For many years – on again and off again – I have used a blog forum to sorta post ministry updates, things that were going on on the mission field where I was living and loving in Honduras. I gave my heart away there for almost 7 years and realized that those people made absolutely indelible marks on my soul – that I am even now still learning the true weight of.
In February of this year I came home for a year sabbatical and to think and pray about what was happening next in my life, and where God was leading. I knew it was time to work on some stuff that had accumulated in my heart, when I had not been intentional or diligent in tending to it in the middle of my attempting to tend to everyone else’s. (Sidenote: that’s a scary place to be. As Beth Moore says, “God will NEVER ask you to sacrifice your intimacy with Him on the altar of ministry.” Truth!!) It was just time for a break. I had hit the place that everyone warns you about in ministry and missions and I was burnt out and had hit the infamous wall. Part of that due to my own choices, part of that due to circumstances of third world life and what your eyes and heart experience every day, part of it due to a hundred other things I’m sure.
Here’s what has become absolutely certain over the past several months of processing as I have changed pace and environment. Of giving my heart some time to rest and heal – I have been guilty of pursuing the prestige of ministry without pursuing the person of Christ on more occasions than I would care to admit. That’s not true for everyone. That became true for me in some cases. When that becomes true chaos ensues. It’s inevitable.
I can look back and think about when I first went to Honduras and when I read my posts from that very sweet season I was crazy in love with Him. I had been rescued and redeemed and I knew it and I wanted other people to experience the sweet sweet sense of being absolutely woo’ed by His love. I was going for the “purity and simplicity of the gospel.” I believe that to be true to this day. It was God led and I knew it in the depths of my “knower” and if He would have asked me to live in the amazon in a hut eating insects I would have done it in those days I think. Recklessly abandoned to the person of Christ and what He was doing in my life. And then something super subtle happened…one day at a time…
Enter accolades. Enter watching starving children die. Enter knowing what it felt like for people to think that what you were doing was selfless and amazing. Enter a shack and a stillborn baby and a momma who wants to know why and asks you while you sit silently and wonder yourself. Enter my humanity exposed. Enter watching God show up and send checks from people you’d never met to prove His faithfulness and provision. Enter giving your heart away to children who are thriving and watch them be taken by a corrupt system that would return them to parents who beat them. Enter the beauty of watching a faith you’d never known before ever as you met a woman who had prayed for 8 years for a home while sleeping on a dirt floor with all of her children. Enter people who serve the poor and bash each other in the same moments. Enter competition among the family of God. Enter eyes diverted from the hearts purpose of a cross alone. Enter a heart that knew she was loved by God and asked to love other people who found it difficult all of a sudden to know how to do and live out of either well.
The result: A heart that had to in some ways start over from zero. There just was no real middle point to return to. I took every definition and every card I had in my hand that knew what it was like to be a Christian and I laid them out on the floor in front of me, some of them an absolutely crumpled mess and I begged God to help me know which ones of them to pick back up as truth. I learned (as scary as this is to admit) we sometimes pick up some cards as truth that other people hand down to us that aren’t from God. It was time to rid those from my hands. I am still very much leaning into this part of the process and allowing the Lord to use it. I think it will now become a lifelong quest to make sure the cards I’m holding are the ones He intended for me to know and use as we usher in a kingdom He intended to create through our lives.
So this became my measuring stick: if my definitions for faith and favor and provision and faithfulness and so many of the other words we kinda throw around in our Christian circles – can’t hold up for a woman standing in the middle of the dump working to feed her children AND one of my very wealthy friends in suburbia – they’re not truth – cause the gospel … the GOOD news was intended for everyone and God never meant for either side to get “cheated” as He granted His promises. They were for everyone. It’s changed everything.
It has gone as far back for me as this: God can I trust you? Are you trustworthy? Cause let’s be honest that question isn’t answered nearly as honest or flippantly when you’ve truly and purely loved and lost. It doesn’t roll off your tongue after you’ve watched starvation and corruption up close. It begs for an answer from a deeper place after that.
So up until this point – most of my blog entries over the past several years of my life have been about what I was learning while in Honduras and stories about ministry happening there. To be honest, I haven’t felt like I had anything to say or anything I wanted to really digest and process through in a while. I think it’s a good sign for my heart that I feel as though I’m in a place where I feel as though I need to write again. That the cobwebs in this noggin need to clear a bit.
So maybe now for this season this space is just for a girl who is committed to learning what it means to fall more in love with the person of Christ again. To just be Jen, God’s daughter. To lose the titles and the accolades. To know what it feels like to really be a nobody and yet be everything to Him. To just blend in in every single crowd and yet know that as I reach to touch the hem of His robe – He sees me and finds my eyes and my hearts deepest cries. To remember what it means to be lavishly loved as I figuratively stand naked before Him … stripped bare of so many of the things over the past several years that have defined my worth.
Somehow I find freedom in that today. That perhaps starting over naked and humbled is the perfect place to be for today in this love story He’s writing.
Because let’s face it – maybe that’s just the honest realization of what’s been true all along … we are NOTHING without Him! No matter what title or ministry or good we do even under the umbrella of His name – no matter how well we know our “Christianese” – no matter how many Bible verses we can recite – those things all are meant to point to a PERSON and when they detach themselves from the depth of intimacy in relationship with Him – they mean NOTHING! He is so worth it. It’s all a loud clanging mess without the driving force being my love for Him.
So, Lord, if you’re still pursuing after every time I’ve run or withdrawn or tried to be self-sufficient and do this on my own, this must be the real deal. You must really love me. You must have meant what you said when You promised that You would never leave or forsake me. You must really still be after my heart. So this scared wounded heart is crawling in your direction again today Lord. Because You are a gentleman You invite and You never impose. So I accept Your invitation today to be loved by You and somehow to be made whole and holy in that process. And no matter how many times I’ve said that before…it seemed like it merited being spoken aloud again today.
I’ll be doing some processing here again and sharing some things with you that I’m learning. If you’d like to join the journey I’d be delighted to have you along. There will be moments no doubt when you’ll feel as though you’ve sat in for a meeting with God and I – you’re welcome to eavesdrop as He continues to teach me and draw me near. I’m sure today kinda felt like one of those days. There will be other days when I’ll pass along a song or lyrics or a teaching or something that is way blessing me in the season that I’m in. If you can be blessed by anything God is teaching this sojourner that’s what it’s all about. You are welcome here no matter where you find yourself on this faith spectrum. The questions and fears and doubts are part of the sacred process. They are. So make yourself at home. Jump in on the discussion when you want to. Read and feel no obligation when you don’t.
I just need to start tending to my heart again … and so for me … this is one place that I can do that. I’m planning to pluck some weeds and dig up some crusty dirt in there. Want to make sure that when God wants to plant something that soil is ready to bear some fruit. It’s time to be tended. 🙂