Portland: The Streetcar and the Martyr

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I’ll admit it. Sometimes I think I’m super-cool because I’m on a summer-long mission trip. As student missionaries, we have the ability to do what other people can’t because of the season of life we’re in. We don’t have people depending on us, and we don’t have full- time jobs or major bills. We have the ability to give up our summer for the sake of advancing the gospel in a different city.

ashley mims106Ashley MimsThat’s not to say there aren’t challenges or that we haven’t made any sacrifices. I live with nine people. I’ve given up my personal space and miss the quiet peace of my own dorm room. I’m hours away from my family. What happens if I get sick or something happens to a family member?

My boyfriend is more than 2,000 miles and two time zones away. That situation has its own challenges and sacrifices. I’m making no money this summer. I have to take an online class while I’m here so I can graduate in December. I’m definitely enjoying Portland, but that’s not to say there haven’t been hard times or sacrifices.

The other day, I was waiting for the streetcar and encountered a visually impaired man. He wasn’t completely blind, but he had great trouble seeing. As we hopped on the streetcar, some high school-age girls offered their seats enthusiastically, jumping at the opportunity to do a good deed. The girls were so happy that they did something good for someone who needed it.

‘Don’t act like such a martyr!’

That’s when the visually impaired man barked, “Don’t act like such a martyr!” Then he grumbled about how it’s the rules of the bus: If you see someone older or disabled, you’re required to give them your seat. I was astounded that the man had griped at the girls when they had done something nice for him and offered up their seats.

But then I thought about it. The rules of the streetcar are plastered everywhere. If there is someone older or disabled, you are required to give up your seat for them.  It’s part of being a public transit rider. You’re not a saint if you give up your seat; you’re just an obedient rider. I’m sure this man encounters this everyday—people acting like they’re the best person in the world because they gave up their seat.

Then I got to thinking again: Sometimes we, as Christians, act like we’re martyrs. We’re not martyrs. We’re not “super Christians.” We’re not better than anyone because of what we’re doing. We don’t deserve any kind of medal or award. We’re just being obedient.

When you were a kid and your mom told you to clean your room, and you did, did you deserve a reward for doing what she said? No, it was the expectation. Why do we act like heroes when we do what God has commanded us to do? Loving the hard to love, feeding the poor and needy, teaching the gospel to others, forgiving those who have done us wrong, keeping up with and studying the word—these are just acts of simple obedience.

God calls us to make sacrifices

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be here, but I’m no martyr, even though I sometimes act like it. Hearing the man bark at the young girls taught me about obedience and humbled the part of me that thinks I’m cooler than I really am. God calls us to make sacrifices, and we act like heroes when we do it. May I become less so that God can become more.

Ashley Mims, a student a Midwestern State University, is serving in Portland, Oregon, with Go Now Missions.

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