Ever felt heavy blows of reality hit like a brick wall? Ever felt closed in by a brick wall of your own making? No way to deny, no explanation to defend, just cold hard reality staring you eyeball to eyeball? I’ve hit brick walls more times than I care to admit, but the one I’m talking about now, hit hard; real hard.
You see, I’ve been at this ministry thing for a long time. I’ve walked through some tough stuff. I certainly haven’t “arrived” but I thought I’d worked past petty ministry baggage and self-centered coddling. The reality was, I hadn’t. In fact, they had such a grip on me that I blindly denied the whole thing. I even explained away my lack of joy at church as understandable fatigue considering my husband and I were doing almost everything. Heck, we were basically running a one couple show and no one gave a lick!
At least that’s how the self-talk script ran in my mind. Over and over it ran as I scrubbed church bathrooms, ran errands to restock supplies, carried in cases of water straining my degenerating discs, picked up food for fellowships, set up–took down, arrived hours before the rest…. Do I really need to continue this pity party? I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about all too well.
When my husband gingerly brought my lousy attitude to my attention, there was no denying, he was right. The brick wall was right there staring at me, forcing a confession. Yes, resentment in all its ugliness, had crept into my soul. Sneaky, slimy and oh so subtle, it snuck in beneath the radar and set up camp in my heart. The very place I swore only HE could dwell, I allowed vagabonds from hell to pitch their tents and talk their hellish talk. Worst of all, I listened.
You see, my husband is a visionary, a rugged ministry Entrepreneur; I am not. Church planting lights his fire and fits his spiritual DNA perfectly. Established churches with established resources and leaders fit mine.
I know this. He knows this. A good number of others know this. But that knowledge doesn’t alter the flat out fact that while my husband is living and breathing in his sweet spot, I am not. A fact that sometimes feels like a tough pill to swallow; a gulp I just don’t want to take. In weak moments, it can even digress into a breeding ground for resentment.
Deep down I know it doesn’t have to be difficult. I know if I accept my call for what it is–God-ordained; if I embrace it with joy and a “bring it on, baby” mentality, resentment won’t stand a chance. My attitude will flourish. All the tough realities of church planting and tiny congregational beginnings won’t be a big deal at all. I know this because many times, that’s exactly what has happened. But that knowledge, those past experiences, don’t change the present reality staring me in the face. The unavoidable choice towering like a brick wall doesn’t budge. Will I or won’t I accept God’s calling for me today, right now?
Truth is I’ve been avoiding that question like the plague. I don’t want to “go there”. So I convinced myself I don’t have to go there. After all, I accepted my calling years ago, so I’m good.
Not so. My behavior, my attitude, my lack of joy spilled the beans. I’m not good. I desperately need to deny myself, take up the cross swallow and that pill anew, right now–today and every other day until my calling is fulfilled. Self-denial is a daily proposition.
Oh, but I’d listened to those vagabonds from hell that set up camp in my heart. They’d sympathized with my circumstances, told me how hard I have it and that at my age things should be so different. They gripe that my husband isn’t respected or appreciated or adequately compensated. They howled that we’re pouring ourselves out for a tiny group of people who don’t care enough to make it to church on time, give sacrificially or be all in for outreach events. On it goes! All this whining flows from exaggerated half-truths–those are the worst kind of lies and they’re always from the pit. They poured gasoline on the embers of my self-absorption and smothered all joy sparks of truth.
Since when do the priorities, actions or appreciation of others dictate my devotion to my Lord? Since when does my joy in serving Him depend on the participation of others? When did I forget the smallest act of service for my Jesus is a privilege for which I am not worthy? Mowing grass, emptying trash, scrubbing toilets are acts of worship–causes for joyful celebration even when I do them all alone. They are privileged opportunities to serve a Lord who loves me more than I can comprehend. That’s the truth. That’s the brick wall reality.
If the Lord appeared before me, looked deep into my eyes and asked, “ Joanna, will you embrace the call I’ve given you? The one that you think is your husband’s thing, not yours? Will you trust me enough to swallow that pill?”
I’m certain I’d respond, “Oh yes, Lord! Of course, I will!”
“Then, serve my people,” He says, “the ones who come late to church and leave early and never show up for workdays. Run errands and scrub toilets for Me. Help people that don’t help you. Listen to people that won’t bother listening to you. Take My yoke and learn from Me for I am meek and humble. If you do, you will discover My yoke fits perfectly and the burden I place on you is actually so very light.
What you may consider a pill, is really the perfect prescription for your joy,” He speaks with firm compassion. “Lay down your life and you will find it; lose yourself for My sake and you will find both yourself and Me.”
“Oh God help me! God forgive me! Teach me how to lay down my life over and over and over again. Give me a bring it on, baby mindset; the God-breathed kind. The non-human kind. The kind only formed in private prayer closets and Scripture saturated real life.
By Your grace, I’m kicking out those vagabonds and their hellish half-truth-lies. Only You can live in my heart. I will cast out all words but Yours, sweet Spirit. Teach me to run to Your truth for comfort, not self-pitying lies.
“Lord Jesus, deliver me from myself until the only thing that matters to me is what matters to YOU. Make me wholly and only, YOURS.”