We walked through the market in Togo, Africa. The mission team I was part of had just finished teaching a Bible study, giving us a few minutes before we’d need to return to the church.
My newfound friends — those who lived locally and now served as my tour guides — gleefully pointed out their favorite sights, not wanting me to miss a thing. As we conversed in French, I recounted a story from the Bible which caused them to burst out in laughter. I realized, instead of citing the passage that states “everyone is a sinner,” I mistakenly asserted that “everyone is a fisherman.” My new friends roared.
Just one day before this mistake occurred, the local pastor challenged me to go beyond utilizing the translators. Instead, he wanted me to speak to the women — and even teach them — in French.
I had already traveled beyond my physical borders. Now I was being asked to go beyond my comfort zone. I argued that, although I studied French in college and even earned a degree in it, I was not prepared to teach the Bible in this foreign-to-me language. But the pastor insisted I teach in French. So I taught . . . in French.
Then, something happened: I taught the women and it was remarkable! The Lord granted me knowledge beyond what was naturally obtained through my studies. I spoke words that I had no recollection of learning. I saw His power and faithfulness first-hand.
As amazing as this experience was, it made my mistake in the marketplace all the more difficult to swallow.
There I was, right in the aftermath of my mistake and my friends’ laughter. How should I respond? What should I say? Questions raced through my mind. I stood there feeling like an utter fool! I was so far outside my comfort zone. But, before I knew it, I found myself joining in on the laughter and in the middle of something remarkable. No longer were my friends and I separated by culture, continents, or language. Rather, we were united by laughter, joy, and deep friendship.
I am sure my brothers and sisters in Togo, Africa have long since forgotten about this humorous moment from over twenty years ago. Yet it has left an unforgettable impression upon my heart. It’s a continual reminder of the truth that I don’t need to fear failure or worry about falling short as I seek to serve God and others.
The Lord is more pleased with our obedience and willingness to serve Him than He is through any attempts of attaining so-called perfection.
As for my friends? It brings me joy to know that the mutual care we had for one another was not based upon speaking all the right words or accomplishing everything “just so.” In fact, how true the words spoken by Theodore Roosevelt have proven to be: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
It is a gift to please God and express genuine care for others in my service to Him rather than focusing on my performance and quest for perfection. What a gift of freedom these friends bestowed upon me! It took traveling around the world to learn that, oftentimes, the most powerful connection we can make with others is through our response to what we may get wrong and where we may fall short — not through their response to what we may know and what we get right. It is in these moments — when I’m not concerned about how I look or what others think of me — that my care for them is most felt.
I need not fear stepping beyond my abilities or comfort zone or even my borders. For beyond that next step is a person whom I have the opportunity to bless and encourage. If it doesn’t go as planned or if I fail to meet my expectations, I can still show love and care to someone — someone who God loves and cares deeply for. For this, it will always be well worth taking that step. Even when it looks like mistakenly declaring that we are all fishermen.
In fact, Jesus declared that His disciples were all to be a special kind of fishermen. He said to Simon Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, ESV). This charge to be fishers of men continues to this day, and it is for you and for me.
Perhaps that mistake in the market, that moment when I felt like the laughingstock and unsure of what I was doing, taught me just what I needed to learn in order to truly be a “fisher of men”: first and foremost, to please God and love others. And, secondly, to remember to laugh at myself when necessary.Leave a Comment