Monday, September 20, 2010

Deborah's Dream Continued

After Jacob's Well closed, Jon, Shanna and I continued to do youth ministry with a handful of the teenagers that had been a part of the Well, but it was no longer a full-time gig. We all had jobs and Shanna and Jon had school. We had all been devastated by the loss of the ministry we believed in. I was in a state of total confusion and hidden depression.

I believe God prepared me to come face to face with the sin that broke up our ministry by prompting me to read a book called What's So Amazing About Grace? only months before. The extravagant grace and forgiveness of God was at the forefront of my mind at that time, so I was able to extend His grace to others without much hesitation. But my theology was so immature, my heart so young, that I unknowingly sought to place blame somewhere else. I started to make excuses for the perpetrator to make it easier for me to forgive him. I blamed his parents for the way they raised him, his lack of formal ministry training, and most of all the demands of ministry itself and the tole they take on the minister's life. Somehow, in my immaturity and grief, I began to blame and fear ministry: the hours away from family, the constant demands on a person's time and emotional resources, the stress of working so hard for such small pay. My boyfriend was a Bible major and I began to fear being married to a minister. I worried constantly over this, especially after we became engaged. When he finally decided that he wanted to own and operate a business, I couldn't have been more relieved.

Meanwhile, I served half-heartedly in the church, teaching teenagers on Wednesday evenings and occasionally planning weekend events. Every once in a while I would get an itch to do something really good with the ministry. I would read something in my own Bible study that I couldn't help but share and I'd find a way to share it in a spectacular way. I truly enjoyed those times and those lessons, but they are overshadowed by the years of lackluster service. I regret this more than probably anything in my life, but I accept the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ over the accusations of the enemy.

It didn't take me long to figure out that youth ministry wasn't really my calling, but I just couldn't find a way to quit. Even when I finally birthed the golden excuse, Benjamin, and stopped doing youth ministry I was plagued by the guilt of having wasted years to a fruitless task. I wept over the young people I should have done more with and didn't and I felt that if they had had a different youth minister maybe they would have made different choices, choices that kept them close to Jesus in their daily walks.

But then, in the midst of my inadequacy and grief, God did something wonderful. It started with Beth Moore's Breaking Free, a study I had taken before. This time I got serious about it. I had been in women's group at church on a night when Pastor D'Linn looked me in the eye and said, "You are a pastor." It scared me to death. But I thought, D'Linn would never make that up. She would not want to say that to me. It must be from the Lord. And if I am called to minister, I need to find out how and where I am supposed to do it. I need to do it without fear. I need to do it in a God-honoring, fruit-bearing way. And I have got to figure out what is wrong with me so I don't pass on this bondage to my son. So I took the study seriously. I worked through it and God worked in me.

He revealed to me my fear of ministry and the root of it. He showed me the folly in it. And while I was breaking free from the bondage of fear, He was growing in me a desire to minister to women in my season of life--mothers of preschoolers. He was showing me that I had real talent for women's ministry all along. In women's group, when our teacher would talk about how women really don't like other women a lot of times because of the many ways they hurt each other, lots of women in the room would nod in agreement. I would hear testimonies of how they overcame their fear and distrust of other women to serve along side each other in the church. But I couldn't identify with them because I have always loved women, all ages of women. I crave girl time and girl talk. And I can decorate a table and serve a meal in a way that makes them feel special. I can pull devotional material out of chick flicks and novels. I realized, I was called to women's ministry all along. But I was still a little scared. Would God trust me with ministry of any kind after I gave practically nothing to the last one He put me in?

Then I started another short Bible study on the book of Revelation. In it, Beth Moore challenged us to pray each week for God to reveal Himself to us, to speak to us directly. And He did! One night, in women's group, we were singing a song that has always touched me even though it's not the best tune. The words are:
I went to the enemy's camp
And I took back what he stole from me
I took back what he stole from me
I took back what he stole from me
He's under my feet. (x4)
Satan is under my feet.
Can you believe what the Lord has done for me? (x2)
He blessed me, saved me, turned my life around,
Set my feet upon the solid ground.
Can you believe what the Lord has done for me?
Look what the Lord has done. (x2)
He healed my body. He touched my mind.
He saved me just in time.
Oh, I'm gonna praise His name.
Each day He's just the same.
Go on and praise Him.
Look what the Lord has done.
I admit that the reason this song has always touched me is that I would look around at the people in my church and be overwhelmed by what God had done for them. When we would sing the part "Look what the Lord has done," I would look around at recovered drug addicts and alcoholics and smile through my tears, thankful that the Lord had saved them. I never looked at myself.
But when we were singing it that night, and the prayer for revelation was still warm on my lips, God turned my eyes to myself for a moment and then dazzlingly to HIMSELF. He reminded me of a dream my friend Deborah had told me six years earlier. And He reminded me of a time only a year or so ago when my mom told me she had had a dream with a car in it. She learned that often cars in dreams symbolize a person's ministry. I can see Deborah's dream as vividly as if I had dreamed it myself and the Lord has made it so.
The enemy came in the night and took the insides out of my ministry. Only the outer shell remained. It had no engine to move it forward, no seats to accommodate passengers, no steering wheel to guide it. But the enemy was chased down, forced to return everything he stole piece by piece. And more. Jesus is faithful to turn a broken down heap of junk minister into someone who can go far with Him. This time, not only will the car work, but I will have more to work with--the lessons like an anti-theft device, discernment that will send off an alarm when the thief jiggles at the handles. I am beginning slowly and gathering steam, but I am not afraid. Satan should be afraid of my God. Just look what the Lord has done!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I am Clark Kent

I have glasses. I've had them for years, but I only wear them when I'm driving at night. I probably should wear them all the time, but I haven't had my prescription renewed since Jon and I got married six years ago. So I only wear them when it would be dangerous not to, like when driving at night. Anyway, all of this to say that Benjamin has rarely seen me wear my glasses.

Last Wednesday, when I got to my parents' house to pick him up after Bible study, I walked in with my glasses on my face. Benjamin ran to me when I came in, I picked him up and we hugged. But when he leaned back to really look at me, a most curious expression crossed his face. He frowned. He furrowed his eyebrows. Then he went to my dad. He scowled at me from my dad's arms. When I spoke, his expression softened but still looked confused. Finally, I took the glasses off and he grinned and came back to me as if to say, "Oh, okay, you are my mommy."

Last night, same thing. I came in with glasses on. He stayed where he was and just stared at me like I was a stranger. I took the glasses off. He smiled his lovey mommy smile and gave me a kiss.

By day, Super Mommy. By night, mild mannered Bible study student.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Testimony Part 3: Deborah's Dream

I've been putting off writing about this because I just don't know how to tell the first part of the story. I've stayed awake tossing and turning and tugging on sheets trying to work out what to say and how, but I still don't know. So I'm just going to begin by giving you the basic background facts without any of the commentary I've thought of adding.

The facts: I worked as the girls' ministry director for a ministry called Jacob's Well. This ministry for teenagers was under the missions department umbrella of a sizeable church. The people that I worked with were my closest friends at the time--we spent not only work hours, but many other hours together every week. Three of those people were members of the same family. One of them did something that destroyed the whole ministry and that family. Nobody ever told me exactly what happened--I had to piece it together later and I felt betrayed by being so close to the situation and yet knowing so little. I lost my job, a ministry I believed in, and several of my closest friends in one week. The founding church (a good church, still) handled this very badly. They shut down the ministry and quickly replaced it with something else, hiring all new people and hushing up the sin and its ramifications. I and a couple of other people who had been involved with the ministry did our best to carry on at a much smaller church that opened its arms to the kids we were working with. But the ministry was now on a volunteer basis, with no funding, and we were never given counseling to deal with what we had been through. I was only twenty years old. I spent the next seven years doing ministry grudgingly and by habit, withholding my heart to protect it, never speaking of what happened even to the others who were just as devastated as I was.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I can tell you the good part. Weeks after Jacob's Well closed, I went to visit a friend in a town about three hours away for the weekend. Just to escape the emotional rollercoaster that my life had become. Deborah was working as a nanny, living in a luxurious house and serving the Lord with joy. The family was out of town for the weekend so I went to stay with her in their home. She knew kind of the bare bones of what had happened. I remember sleeping so well that first night in a bed that felt like a really nice hotel bed, with a friend beside me who was so filled with the Spirit she just exuded it. When we woke up in the morning, Deborah told me the dream she had had in the night.

She said she had gone outside to her car to find that the entire inside of the car had been stripped--seats, steering wheel, engine--only the shell of the car remained. As she stood there she saw one of her Christian brothers chasing the man who had stolen the insides of her car. He tackled the thief to the ground and said commandingly, "You will return everything that you have stolen and more!"

Deborah told me she felt like she was supposed to share that dream with me,to encourage me. And it did encourage me for a time. I knew that God could make something good out of a terrible situation. I believed wholeheartedly in His grace and mercy for the person I had worked with who had done something so wrong. I believed He would give me a new job, which He did. And everytime good things would happen to me (new job, something going well at church, getting engaged, getting married), I would remember Deborah's dream and think that the enemy was somehow losing ground. But he, the enemy, still held so much of my life captive and I didn't even realize it. My ministry with the youth at church was so stagnant, I no longer raised my hands in worship or prayed out loud, and I lived in terror that my Bible-major-fiancee would want to go into full-time ministry. Somehow I started blaming vocational ministry for the demise of my friend's family instead of just seeing it as the result of sin that is just crouching at the door, waiting to devour.

I don't think I can write anymore tonight. I will try to finish this tomorrow. But I will tell you that it ends very well. This is a heavy post, but tomorrow's will not be. Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Give Away

Today I am giving away a couple of favorite children's books on my Children's Book Quote of the Day blog. Head on over there for a chance to win: