English-speaking guard was called in to interpret; but as they began to yell, my wall of confidence began to crumble.
Because of our citizenship (and current international relations), the officials merely threatened us and confiscated all of our Bibles.
Afterward, we were released to enter the country . . . with our empty bags.
At this point, we were scheduled to go to a secret underground meeting room, where our Bibles could be sorted and organized for distribution. But now, what were we supposed to do?
Together, Jon and I walked in silence for several blocks, as we tried to distance ourselves from the two pastors.
There was no need for an “I told you so.”
I felt so miserable, there was no need for an “I told you so.”
I realized that I had not just gone against my husband; I defied God and I rejected God’s authority and covering over my life. Because of my stubbornness, God’s protection had been removed. Instead of just doing something “little” (staying back and interceding for the group), I stubbornly pushed for my own big plan–hindering the entire mission and endangering our family.
We finally sat down, and I openly repented to Jon and the Lord. We decided to browse through an open market and eventually purchased a Chinese vase for our living room. For over twenty-four years, this vase has reminded me of how I felt that day and how deeply I want to follow God’s way rather than my own.
Please note . . .
An important disclaimer to this story:
I want to make it very clear that in no way do I think that any Christian who gets “caught” — or arrested, thrown in prison, treated poorly, or spoken evil of — for his or her radical obedience to God, is doing something wrong or is outside of God’s “covering.”
In referring to persecution, Jesus clearly told his followers,
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12).
Many early disciples, godly missionary heroes, and even precious brothers and sisters in Christ have been (and even now are being) persecuted for their true obedience to Christ. I believe it is important to keep today’s persecuted believers in the forefront of our thoughts and in our prayers.
This particular story is simply my own experience, and a specific lesson that God taught me. In this situation, I know that I was outside of God’s plan for my life. I had disobeyed, and this particular “storm” in my life happened because I had stepped outside of God’s will. I’m thankful for God’s grace and His forgiveness. And I’m even thankful for God allowing this experience.
I happen to be a very strong-willed and determined woman. These character traits can be good, but only if they are submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Especially because of the dangerous ministry and missions life that God has called us to, I am grateful for the Lord’s correction and instruction, even from early-on in our marriage. This situation was very foundational in helping me to learn “how” to follow my husband’s leadership and to live with a more submitted and surrendered to God’s direction. (And I’m still learning . . . )
“It is better to obey God rather than men.”
These two posts about living in SUB-mission to God are adapted from Ann’s book, The Mission-Minded Family.