I swear I won’t cry/make you cry in this post. I MEAN… WOW- I think there’s been enough of all that for awhile. So thanks for crying alongside me a couple weeks ago about our sweet puppy dog (if you haven’t read that yet and feel like bawling your eyes out and snotting all over yourself, please help yourself here.) But now, I’d like to tell you about some good/exciting news. Because somehow, between all the moving and crying and unpacking of the last few (hundred) boxes, I have actually managed to do something constructive and fun. May I share?
First, let me give you some history: As you may or may not know, hubby and I recently made the very big and very difficult decision to change churches. We had been at our cute little church for nearly a decade, and before you think there must have been some juicy scandal to make us leave, that was not at all the case. We had a lovely church, full of lovely people. And when we left, we did so prayerfully and with the support and blessing of the leadership therein. It will always be, in so many ways, our home church. We grew up in our faith there, celebrated beautiful baptisms and other wonderful things there, and wiped away tears and said goodbye to people we loved dearly when they passed there. It has been our home and our family for a long time, and I cannot impress upon you how hard the decision was to leave.
But when God wants something, He is
persistent relentless about it. And making a change in our church-life was something He was adamant about. And so with a tremendous amount of prayer and guidance, we said farewell to our cute little church… and landed at the enormous but amazing Austin Ridge Bible Church.
The transition has been both terrible and wonderful. It can be hard to walk away from something you have known and loved for so long. And at my cute little old church, we had been there from nearly the beginning and knew nearly everyone. We were knee-deep in ministry and leadership. And when God led me to begin this writing ministry, it was that church family and that pastor that laid their hands on me and prayed over me. Those are my people.
And if I am honest about it, one of the reasons I liked our cute little church was because I felt known there. Known is a good thing, a safe thing, a family thing. But when enjoyed for the wrong reasons, known can also start to feel more like important. And when you feel important at church, you have completely lost sight of why you are there.
So God began to teach me and remind me that church isn’t about where I am comfortable and how known I feel (or even how many hugs I can get in one good morning.) Church is about GOD. It is about knowing Him better, growing our faith, and serving on His behalf. Church is about making me more like who He created me to be; growing me and stretching me so that He can be using me in the best way possible. And now that I am on the other side of things and can see more clearly, I understand all the reasons God needed me to do that somewhere else.
For instance, all during the decision making process, I agonized over and vacillated between being relieved about having to serve less at our new church (just being honest) and being devastated about having to give up one particular ministry that was specific very dear to my heart. I also was terrified people would be mad at me. But those lines of thinking were in direct opposition to what service and ministry are really about. I needed to be reminded that ministry is not about me and service is where my savior assigns me. I also needed to be reminded that life is not about pleasing people; it is about living your God-given purpose.
Somehow, at my cute comfortable little church, I had let my priorities and motivations and get completely out of whack. And when we first started at Ridge, I floundered a little because didn’t know a soul, felt lost in the crowd, and had no idea where I could serve. And guess what… IT WAS SO GOOD FOR ME.
See, for years and years and years, I was a “Yes Girl.” Before we started our cute little church, I had never served in church before and didn’t know how to prayerfully discern where I should do so. So basically, if someone asked me to do something, I assumed God was asking too, so I just said yes. Sometimes I did so out of the love for that ministry and because God had given me passion for what we were trying to accomplish. But sometimes I did it so I could make people happy or feel important. And it is human nature to want to be a part of something that matters. This is fine, even in church. But here is the lesson for this post: If you do something (even a good thing) with the wrong motivation, it will backfire. I mean, It. Will. Eat. Your. Lunch. People.
When God calls you to something, He equips you for it. And also the opposite of that is true. So all my “yessing” was not resulting in “equipping” and therefore I became burdened and burnt out. And I take full responsibility. My motivations were wrong and my priorities were out of balance. I was saying yes to people and trying to convince myself that I was serving God. And when you do something for the approval of people, you will be let down by them. People can never ever give you what God intends to give you through your service to Him. Asking them to will always result in disappointment, disillusionment, and what is commonly known as “church-hurt.”
The downside to that cute little church for me was that there isn’t much competition for committee members and ministry leaders, so once I became a “yes girl,” I was essentially doomed. It is hard to get people to step up and serve and if you are at all willing, you will be nominated for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g., whether you ought to be or not. And don’t get me wrong, committees are important. The people who serve on them are important. They are crucial for the growth and balance and well-being of a church. But they are not my spiritual gift and they are not my calling. And they should have never been my Yes. I found myself miserable on them and terrible at being on them. I’m certain the other people on there with me would agree.
Plus being in leadership gives you a close-up view of the underbelly of the church. And being new to leadership, I was somewhat naïve to what that should look like, so I was shocked by what I saw. Don’t get me wrong, our cute little church was a fabulous church. But if you are on a committee, you are the complaint department. And when you are the complaint department, you start to see that some folks aren’t as sweet and shiny as you thought. They are broken and human and sometimes experience misplaced priorities (which is super upsetting, until you realize you are just like them.)
So, as was inevitable, the burnout hit. When I went to committee meetings, I was miserable. And when I went to church on Sunday, it felt exhausting. I was too tired and too over-jobbed to just go to church and be equipped and grown and fed. Because I was on all those committees, I had to answer a million questions and talk to a million people and fulfill a million responsibilities. And because I was in leadership, I felt like I had to cheer and do spiritual toe-touches and act like I had it all together. But the truth was that I didn’t have it all together and there were some Sundays when I didn’t even have the energy to smile, much less throw a pep-rally.
So then, for a season, I became a “No Girl.” I didn’t really like being her, although there was some relief in it. But I am a people pleaser to the core, and letting all those people down was very hard for me overall. And I don’t believe that God calls us to be no people, at least not for forever. We have different seasons in our lives where priorities must be rearranged, boundaries reestablished, and life lessons relearned. And slowly, in the space all the no created, God had room to talk to me and heal me and help me see where I went wrong.
Church is about knowing God and knowing truth, and from that, serving the world. It is a place to be fed and to feed, to worship and to work. It is not a place to feel important or be noticed or praised. It is a place where He is the most important, where we pause and take notice of that, and where He is glorified.
He needed me to be fed so that I could in turn, feed others. He needed to grow me with His scripture and truth so I could be healed and whole and then go share that with others. And He needed me (and hubby) to do that somewhere else. He also needed me to take off all the hats I had worn in the past and put down my pom-poms and just rest. So as much as I fought Him because I thought I was being selfish if I said it/believed it/did it, this was to be the season – not of serving - but of BEING FED.
And so off to Ridge we went and off the committees I came. And at first, I struggled. In some ways, it was hard being unknown and anonymous there. But in other ways (in many signifigant ways,) it was liberating. It felt like freedom. I could stand on my row and know NO ONE. And then when I sobbed through all the music like some psycho, I didn’t have to talk to anyone or explain myself later. It was GLORIOUS. And so for nearly a year, we have attended and sang and cried and been fed. And I am bursting with thankfulness and truth and new life because of it.
But I can’t be a “taker” forever. So slowly but surely, I have been poking around and have made a few friends and have been looking for a nice small way to serve. I’ve prayed a lot about it though, and promised myself (and hubby, and God) that I wouldn’t get too deep in this time and that I would serve prayerfully and as He led me.
It’s been an amazing season of rest. It has also been amazing to see how He has opened doors – flung them wide, actually – and made clear the path He has for me in our new church family. I am still a little hesitant. I am still a little shy about it. I am still careful not to be an initiator of it and just wait on Him to show me where He wants me. And slowly but surely, He has.
A few months ago, we finally joined the church. And I so love that as part of the membership process, you get to share your testimony with someone in leadership there. This church works hard to make clear that God desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us, so they like you to write your story down and then speak with a pastor or leader there about your relationship and how it started. So Kenny and I both had to write a little about how we began our relationship with Christ. And as is true to our personalities, Kenny had no idea how to put it on paper and agonized over the assignment, and I of course immediately wrote a novel entailing the Country Music Video version of finding Jesus.
Also as part of our membership, we were also asked to pick an area within the church that we might have interest in serving within. I knew that IF I did anything, I needed it to be low key and behind the scenes and the only thing on the list of opportunities that I was drawn to was the Creative Department. So I checked that box and got to meet with them and let them know that I like to write and that I was open to serving, but that I wanted the most menial of tasks as my volunteer work for right now. They were happy to oblige me and I began serving is a small, anonymous kind of way (and what a reprieve that has been!) It also happens to be in an area that I know NOTHING about, to it has been amazing and fun, but also very challenging. Essentially, I get to help out with the writing on their social media, which is hysterical since I personally do not believe in Facebook, did not even know what Instagram was, and referred to the little blue birdy thing as “Twitter-Tweeting.”
I have learned so much about social media on the last couple of months and now ALMOST understand what a hash tag is. And in addition to learning this new “craft,” perhaps the best part of this new gig is that it has forced/allowed me to dig more deeply into scripture and the teaching there; to make sure I really absorb the message, since now I have to figure out ways to share it with others in 140 characters or less.
And then in the meantime (and without my knowledge,) my testimony was also handed off to the Creative Department and I was asked if they could use it for a new assignment they had been working on, where members share their personal stories of God was changing their lives. I agreed to let them use my story however they wished (because it is God’s story anyway and I just got to be there.) They have done so and since I have not yet shared my actual testimony on this blog, I will be linking that to you very soon.
I may also share some of the social media work as we go. Some of what I write is not quite up to par to be shared through the church (I am still honing this skillset) but might be appropriate for this platform (plus, I worked hard on it and I like to have little quotes to carry around in my head so I thought you might like it too.) In the meantime, you are welcome to follow the church (@AustinRidge on twitter or AustinRidgeBible on instagram) where they post touching and inspiring things often (and sometimes let my work make an occasional appearance after much editing and re-shaping.) You are also welcome to follow me (@theJesusJukebox on twitter and theJesusGypsy on intagram) if you wanna see the more personalized posts (and/or the ones that didn’t make the church cut.) But let me issue the disclaimer- I am still CLUELESS on this - so do so only if you are willing to be subjected to the flagrant misuse of hash tags and lots of dog-themed theology. ‘Cuz #IamnotverysmartbutItryrealhard.