God moved in my life early. The earliest daydream I remember having, I was four. I imagined myself on a stage in front of hundreds of people, singing “Jesus Loves Me.” I knew even then that God was preparing me to lead, to tell others of his love for them. As I grew, I became simultaneously more certain and more frightened of that call. You see, just as God moved early, so did the doubts. “You’re not good enough,” “You’re just a girl,” “Those opportunities are not for you.” And as I believed those lies, they became true.
But God’s relentless pursuit continued. “You’re mine,” “I will equip you,” “I have called you.” Me. A broken, confused, hot mess of a girl.
So I did what you do when you’re called to ministry. I went to school, started doing youth ministry with a team from college. I worked at a Christian Bookstore and read all the right books and had all the right conversations. But I was still so lost. I felt like I was pretending, playing the part I was supposed to play because that’s what you do. That’s when the panic attacks started. The world around began to spin and swirl and go dark. I didn’t know what they were at first, but it became clear that I couldn’t continue doing life the same way. I quit school and focused on work and ministry.
We were married at this point, and the kids came soon and often. I tried to do Saturday classes, but my heart wasn’t really there. One thing from those classes stuck with me, a story one of our instructors told, supposedly in support of women in ministry. He told it like this,
“I once had a young mother come to me and tell me she felt called to preach. I affirmed the call of God on her life and told her to go home and start preaching right away. She had nine children.”
He thought it was encouraging and amusing. I found it demeaning and discouraging. It made me feel guilty, especially when I was driving forty five minutes and spending the day away from my toddler and nursing baby to take his class. I didn’t keep up with the work.
The youth group and church I was helping with turned into a mess, and so did my job. Along the way, my husband and I faced issues in our marriage, a miscarriage, and finally we found ourselves facing job loss and foreclosure. As we contemplated homelessness, it turned out we were also expecting another baby.
(I bet you thought all my stories were going to be rainbows and unicorns, huh?)
I had wrestled with God through all of this, “I thought you had called me to ministry! I thought you said you would equip me! Every time I start doing what I think I’m supposed to do, something else comes crashing down on me. I can’t do this anymore God! I’m just not meant for this, I’m too screwed up.”
We packed up our car and moved in with my inlaws, hundreds of miles away from the church family we had come to love like blood and the beautiful hills of Tennesee where our boys had been born and we had learned where home was. And I was devastated. I cried every day for so long.
At some point, God brought me back to the verse that I had so often quoted to our teens when they went through hard stuff in their lives;
2-4 Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.
James 1:2-4The Voice (VOICE)
Joy? God wanted me to find JOY in all of this?!
And then one day, I had an opportunity to pray with a friend as she found out she was losing a very early and much wanted pregnancy. As we began to make our home down here in Louisiana, I was asked to help with ministries in our new church. And God brought a new friend into my life that was walking a similar journey. I looked into my baby daughter’s face, the little girl that I felt had been missing from our family until she finally arrived. Slowly, I realized that the storms we had been weathering were what God was equipping me with. Every experience was another story of how God had worked for our good, even when we weren’t through it yet.
God is still working in the storms. And oh, some days it feels like I will never see sunshine again. Some days, the cyclone returns and the world swirls and spins and goes dark, and I’m not sure who I am or what I’m doing. But God’s call resounds, the relentless pursuit of my whole being. And the story of this girl isn’t over yet.