I’ve shared this before and said it often: I am probably not known as the “sweetest person you’ll ever meet” or the most outgoing person around nor will I ever be famous for my bubbly personality. But I will be flattered if it is said of me that I am just REAL. No facades, no masks, no rose-colored glasses. While my heart’s desire is to please my God with all that is within me, I struggle, I fail, I doubt, I fear, I get mad, I sin. I repent, I apologize, I try again, I start over.
Lately, in leaving behind a ministry that we worked in for many years and a church family that we worshipped with for over 11 years, I am analyzing what I have learned so that I can take that forward with me … I am evaluating all the experiences that have made me who I am. I am finding a peace with myself … or maybe more with the Lord, who I am relying on for my identity so much more than the many, many voices that are a part of my past.
Among the voices I have listened to over the years, those that define me, thankfully, there are MANY wise, godly voices among those who fed me lies or distorted the truth or led me to believe ideas that aren’t really biblically based (and I’m talking about throughout my whole life, not from my soon-to-be-previous church). The theme that I am hearing over and over again lately – from many godly sources, to include my own Bible reading – is GRACE, MERCY, and LOVE. I’m sure there have always been those concepts in my life – but somehow, I tend to remember the condemnation, the judgment, and the fears and doubts more loudly.
On Saturday this week, I was invited by a friend to attend a ladies’ conference at a church in a town about 60 miles away. In middle-of-no-where, Missouri terms, that is a “close” proximity and one doesn’t think twice about driving that far for something worthwhile. And so, I got up early to be able to be at this meeting. I will be honest that I knew just enough about the church where this was to be held, that I was really focusing more on seeing my friend than I was on the meeting itself. I was pretty sure it was going to be more of the same stuff that I heard growing up that always made me feel so terribly inadequate.
Boy, was I wrong!! Thankfully, I had just bought a new little purse-size package of tissue recently because God squeezed my heart so hard during the sessions I attended that I could not have stopped my tears if I had wanted to. My heart was touched so deeply because one of the speakers in particular shared her lessons so honestly that she came across as being very real. In fact, when it was all over, I did something I so rarely do – I approached her, hugged her, and thanked her and talked with her for a while. I did that only because I felt like she was approachable, she was someone that was FLAWED – just like me – and willing to admit it. She may not even have connected with anyone else(although the lines of ladies wanting to speak to her showed differently), but I feel like my attendance at this conference was so much more about me hearing the lessons from this speaker than for spending time with my friend (though she was such a blessing too).
The above-mentioned speaker is a pastor’s wife – and in many ways her life has taken a turn much like my own. Several months ago, this lady’s husband resigned his pastorate (as did my husband resign his job in the ministry). This lady met up with some great opposition (and while our situation is somewhat different than hers, there is hurt involved in our story too). BUT she and her family – though she admitted it wasn’t always the easiest thing – chose to trust God (and like her, I often had my husband turn to me and say, “We ARE trusting, God, right, Conny??!!” so that our children would see we were determined to do so).
This lady shared how God had blessed and provided during the time when they had (and still have) no income or insurance. And I could only think of the days when I too walked to my mailbox, completely unsuspecting, totally burdened with our financial situation, only to find an envelope with a note or some money or both! I could only think of the hospital bills that were excused completely and the doctors who operated on my husband twice for FREE. I am not sure I ever shared that provision on my blog because it is extremely humbling to admit we were forgiven thousands of dollars in medical bills by the University Healthcare System – but now, instead of seeing as us getting bailed out of a debt, I see it as a glorious provision from a miracle-working God.
This lady then shared about those dark moments, when she was just ready to despair – when she put on her fuzziest, most-worn pajamas and sat on the couch to cry and feel sorry for herself … and just at the right time, a group of friends came by to pray or to bring food or to just visit. I can only – “yep, been there, done that too.”
In the end, this dear preacher’s wife did direct us to Scripture and ways to help in the crisis situations we will all face eventually – but she showed us it was ok to admit our human tendency to cry, doubt, fear, or despair – just as long as we then seek God, thank God, and trust God. This is what I’m talking about – this is REAL LIFE.