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!