Chapter 19 – You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

Hey Team.

I’m 35 chapters into the manuscript. About half way.


That word sounds so formal. Anyways, I missed my first deadline (1 of 3 freebies) last week with some neck and back issues, but hopefully back on the trail this week!

Thanks for following along. I’ll continue to post random chapters out of order, and thoughts on the process along the way.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with creating an overall arch for the book. At times it might feel like I’m smashing previous blog posts together in story form. And in some way that’s true. I’ll figure it out though. In the meantime, here’s another chapter draft in regards to seeking affirmation.


“Look at me. Aren’t I so great?! Have I not seen suffering in my own life and the of others? Have I not been in the poorest of the poor communities in India? Look at me. I know so much of what poverty really means.” I was pretty full of myself.

Jessica, Rachel, and I decide to take our cameras to the streets of Nairobi. Along the way I waxed eloquently that I’m not shocked by the poverty here. That I’ve seen worse. As if that’s some badge of honor. I even stop along the way to pray over a man with a tumor the size of a watermelon. No joke. It was huge.

Seeking affirmation does damages your intentions.

I have to ask myself. Did I lay hands on that mans tumor because I loved him and wanted to see it shrink and healed. Yeah. But did I also so Jessica & Rachel would see what a noble and selfless man Nathan Salley is. Yeah probably.

Many months later Rachel reflected with me on that day in Nairobi. “You came off as arrogant and hard to trust after that moment.” Yikes. Makes me sick to my stomach a little. I was a broken dude, leading in broken ways.

It got worse.


The World Race is pretty dang non-legalistic when it comes to alcohol and smoking. If there was an overarching rule it would be summed up in, “just don’t be an idiot with that stuff.” But also, no drinking or smoking at a ministry site, or at your contacts homes. For many Christian communities around the world it’s fairly taboo to drink or smoke. Their line of thinking, “if you’re a believer, why would you need or want to.” I get it.

But this is very much a cultural thing. In Ireland, if you don’t go to the pubs to engage people, your church probably sucks. In the majority of Africa, it’s a big no-no.

So here I am. The new squad leader. Wanting to be well liked by the team leaders and peers I’m with. And kinda wanting a buzz to take the edge off the pressure of leading. So I sneak purchasing alcohol at the local grocery store. Not very sneaky actually…the only Mzungu in a village town buying alcohol. Probably isn’t going to make my evangelism very effective. But who cares. I want to be liked by my peers.

Bad Choice # 1.

Buy alcohol in place we’ve been asked not to. Again, not legalism. The WR just seeks to honor their contacts as best as possible, and in Africa, that means coming under their authority, and taking a month or two not to drink.

Bad Choice #2.

I take it back to the contacts house. Tell a select few groups of people to meet me in the room – that I have a surprise for them. Proceed to lock the door, and pass the bottle around ‘til its finished.

Bad Choice #3.

Hide the secret.

My sin wasn’t alcohol. It was dishonor. Here I am, the new squad leader, asking other World Racers to submit to our WR authority back in the states, and to our contacts in country. And yet, I’m not willing to do the same.

Well…as you can imagine with most sin, it wants to come into the light. And for the second time on The Race, I thought I was getting sent home.

Two weeks later in Jinja, Uganda at O Squad debrief, it came out.

A friend of mine let the alumni squad leaders know about the Great Kenyan Drinking Missle Crisis. I’m not mad. I’m glad she did. But surely I’m done for. I’ve never seen Jacob and Jenny (our alumni squad leaders) so pissed and disappointed. Talks came up of needing to speak with staff back in the states to see if I was getting sent home.

I don’t want to go home.

I’d been praying for humility for a couple months now…just didn’t expect that meant being humbled. I was contrite. Scared. And regretted buying that dumb bottle of whiskey.

I apologized to my team.

The other teams in Kenya with me.

And my entire squad at debrief.

I wasn’t necessarily expecting grace. I wasn’t expecting my squad to say they still believe in me. I’m still their guy to lead this thing. They trust I have what it takes.

I cried.

What is thing Race thing anyways? Who are these strangers calling me to a higher best and becoming my family? That don’t just call out my shit but speak into my identity.

Michael Hindes, leader for The World Race at the time, met me for coffee back in the states many months later.

“Nathan, are you the kinda guy that needs affirmation? That seeks affirmation?”

“Umm, no, I don’t think so.” Actually, I knew that, just didn’t know how to respond.

“Do you think that is why you hang out with girls so much?”

“Wait, what?”

“Because they are quicker to give you the affirmation you are seeking.”

“Well no, its just there aren’t as many guys in Gainesville, Georgia to hang out with. AIM in kinda like a sorority in that mostly women work here. And besides, I’m kinda like Carl, we just have a lot of friends that are girls.”

“Yeah… but Carl is a player.”

“Ha! True.”

“What do you think that’s from, the affirmation thing?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like I have some hidden wound from childhood that makes me more inclined for people’s affirmation.”

“Well, maybe pray about it and ask God what it is then.”

“Yeah, I will. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.”

Even though affirmation was the root of my performance, neediness, and seeking peers approval – no one had ever called me out on that before. Even if I knew it somewhere deep inside me, I’d never named it before…at least not that bluntly.

It wasn’t a wound that created this in me. It was a drug. I was waiting around for more prophetic words to be spoken over me. I was waiting to hear “job well done”, and “you’re a leader” for the umpteenth time. I was waiting for someone to tell me my calling, instead of knowing my identity in Christ first, and living from that place of knowing.

You just don’t know, what you don’t know, until you know. You know? We all have our blind spots. Living in intentionally intrusive community with a culture of feedback draws things out.

This is the design of God among His people. He is raising up and forming identity in an unlikely group of Racers so its clear who deserves the glory.

See God doesn’t mind our brokenness, because in our brokenness I think He has more pieces to work with. That’s a comforting thought. I think there’s more grace for ourselves when we realize it’s a forming process. And this Race thing sure feels forming.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 19 – You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

  1. allielousch says:

    You had me in tears at, “seeking affirmations does damage your intentions…” And then full on sniffling at “You just don’t know, what you don’t know, until you know. You know? We all have our blind spots. Living in intentionally intrusive community with a culture of feedback draws things out.” Thanks so much, Mr. Salley.


  2. says:

    another good chapter. any room — if it moves you and is part of this story — to bring in the scripture that iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another/ just seemed to fit for me. and i liked other parts of your story where you weaved in scripture.

    keep going. good stuff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s