Neurosis and their missionaries.

Once, my friends little girl and I were playing, having a tea party or I don’t know what, and she noticed a ring that I was wearing which prompted her to give my hand a thorough examination. Of course she immediately keyed in on my thumb which looked a little bit like it had been grated with a cheese grater and then scalded in a pot of boiling water and then chewed by a baby panda. She gently pulled it very close to her face, utterly fascinated by the ragged red flesh. “Do you have a ow-y?”, she asked in her little cartoon voice and genuine three-year-old concern. “Oh. No sweetie, I don’t have an ow-y. I have a ‘neurosis’.”

“Oookay – Tea parties over!”, called my friend, who had been listening to our interaction from the kitchen. She came in, shaking her head and looking at me like ‘Who says that to a preschooler?’. After her daughter was out of ear-shot, I used the classic and irrefutable Christian defense of “What! Did you want me to lie to her?”. “Um, Yes.” was her response.

“Ok. Alright. Next time I’ll lie to her. And then she’ll ask me how I got a ow-y, and then I will be forced to, either, further lying to her by making up some wild story about how both of my thumbs got run over by regional transit light rail while I was trying to save a drunken bum’s pokey little puppy from being squished by a train as it searched for scraps of food between the tracks, OR, tell her the truth. Which. Is that I compulsively pick at the flesh around both of my thumbnails until they appear to have been in a bar fight with a meat grinder.”

She said I should stick with the first story. And that I should adopt that story, and use it whenever anyone looks at me crooked because of “those nasty thumbs”. That’s what she called them.

Whatever. She has junk, too. I happen to know that she absolutely refuses to drink out of a restaurant glass with her bare lips, like, without a straw, because it creeps her out to think that a stranger may have put their lips on that same spot, AND, that she has only worn one color of underwear for the past 6 years, one color – and its kind of an ugly color. So she can act like I’m a total freak, but I say we all have some little bit of jankyness that we carry around with us. Everybody has “issues”. Ok, I have lots of them. But I prefer the term “Neurosis” because it sounds so serious and technical, and it makes people nervous. According to Wiki though, neurosis isn’t really a word anybody uses anymore. So that’s kind of a bummer. Oh, but get this, this is what it says under “Effects and Symptoms”:

“…anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.”

So I’m thinking about pasting that definition into the “About Me” section on my profile.

No, but for real, I’m gross. I know this. But I cannot help that even the slightest feeling of dry skin or the tiniest little bump on or around my finger tips makes me go berserk. It’s almost subconscious, the constant picking, and plucking and biting at nails. Trust me. If I could have lovely hands, not scary hands, hands that evoked femininity and grace, I would choose those hands! My husband, El Chupacabra, has actually said, in reference to my tender digits, “Get away from me with those bloody stumps!” That’s not cool.

But my point here, is that we all do something that kinda sets us apart – whether any one notices, or not, we all have little mannerisms or thought processes that creep into our daily lives. I do love to watch people when they are listening intently to someone, or when they are concentrating really hard on something, or when they’re bored but confined, like in a classroom or at a conference, or… church. That’s when you really get to see a persons natural bent toward life in general, their “neurosis”, and it is fascinating.

In language school, there was a huge concentration of people (already semi-freaks just by the fact that they were missionaries) subjected to both the pressures of a classroom environment and the transition into a foreign culture. And it was like the perfect storm for compulsive behaviors. A colorful display of habits, and twitches, mixed in with a few major personality disorders. It was awesome, here are some of my favorites:

There was the “finger sniffer”. A guy who cut his finger and got some kinda rotten infection, and then spent the rest of the semester holding it under his nose, until one day I was like, “Dude, are you smelling that thing?”. Then he mostly stopped doing that. And I want to say, he was a seriously nice guy, an all around good guy. Except for the finger sniffing thing.

The “googly eyed chick” was some girl, or woman I guess – a mom with like 5 kids or something – who would put the top half of her hair up in – not kidding- two Princess Leia buns, right over her ears, and she left the bottom half just..down… It was, I don’t know what it was… But after you got over her hair, you were pretty much like, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” cause of the googly thing she did with them that I attribute to some kind of stress induced tick.

And then there was the “butterfly eater”. (Now, I understand that this goes way beyond the realm of, like, “Haha, yeah, we all have little weird stuff that we do, hahaha. I get that.”) So I was sitting outside at a table with this guy once, and a butterfly came and landed on it. And – I could not even make this up! – this guy leans in real close, opens his mouth wide, and slurps up that butterfly! THEN, he sits back in his chair, opens his mouth real big, and the butterfly flies off the tip of his tongue. Just flies away. So I’m like stunned. Right? Horrified into silence. And the guy says, “Yeah, I’ve been conducting an experiment to see whether things will go in your mouth easier than they’ll go in your hand. You’d be amazed at what will run away if you try to catch it with your hand, but that same creature will go straight into your mouth if you get close enough.” Like a week later, I saw him chasing a gecko around the trunk of a palm tree with his face, mouth gaping open, hands folded behind his back. For. Real.

Those are just a few examples of many. So many. At first I was all freaked out that all of these weirdos were gonna scatter to the ends of the Earth proclaiming the gospel for Jesus. El chupacabra and I had many a conversation regarding the sad state of missions in the world and the scary kinds of people that were being sent by the church. As if we were somehow different or… better….

Of course, all it took was a visual of my constantly irritated, always icky looking thumbs to see that we aren’t all that different, the finger sniffer, the eye googler, and me (I maintain, however, that I was, and am, all sorts of different from the butterfly eater!). We were all there for the same reason, and that was to obey the same God. To put Glory in the right place. To use our varying gifts, strange personalities, and yes, even our wacky neurosis to connect with people that only we can connect with because of our uniqueness. And then to use those connections to build friendships that would be significant and enduring.

In the end, it takes all types. Not one of us, alone, could bridge the gap between the world and the church. But I take great satisfaction in knowing that God can, and will, still use me in this great effort. Bad habits, offensive personality, and general lameness aside, I still get to be a tiny part of it all. Which is scary. And cool…



  1. Kddad85 on November 4, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Another classic, Jamie.

    I never noticed your thumbs before…now I'll be all kinds of freaked out going "do NOT check out her thumbs, do NOT check out her thunbs" just to see what I evidently missed. Will I handle it with Grace, or will I run, screaming, from the room?

  2. Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras on November 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Girl – I TOTALLY remember the butterfly eating incident! I was there! How crazy that I would have forgotten something like that – but now I do – of course I didn't know about the gecko follow-up. Crazy! I'll have to dwell to see what my "nerosis" is…

  3. Brian on November 5, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Jamie, you crack me up, i love your blog! Thanks for keeping things real. I can't wait to hang out with you guys in December!

  4. Anonymous on November 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Hey! I'm an I.T. missionary here in Queretaro Mexico, Phil Jones let me in on your blog, and it's just about the funniest thing EVER! You sum up missionary life in the most hilarious ways! Thanks! 🙂
    Jessica in Queretaro

  5. Kelly on November 9, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    What color underwear? Ha. Love your blog. I agree ~ God is so great…that He can and will use us all in our fallen goofy state…amazing! <3

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