Checking It Off the List
I have a mental list of things I really want to accomplish in my life.
- Be an authentic, devoted follower of Christ.
- Be a great wife, mom, daughter, and friend.
- Be someone that makes a difference in this world, and leaves it a better place.
- Experience fully as much of life as I possibly can.
- Have fun and enjoy 1 – 4.
Yesterday, after my small “weep-fest” at the end of the message, I would have preferred to be swallowed up by a giant hole in the stage.
The entire time I was sharing the closing illustration I was having a mental argument – “Do not go there, you don’t have the emotional capacity to put the boundaries in place to tell the story without teetering on the edge.”
Then, the other voice would say, “It’s real. It’s true. You struggle with feeling “The Force” just like other people, but you KNOW the difference it makes when we let go of “self” and allow ourselves to feel the power and presence of God. Tell them the story.”
It was one of those times I could “feel” the eyeballs I could not see in the dark, boring into me. The red light from the camera was so prominent, I could “feel” the presence of the many online worshipers.
One of the things I hold dear is always trying to maintain a level of absolute professionalism in my calling and life.
I keep track of how many “personal” illustrations I share because I do not ever want to make ministry “all about me.” Nor do I want my personal struggles/life to get in the way of someone else’s faith journey.
Yet, I knew last Tuesday night as I had the eerie encounter with “The Force” as I read my email, it was a story I needed to tell. It fit the message . . .
“When you feel as if the “dark force” is winning, do not give in. Look inward . . . connect with the Spirit and presence of God that lives in each of us . . . . FEEL the Force. When we rely on that which is within us, GOOD will win.”
Last week was a week of total darkness for me; each day seemed to get worse. My bedtime kept getting earlier and earlier . . . just dreading what I knew would be ahead (facing the court date with my father to testify to his financial incompetence). I wanted the days to end . . . I withdrew from friends, I went through the routine of work, trying to focus but finding it very hard . . . and Saturday, I totally binge watched One Tree Hill.
I knew Sunday would be difficult.
When I know the message hits too close to home, I actually practice out loud (something I do not often do) . . . but I practice “saying it” so I can actually do just that – SAY IT, rather than weep through it.
Yesterday . . . it didn’t work.
In the moment, with your eyes seeing “me” – the “real” me, the “vulnerable” me, I couldn’t pretend that it was all “ok.” Flashing through my mind were the unanswered emails, the phone calls and notes I needed to take care of, the dissertation that I should be working on.
What I really wanted to say was, “I’m not at my best right now . . . . this (the quivering voice, the missed transition in the message between clip one and clip two, the lack of energy in the message), is not what I would call my A Game.
But, I’m trying. I’m doing my best. I’m relying on God as much as I possibly can, and I’m trying to find my way.
If you are looking to me to show you the way, I’m not sure I can without admitting I’m afraid. The path ahead is looming. The hurdles seem a bit higher than I can bear. But . . . I’m in it with you . . . and I promise, I’ll do my best. But – I’m not sure what my “best” looks like right now. Thus, I need your prayer.”
That is what I wanted to say . . .
In reality, I have no clue WHAT I said . . . and truthfully, it’s too fresh/raw for me to go back and watch that part of the message.
But – I honestly don’t need to.
Thanks to you . . . .
In the past 32 hours, you have given me more support, encouragement, acceptance, grace, and love than I could possibly ask for.
Your texts, emails, FB messages, and the hugs you offered after worship when you came to FIND me (when I tried to hide from you out of sheer embarrassment . . .), they have shown me that perhaps I’ve made a difference because in trying to teach us how to love others, when I needed it so desperately, you loved me.
Through every message, you’ve been Christ for me. Thank you.
Yesterday I received this text message, “I appreciate you showing your vulnerable side. I know it’s hard, but it shows me that even though I fall short, God is still there for me. Growing up in a different church, I believed our preacher was pretty close to perfect and that’s why he could rely on God all the time. I still struggle with believing I deserve being able to rely on God. Knowing you struggle . . . not that I want you to have struggles to make me feel better (ha!) but even in your struggles, you still believe God is there. That helps me know God will still be there for me. I hope this makes sense.”
Not only did it make sense but . . . it was an answer to my prayers . . .
Yesterday, the people of West, whether in person or digitally, let me “be” me, even though it wasn’t very pretty. When I felt like a failure for doing so, you have repeatedly reminded me that it IS ok to be “real” and be “me.”
I do vow that I will continue to strive for a level of true professionalism . . . but you have also shown me a grace and a trust that I will never forget.
The Apostle Paul would often begin his letters to the churches he had connections with by saying, “I thank God for you . . .”
Yesterday, today, and . . . . well, every day . . . I need you to know . . . I thank God for you, because YOU show me God. Even when in the darkness, I cannot see.
Thank you for loving me; it is a true privilege to be your pastor.
Grace and I truly do feel MUCH Peace,
The Inescapable God
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end[a]—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil![b]
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked[c] way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.[d]