Recently I had the joy of having some dental work done, my first crown. For the price I paid for that crown, it should have diamonds and rubies and sit on my head, not in my mouth! Anyway, upon leaving the office, the dentist instructed me to gargle with salt for the next 3 days to prevent any infection. When the time came to do my salt rinse, I decided not to take the salt shaker from the kitchen table since it would remain in the bathroom for three days. Instead, I grabbed a salt shaker from the cupboard which we use for picnics. I headed to the bathroom, poured some salt in a cup of warm water and began to rinse my mouth and gargle. I spit out the first mouthful with skepticism. I picked up the salt shaker and examined the label. Hmmm. . .let me try again. I took a second swig of my salt water and started to rinse my mouth. But again after a few seconds…nothing. I spit it out. I must not have added enough salt. That’s the problem. So I poured more salt in my cup and stirred really well. Finally I was ready for a good salt rinse. I sipped, swished, gargled, spit. Nothing. . .again. I checked the container a second time. It clearly said “salt” on the container. I poured some in my hand. It looked like salt and felt like salt. But it did not taste like salt. My salt had lost its saltiness!
I wracked my brain to think how long that salt container had been in the cupboard. Easily 10 years. This was our picnic salt shaker. We don’t use it very much, so we don’t need to replace it often. And the container is so cute and colorful, why would we replace it? Plus it is a one-time-use container that you can’t refill. When was the last time we went on a picnic? I tried to recall. It had been a long time. I couldn’t believe it. . .salt actually can lose its saltiness. I had heard that but I had never experienced it.
My Savior had warned me of it but I just never really thought it happened in this day and age. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” — Matthew 5:13
Ladies- how salty are you? Do you only come out at picnics? When was the last time you were at a picnic? Have you been needed for a “healing emergency” but were unable to provide your saltiness? Has anyone commented on your saltiness of late? Do you season the conversations you engage in?
I think what happens to many of us women on the mission field is that slowly, over time, without expecting it, we lose our saltiness. We lose our freshness. We aren’t doing anything wrong, we are just doing what we need to do day to day, but gradually the saltiness slips away. Then when needs come our way, we realize that we are not as prepared or as effective as we could be to minister and to give of ourselves.
Many women on the field, grappling with their endless tasks and responsibilities, are just trying to survive and manage each day with joy and grace. We are not thinking freshness, newness, or being cutting-edge in anyway. We are simply grateful to conquer the daily to-do list, produce a hot meal at the end of the day, meet our children’s needs, encourage and partner with our spouse or housemates, and hopefully serve a neighbor or a national in some way. Who has time for fresh and new when there is sheer survival at stake? The impoverished family struggling to feed their children’s empty bellies is not thinking whether the bread is bakery fresh or if it is one week old, they are just glad to have bread! Like many other women on the mission field, we are just glad to have something to offer our kids, spouse, housemates, teammates, and nationals.
Don’t let the saltiness of your spirit and the freshness of your faith slowly slip away.
It does not seem all that dangerous initially, but as the Word of God says, once salt loses its saltiness, it has lost its purpose, and it is good for nothing. What an awful thing to think or say about our lives. We have sacrificed so much to get to the mission field and then focused our lives and families on God’s great purposes. Yet without noticing, we can slip into being good for nothing.
I want to suggest a few practical ways to keep us salty and fresh when living day to day on the mission field.
- Read a different version of the Bible for your devotions or Word study. Familiar Scripture can come alive in a fresh translation.
- Memorize one verse from a book of the Bible you have never memorized a verse from.
- Write a modern day parable. Follow the example of one of Jesus’ parables but use a modern day context or application.
- Pick a scripture truth and come up with a modern day analogy, like my dental rinse and salt shaker.
- Pick one theological truth or doctrine that you cannot explain very confidently and meditate on it for a couple weeks. Then summarize it in 3 points.
- Likewise take one apologetic question (defense of the faith issue) which you struggle to answer, and highlight the 3 central responses to the issue.
- Write a Psalm to the Lord that describes where you are right now: spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.
- Write a short poem every day for one week to the Lord. Write from the heart, unpolished and spontaneous. Set it aside and then return to it after a week and reshape or edit. Share poems with teammates or friends. I especially encourage a Psalm and poem for those who feel they are NOT creative. Again our goal is to stretch and freshen up.
- Do a word study through scripture on an attribute of God that is especially meaningful for you or the opposite, an attribute that you do not understand very well. (holiness, justice, generosity, mercy, omnipresence, loyalty).
- Review church history; learn the names of some of the early church fathers that have shaped our theology and church life today. (Ignatius, Polycarp, Constantine, Augustine). I did this on the field, and it is so inspiring to realize we follow this cloud of witnesses who have prepared our path.
- Likewise, review the history of missionaries across the globe that have also gone before us. Learn their names, countries, and dates.
- Pick a spiritual gift that you feel inadequate or simply curious about. Take some time to read verses about this gifting. Observe how others around you are using this gifting, and then try to practice this spiritual gift in a simple way. A few examples would be: teaching, administration, prayer, mercy, or evangelism.
The best guarantee for saltiness is to be sure to share your new discovery or experience with another person. Our scripture verse about saltiness in Matthew 5:16 is in the context of the beatitudes and in being a light on the hill. Jesus is teaching us about how we are to live and respond in this world. Living salty lives is in relationship with others. So share your fresh start with your family.
Nairy Ohanian has written this article to share with Peter’s Wife. She last wrote for us in 2009, Must Singles be Lonely. We look forward to hearing more from her in the months ahead. Nairy has been involved in cross cultural service for the last 23 years. For 18 years she served university students & pioneered student works in Armenia and Turkey. Currently she serves as a cross cultural pastoral counselor with Barnabas International.