“You’re going to be a preacher someday.”
“You have a gift.”
“God’s going to use you.”
Pleasantries or prophetic visions of well-meaning, old women in a backwoods Baptist church? Regardless, they fell on deaf ears.
“How could you know?”
“You only met me an hour ago.”
“What was your name again?”
A brief list of the thoughts that tumbled through my brain. In a world where I didn’t have any notion towards respect, I would have said them out loud. Yet all I could muster was a half-smile and a “thank you.”
Wasn’t that the dream, though? To grow up, be a pastor, change the world, be like Dad? To be a self-fulfilling prophecy? A chip off the old block?
Sure it was. I started preaching and teaching at the age of 13. I taught myself how to sing, play the guitar, and lead worship at the age of 16. I was involved in every aspect of “youth ministry”. I helped plan the events, I helped run the events, I taught at the events. I interned, volunteered, and was put in charge. I even went to Bible College. I spent five years preparing, planning, and anticipating this future that I felt like I couldn’t escape. It was a resume that screamed “this is my future”.
“If you could imagine yourself doing anything else in the world and still be satisfied, go do that thing.” My dad would always tell me. It wasn’t an intent to drive me away from pursuing a lifetime of full-time, vocational ministry, but rather a warning bell of the dangers ahead.
“I can’t. I don’t want to do anything else.” I’d always say.
I meant it. I didn’t want to do anything else and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. So I pursued it as though it would be the only aim of my one chance at life, the ultimate end goal.
“You should never be a pastor.”
“You have no business being in ministry.”
“You’re not worthy or qualified of leading anyone. You can’t even take care of your own spiritual life.”
If one were to hear such accusatory language directed towards them, it would be understandable for anger and questioning to follow.
“What right do you have to speak such damnation over the call of God on my own life?”
An appropriate response in such a time as this. However, in the moment that I heard those words, I posed no resistance. I knew deep down inside that they were true. I had no business, no place, and no hope.
Why such confidence? Why no resistance? Why were no verbal (or literal) punches thrown?
The fact is that these words didn’t come from any person. They came echoing from a place deep inside my spirit. Like a collapsing dam, the full rush of the torrential downpour gushed over me. I couldn’t gain my breathe. I couldn’t fight the current. These words came from a spirit…my spirit…and I knew they were right.
Looking back on March of 2018, I realized that I blamed God for those words. I thought that the Holy Spirit was telling me that pastoral ministry was no longer the route that I should take. That I now needed to pursue something else. However, I can see that God was never a part of that conversation. Nonetheless, I used it as ammunition to run.
Now that I’ve had three years to pile on the excuses it’s become increasingly difficult to dig myself out of the wreckage. I’ve been trying to pick through the debris of my own failures one regret at a time. What usually follows is another wave of regret and shame that only buries me deeper into my own mess.
I hear people, and the Holy Spirit inside of me, remind me of the truth that it isn’t about my qualifications, my abilities, or my “worthiness” of being used. I know all of this to be true.
I hear people, and the Holy Spirit inside of me, remind me of the truth that God’s love and mercy upon my life is not dependent upon my ability to measure up. It’s the exact opposite. I know this to be true.
What most don’t understand is that amidst the truth levied against my mind and emotions is a simple, yet profound question that keeps me awake at night…
“Yeah, but what if?”
It’s a question that has been asked ever since the beginning of time. It’s the question that Satan asked Eve before she fell into his trap. “What if God isn’t who He says He is? What if your way IS better?”
In my world, the “what if’s” sound more like:
“What if you’ve gone too far?”
“You just ‘repented’ of this yesterday. You’re pathetic. What if He’s given up on you?”
“What if you’re doomed to be stuck like this forever? What if you’re one of the ones He’s given over to a debased mind? What if?”
I press myself against the proverbial wall every day to have answers to these questions. I pressure myself every waking moment to “get it together” so I can be an effective member of the body of Christ. I crush myself underneath lofty expectations no mortal man could possibly meet simply so other people in the church wouldn’t look at me as needy, unstable, or immature…so that I wouldn’t view myself as such.
There’s no cute way to end this trail of thinking right now. I wish there was. I wish I could tie this up with a bow of God’s grace so you could walk away from my site with any emotion other than pity. However, I can’t. I don’t have the answers I’m looking for. Sometimes I don’t even remember what the questions are.
Maybe one day I’ll look back on all of the well meaning compliments of my public speaking ability and realize that God planned to use me in full-time ministry all along. Maybe this post is a small step forward in the journey of redemption that I know God is walking with me on.
Maybe the ember that is flickering in my heart towards the things of God and the call of God will erupt into a flame. I yearn for it to do so. I pray for it to do so. I’m begging that it does. Please, Jesus, see to it that it does…
But for right now, all I can feel is the weight of my collective failures, my ineptitude to conjure up any holy ability to obey even the simplest of commands, and the overwhelming urge to sleep.
Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that tomorrow will be much of the same. Jesus, please.
If you are wondering if you have been given over to q debased mind then you havent because those with a debased mind..where God has turned them away…they don’t yearn for God or the things of God. They dont care to know if they have failed… they are happy where they are. The devil is speaking in your ear so loudly..making you doubt the goodness of God that you can’t hear that still small voice that says “..1 moment at a time…1 decision at a time… 1 breath at a time… 1 day… 1 month… 1 year…. at a time. I am walking right beside you…I love you… I died for you and the sins you have carried. So you dont have to carry them anymore if you give them to me and trust me to throw them as far as the east is to the west. When I look at you, I see the blood of Jesus and HIS righteousness. In your power, you can do nothing. In my power, you have everything you need at your disposal. I will never let you down. I will never leave you. Do you know me? Do I know you? ”
I love you Sweetie… whatever God has for you, He will equip you qnd has been equipping you for it. It may not be full time vocational ministry but using those gifts in the local church. Whatever you do… sell an RV…bring kids into college life.. whatever, use it as a ministry. You dont have to stand behind a pulpit and change the world…you can do it by loving others, sharing God’s love for them and do it with your neighbors, co workers, church family, man on the street, your kids, grandkids, grocery worker…it doesn’t matter. Do what Jesus asks right now. Rest (in Him) right now. Take the burden of expectations off your shoulders and place them on his. You are free of expectations except for God…Im headed for work, what can I do for you today❤ who can I serve… love and brighten their day through you!!!!!!!!
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I love you too, Momma! Thank you for reading it and writing back. I don’t trust much that goes through my mind these days so I desperately crave hearing the truth from other people to help reinforce what’s already there. I need help – lots of it. But one breath at a time feels about all I can muster in this area right now. I just don’t know how to sever the ties of my innate need to control/be better in favor of letting Jesus do what he wants
First let me tell you that you are no different than a million other young 20 somethings who thought they knew what their purpose (job) in life would be. God has a purpose for you. He just hasn’t revealed it to you yet. But your purpose and your profession are two very different things. I have been in this position most of my adult life. Your papaw passing away has really opened my eyes to a lot of realities I never stopped to think about before. My jobs do not define who I am. They are what I do(did) to make a living and help my husband feed our children. My purpose? Well it took your Papaw 50 years fighting tooth and nail to break through my rebellion and teach me that Christ was the way. I don’t know why Papaw was allowed to suffer with Parkinson’s disease. What I do know is that if he hadn’t needed the care he needed and if I had not been able to provide that care for him I would not have found God even at 50. I look back at my life now Matt and at all of the trials that were put in my path and know why they were put there. I used to feel sorry for myself even knowing that I had a superb life compared to a lot of people. I used to harbor so much anger and unforgiveness (even towards my parents) that it controlled every aspect of my life. I was 45 years old before I decided to let a large portion of it go and forgive. I realize now that without those aspects of my life, I would not be who I am today. I would not have been half the mother I am today. And I probably would not have been Papaw’s caretaker in the end. I get on my knees now and thank God for the past few years I was able to spend with my dad. It taught me how to be strong, how to fight, how to never give up, how to have hope, and most importantly to have faith in God. I have met people who after watching a loved one suffer have walked away from God completely because of it. I see it completely different. My dad’s biggest fear was being stuck in a wheelchair and fully dependant on someone else for life’s most basic needs. I firmly believe that the stroke was God’s way of taking mercy on him. He knew Papaw had withstood all he could handle. So back to my purpose. Well?? Maybe someday I will know but until then I want to learn to love God more than I loved my dad. I want to learn to be a better, more caring person. I want to be the person God wants me to be. My only regret is that it took me 50 years to want it. So chin up buddy. You are a good person. Do what you know is right and resist what you know to be wrong and you will be fine. Your life will fall into place. Love you!!!
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I honestly had to stop reading this on several occasions so I could wipe tears from my eyes. It’s hard to read when your eyes are sweating lol.
All that I have to say is from deep within my soul – PRAISE GOD. I have been praying for you specifically these last few weeks and it brings joy to no end to my soul to see the active, living, breathing life of God resting on you. Praise the Lord for His immense love for us! I’m so excited responding to you and it feels enough to shake loose the dirt away from my eyes. You have been a massive encouragement to me and I don’t quite know how to properly express it. I love you!!!
Matt, I have good news and bad news. The good news first: you’re pregnant with twins and when the babies are born you’re going to be rich! The bad news is that the babies have already been named and they are both the most stubborn children you’ll ever meet and the birthing process is immensely painful and frustrating. The babies names are Surrender and Rest. The grace of God is the epidural that eases all the pain of giving birth to these two glorious and precious babies.
This past January I celebrated my 30th spiritual birthday. I was 19 when I believed in Christ and prayed to express my spiritual bankruptcy and ask for His forgiveness for the mess that was (and still is) me. From that day right up to this day I’ve experienced the repeated misery of birth pains pressing on my soul. Yep, surrender and rest are my babies too. They’re the babies of every believer in Christ. I’ve been a pastor for 21 years and the feelings of inadequacy and failure are strong and I admit that I have quit on far more occasions than I could ever count (and as you know actually did quit on one occasion). Between the devil and me I often can’t tell whose voice is speaking words of defeat and discouragement in my head (and sometimes it has been actual human beings telling me how terrible of a pastor they think I am). The words that often resonate in my mind are these: “What a disappointment I am.” Painful lies of the adversary who wants to strip me (and all of us) of courage to live our faith. Surrender and Rest are spiritual babies that Jesus longs to produce in me and you and everyone else who sets out on the Pilgrim path in a life of spiritual progress. Every day I wake up and put my feet on the floor and God goes to work drawing me to die to me so that Christ can fill me.Matthew 11:28-30 I believe is one of the keys to surrender and rest. Another is John 15:1-11. Maybe the most profound 6 words spoken in the Bible about the Pilgrim’s progress are these spoken by John the Baptist: “Jesus must increase, I must decrease.” In those 6 words are bound up a lot of surrender and pain and as we progress in the reality of those words being shaped into our life we get what every woman whose ever given birth knows: the unspeakable joys of bearing children.
Remember that it’s God’s grace that brings about surrender and rest. We can’t earn it and we’ll never be good enough to deserve it or get it. We just have to humble ourselves and…you guessed it…surrender our efforts and rest completely in the perfect finished works of Jesus. It’s a crazy spiritual paradox that Jesus is working in us. So then, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do (I.e. sell RV’s, sell cars, flip burgers, pastor a church…whatever) do it all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Hope you enjoyed the parable. 😁😁