My life until recently, has seemed to me (and possibly the world , if it took note) a series of failures. Failure to publish. Failure to secure acting and directing jobs. Failure to secure the ministry positions that would allow me to use my theatrical training and writing “talent”. In fact, after graduating college, I lost a total of four jobs within eighteen months. I had a few successes after that, but I recognized the constant in the equation was myself and decided I did not have the talent or ability I had once confidently assured myself of … I could not minister in the field I wanted to… I seemed capable of only collecting rejection slips. Obviously, I was a failure.
It was only then was I ready to learn hard truths, unlearn inflated pretense. Only then could I realize the only reason God allowed me to write or act was to glorify His name. Put in such bold terms, I would have protested that that’s what I was trying to do, I did not recognize in my stylized stories and scripts, I was writing and performing for artistic pleasure, glorying in the form and feel, submersing myself in my prideful intellect, ministering to no one, reaching no one with His truth. In the most important of areas I did fail. Over and over, I failed to see what He what He had created me to do. He longed for me to recognize the women around me, not to compare myself to them, not to try to become like them, but to see them as His daughters, lost in their fears, lost in their doubts, lost in their busyness and distractions. In other words, His focus to be my focus, and not myself and my own convoluted artsy perceptions of how the world should work and how I should get to minister (on my terms, of course).
I listened attentively to anyone who seemed successful, even if the fruit in their lives seemed rotten. I so desperately wanted to appear together, to have friends, and regain my sense of worth, that I listened to the opinions of those who believed I was a failure, was not worth fighting for, had nothing to offer, or worse still, was beneath taking notice of… I needed to come to the end of me, to the end of my dreams of loving people the way I wanted to love them. Much like the Christmas when I excitedly watched my mother open a present I just knew she would love, a framed picture of Minnie Mouse, I completely missed the point. Ministering is about sharing the hard truth and tough love of God in the way that He mandates. It never means tickling ears or being a people-pleaser. It never means selfish ambition, even selfish ambition that claims it has God’s interests at heart.
As a failure with nothing of worth to offer, I did whatever was available in order to serve and located God’s heart beating deeply inside me, breaking for the people around me. From the shadows I watched the pain of many women striving, and I knew their struggle, their need to accomplish, or to control, or to be appreciated. I identified their greatest need even as He fulfilled mine, satisfaction in Him alone. As He stretched me from one uncomfortable position to another I realized I could begin to understand Paul when he said he became all things to all men so that he might save a few … God has me on this journey not just for my benefit, but for yours as well. I cannot endure everything every woman has undergone, but there are many things I can now empathize with that I could not before. Had I had the success I thought I was entitled to, I would not have experienced the loss that allows me to cry for a sister in need. Had my children’s births been simple, I might not cherish their miraculous lives and pray for those who suffer. If my marriage were a honeymoon, I would not praise God for holding us together, and pray with conviction and understanding for the couples in our church family.
This week I was asked pointedly how to measure success. It is not, as I once thought, by publishing a meaningful book or performing before a sold-out audience. It is not a surplus in our bank account or even well-behaved children with full tummies. Success is knowing I have obeyed in my weakness, knowing that He can take my meager offering and glorify His name.
For further meditation:
Acts 3-4 (take special note of 4:19-20); Ephesians 2:1-10
What sins has God saved you from? List them and praise Him with joy!
What good works has God saved you for?
If you feel clueless as to His desire for your life, spend serious time praying and studying Matthew 25. If you know you have used your gifts and talents for your glory, repent and ask God to show you what to do next. It may be stepping forward in faith.
I also encourage you to check out Dave Harvey’s book, Rescuing Ambition. Check it against the Word of God and see if God doesn’t help you better understand His desire for your purpose. I will be quoting from it next week on twitter and my FB page.
As always, let me know how I can pray for you? I am praying you are connecting with a great teacher in your local church family.