I admit that lately, I’ve felt so lost. Before I began school this semester, things were so simple. I was home with my kids, Jeremy was working full-time. Things were as they “should” be. I was fully convinced (without even realizing it) that my place was only at home with my small children and supporting my husband in his current work pursuits. Apparently, God had a different design for our family. I had no idea how much God would expose and challenge my views.
At the same time that I went back to college (after a 10+ year absence), my husband’s work contract ended very unexpectedly. We have been through a number of lay-offs since we prayed to accept God’s call on our family into ministry. Let me take a moment and explain that…
I used to think that being “called” into ministry/missions/whatever, meant that the moment I prayed and said “Ok God, I’ll go”, all of God’s wisdom and love was immediately downloaded into me. Then, all I needed to do was find some money, run to the airport, and travel around sharing the Gospel. Um, yeah, no. I am sure that was the case with someone, somewhere. Not us. Not me. The day we “accepted the call”, Jeremy was laid off. We were babies in faith and had no idea what to do. We tried worshipping to stir up our “faith-strength”. We prayed and argued and prayed and argued. We moved to Maine and flailed around for a while there. Then, we went to Kona thinking “This is it! We are going to be missionaries!!”. Only to have all of our brokenness come to life in Dolby Surround Sound, 3D and Technicolor! Seriously, ask anyone from our DTS. We came back and dug into all of that dark green, slimy muck of sin and shame. Glory be to God! He honored His promise to make us new and made us white as snow through the blood of Christ. All of this to illustrate, that it has been a real journey for me. The pathways in my brain had to be completely re-routed and healed. My understanding of love and relationships had to be completely redefined. I was undone and He is still in the process of wrapping me up.
So, when Jeremy lost this most recent job, he made the decision not to go back to software engineering in order to pursue God’s calling. The funny thing is, we don’t even really know exactly what that is so, he is working on finding out what God is exactly calling him to do, in particular. It is SO WEIRD. I had no idea how many “things” I put between me and God until the last few months. I spent years wading through some severe damage that was choking the life out of me, that is not what I am referring to. I am talking about the issues that I believe most of us “churched” people struggle with and here are a few:
1. Women pursuing calling outside of the home – I have read the book “Why Not Women?” and combed through all of the thoughtful Facebook posts from friends who support gender equality in church leadership (you know who you are and thank you). I am a supporter of women in leadership and when I see a woman being ordained my heart leaps inside my chest! However, in the process of praying over God’s calling on my husband’s life, I have found myself daydreaming about my own calling. I have heard numerous times that my calling is to be with my children and raise them. My calling is to support my husband in his calling. I couldn’t agree more with both of those statements. I have struggled however, with the feeling that people view me “chasing after” anything other than those two callings as an abandonment of them. I don’t see anyone questioning my husband’s husband-ness or fathering-hood because he is pursuing God’s ministry calling on his life. That having been said, I have struggled through this semester in school. Walking through the emotional quicksand of guilt that I am not tending to the only calling that “should” matter in my life: my children and husband. I am learning to let God decide the timing and have my ear tuned to His Voice at all times. Through His wisdom, I am able to have enough to for all He has asked me to do. This isn’t the common mistake of “I can have it all”. This is the surrender of “Father, You can have it all”.
2. I look different so let me find I place where I fit – Over the past few months, Jeremy and I have toyed with the idea of him being ordained or going back to college. Does he go through a program with our denomination? A master’s degree program at a university? As we ask God these questions, I have had a few questions about myself. First of all, let me be clear, the idea of Jeremy being ordained and pastoring makes me giggle. It isn’t that I don’t think Jeremy would do a good job but, think about it: “Pastor Jeremy” … Giggle. If you knew us, it would make sense. In the process of praying over the idea of possibly pastoring for a season, I have had to face my own insecurities. I don’t look like a pastor’s wife. One side of my short haircut is actually shaved, I have a nose ring and then there are the tattoos. Even without considering the idea of ministry pursuits, I stand out. Certainly, I would fit in much better at one of those new-fangled, non-denominational, hipster, satellite churches! (I have explained this to God). Not only are we members of a more traditional church, my darling husband has us sit in the very front pew on Sunday mornings! AWKWARD! We are so fortunate that we are super loved and accepted there, hand-tattoos and all! The Lord has pressed on my heart that He wants us to push against the norms of our little church society. That is what Jesus did. He was a deviant within the Jewish culture and through Him, the whole world was changed!
3. I want to be holy – *this is where I squirm in my seat and hope I don’t mess this up*. I assumed, most of my life, that church-people want to be holy. I grew up going to church every week and I got the whole need-to-believe-in-Jesus-to-get-into-heaven thing. It wasn’t until I was twenty years old that I realized I didn’t KNOW Jesus at all. Period. I knew He died for me and that was about it. I had no real understanding of what His death meant; that He lived a perfect and holy life in order to give us something perfect up on the cross. After making the decision to submit myself to the authority of God, it took another 5+ years before seeking out holy living. There are so many things I can say about this but I will try to keep it focused. Let me say, I am not yet perfected (ask my husband) and simply speaking my heart here. I began reading my Bible daily, not out of religion but because I really wanted to get to the bottom of this whole “Christianity thing”. Could there actually be this great book that offered up the answers to the greatest questions in life? Is it possible that God Himself put His wisdom into words for us and if so, why aren’t we all just sitting around reading it, talking about it and doing what it says ALL OF THE TIME? I know we have that issue of our flesh, aka. sin, to get out of the way. Think about it Dude, put down the Netflix and get some scripture in there to replace that sin! Imagine what can happen! Back to my point, I read my Bible daily but still struggled with lining up my life with the Word of Life. Then, there was this moment and I am not completely sure why God chose this moment to have such an impact on my walk. Our pastor was preaching one Sunday and it hit me. The devastation of conviction was so heavy, I could only compare it to having to learn that my husband and children were gone. The Lord spoke quietly to my heart, “The difference between you and Pastor is that He really believes my Word is the truth and you don’t”. Now understand, my whole salvation and eternal future was hinging on my believe that the Bible is actually true. Yet, the thought of my husband leaving his lucrative career made me clench in fear. What does the Bible say? Read Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus clearly tells his disciples to trust in the Father for provision in His basic instructions to them at the beginning of His ministry. I spent a lengthy time in prayer petitioning the Lord for a greater faith in His Word. As I have grown, greater challenges have come. Do I believe that God will use me even though I look different and have made so many mistakes? Am I willing to stand on 1 Corinthians 1:27? (“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”) In the church, why is there even a question about pornography when Jesus clearly explains the issue in Matthew 5:27-30? Why are we concerned when we step out in ministry and we are asked to do what we don’t want to do? Are we not called to die to ourselves (Philippians 1:21)? Are we not to be looking out for other’s interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4)? Surely, God didn’t mean ALL of the time. If I was ALWAYS looking out for my husband’s interests above my own, then I would never be heard and the ground would just swallow me up! (See how I struggle with this?) What about gossip? I’ve done it. I have been tired and frustrated and hurt. I just needed to vent. The first year of my marriage was almost hell on earth (ask anyone who knew us) and I “vented” about Jeremy to close friends. It damaged the heck out of our trust. But, I was pregnant and on bed-rest and he was NOT AT ALL good at being a husband. I deserved a place to share my feelings, right? Let’s see what God says:
Proverbs 16:28 ” A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.”
1 Timothy 3:11 “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.”
Titus 2:3 “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good.”
2 Corinthians. 12:20, 2 Timothy 3, also address the issue of gossip.
I could go on and on with the list of sins I have struggled with and still battle. My point is, if we are willing to hinge our eternal future on what the Bible says, why aren’t we willing to stand up for everything else in the Bible too? Maybe you are reading this and your life is plumb with the Bible. If so, I respect you and look up to you. I have to constantly ask myself, what riff-raff am I allowing into my life? Am I different from most? Am I a deviant like Jesus was? I realize that in a world of sin: to align my life with scripture = to be contrary to the world (and sometimes the “church”). For years I was like a child playing in my own filth. I would dump a ton of glitter on top of it and say “Look at what I made Daddy!”. It still stunk but I thought He wouldn’t notice.
The last few months have been intense. God is beginning to shape my view of His love and how to freely give that love to everyone. It is pretty simple really. My womanhood, my tattoos, my special weirdness don’t really matter. God doesn’t want red tape on His love. He clearly defines how to best love people through His Word and if we can just do what He tells us to do, could you imagine? So, over the next few months, I just might get weirder but it is worth it for Him. In the end, my reputation can just die with the rest of my flesh.