I would like to say 15 years of Women’s Ministry experience was enough to write a book. However, it was what would happen in the last five years (years 16-20) that would have the biggest impact on my ministry perspective. I wish that I could say that it was some wonderful experience that brought forth glorious epiphanies. Instead it was a time of hardship, lessons to be endured, and an opportunity to grow through struggle. There were times I felt defeated, the weight of ministry was too hard, my call was too much to bear, and that I felt very alone.
In the Book of Nehemiah, we see Nehemiah pained by the state of his home that was in ruin. The pain was so deep, that the king could see that Nehemiah was bothered and burdened. He inquired of Nehemiah to share what was weighing him down so much, and Nehemiah laid his heart out on the table. Nehemiah loved his home, his people, and was brokenhearted. He knew that he would need to return to his home and help rebuild the city and the wall that surrounded it. Eventually the king not only allowed Nehemiah to go home, but even helped with provisions.
The Lord didn’t burden Nehemiah’s heart and then send him immediately. Months passed between when the Lord called Nehemiah and when the Lord would send Nehemiah. In the background there were things that had to happen. John Piper once said that the Lord is working out thousands of things on our behalf and we might know of two of them. In hindsight, I can see so much of what I was going through during my season of wait was for a purpose. There were things God was working out in the background that I couldn’t see, nor could I understand.
In Esther 4:14 (a very prominent verse for me in 2018), Mordecai suggests to Queen Esther that perhaps she came into her royal position for such a time as they were facing. At the She Speaks conference, one of the speakers reminded us that the Lord does not come early, nor does He arrive late. He arrives exactly on time. While there may be a season of wait, it is not passive idleness but active preparation. Why? Because, when the Lord is ready to move, you need to be ready to move and perhaps quickly.
If I had gone to She Speaks 5 years ago, I don’t believe it would have been the right time. My book would not have been as strong, the content wouldn’t have been at it’s best. Not that it was wrong, but rather it needed to be refined by fire. There was some testing of the metal that had to happen, some iron sharpening iron that needed to occur.
My relationships had to be refined by fire. I need to know who was for me, and who was not. Who could be trusted, and who could not. I had to experience dysfunction in ministry so that I could recognize health. I had to depend less on churches, people, and events to shape my understanding of Women’s Ministry… and really dig into the depth of the Scripture. I had to walk through a ministry in crisis, to be humbled as a leader, to reconcile, to see ministry from new perspective.
I remember during this process praying for women and women’s ministry. The Lord broke my heart, opened my eyes, and give me a fresh insight to the the good and the bad. Those words began to weave themselves into my content. In the book, on my website, and even through social media posts. I had been afraid to speak up for myself, to speak up in defense of the ministry, and to share what the Lord had taught me. I was afraid of how people would respond to my strong words, observations, and calling.
I was afraid I would lose everything I had worked hard to establish for so many years. That I would lose my ministry position, that I would be cast aside, labeled a Jezebel for confronting, etc. I was broken down, and in the end… I was still stripped of it all. I was a shell of the leader I once was. Afraid. Beaten down. Pressed from both sides. It was all too much.
Refined by fire. For such a time as this.
It all came to head one day, as I sat crying at a free mentoring session that I was gifted through an organization. I had stepped into the space with the hopes of gleaning wisdom. Before I knew it, tears were flowing, I was sharing my frustration as a leader that lacked authority to affect change. I poured my heart out about everything that happened in the past few years. I shared how difficult it was for me to wrap my head around how easily I was trusted as a leader in a secular company, managing over 100 hundred people, handling hundreds of thousands of dollars every day. Yet, I couldn’t even be trusted to lead a ministry that served maybe 50 people at a time. I had never felt so limited, micromanaged, and unappreciated in my life.
The mentor apologized to me. A man who did me no wrong, who was sympathetic to my plight, was sorry. He gave me the best advice I have ever been given: Every day, the first person you preach the Gospel to … is yourself. There is a LOT of strength in that. A reminder of where my identity, value, and comfort comes from. The opinions of people didn’t matter, God mattered. If God called me to it, God would get me through it (my friend Aimee gave me that gem).
I’m not the only person, volunteer, or leader to have felt those pangs. The Bible is full of stories of people who were overlooked, cast aside, etc. History is filled with people qho challenged the status quo. God used them in mighty ways. What others meant for harm, God used (and continues to use) for good and His glory.
I wish the story ended there… but I still struggled for some time after that. The next time I was crying to my husband. I told him I was tired of fighting for women’s ministry, I wasn’t sure that I could keep doing it. I was never more confident in my calling, but also never feeling such oppression to lead as God called me to lead. I don’t want a pulpit. I don’t need an audience filling arenas. I wanted to pour into the women in the church, equip other women to pour into the women in their churches. I commented that would be nice to be invited to the table vs. having to fight just to be heard. My husband said, “God called you to be a trailblazer. If it was going to be easy, He wouldn’t have called you. You were meant for this.”
My husband is a man of few words, most of which is filled with sarcasm… but these are the moments where he floors me. When he sees me, supports me, and speaks truth that I need to hear. I was afraid to rock the boat and my husband called me a tidal wave. God’s Word tells us that we are not to have a spirit of fear or timidity. I was hiding in meekness and peacemaking for so long, that I forgot the sound of my own voice and the boldness that the Lord had knit in when I was formed in my mother’s womb.
Through all the trials, dysfunction, and discomfort… I grew. I began to find myself in Him, once again. I started to recognize myself in the mirror. I realized that the words that I wrote on the page were not in my own strength or opinion, but rather a Biblical defense of ministry that God had woven together as my fingers tapped away on the keyboard. My calling was becoming crystal clear, and the content of the book was refined and sharpened. The Lord brought specific women into my life who are making me better, stronger, and spurring me forward.
In fact in the very place that I experienced deep pain, would be the very place I would find immense healing. I didn’t need to pull back from His people but instead chose to lean further in to God. Resting in His arms, as He patted by back … reassuring me it would all be okay. Speaking words of reassurance that my siblings didn’t mean to cause me pain, yet not discounting my pain. Helping me to find the blessing, the lesson, and the silver lining to the storm clouds. Then releasing me back to the task He purposed me for.
There was a lot I had to go through, or better yet … grow through, in order to get to the final draft of my book. This final version had a new and better purpose. It was clear and concise. As I sat sharing about my book with a family member, she blurted out “Oh, it’s an apologetics book.” I had never considered it that way, even knowing the definition of apologetics. It had never crossed my mind. I pondered that thought my entire drive home.
I began to think of some of the other books that I have on my mind that I want to write.
I am an apologetics writer. I am an apologist.
When I think back to everything I have ever done, even in the secular world, I have always been a defender. My calling that I was confident in, related to Women’s Ministry hasn’t changed. However through this refinement, it has been purified. A very large diamond may get hundreds of cuts, ending up at 1/20th it’s original size… but with every chipping away and cut… it becomes more valuable. Still a diamond, but it’s not the same diamond. So can He chip and chisel away at the marble of our calling, breaking away the bits that keep us a solid block in order to shape us into a new creation.
The long wait was worth it. Not because I had a better book, that was able to get a publishing contract. It was worth it because every success and every heartache was refining me to the point of clarity that I have never known before. I was seeing things through new eyes, clearer vision, and discernment. I had an inner circle of women that I could turn to for wisdom and guidance.
I am thankful for the five years that helped me shake off the dust, see myself through His eyes again, and get this new breath inside my lungs for His calling on my life. Reinvigorated. Re-energized. Realigned.
Walking in the desert for 40 years will make your legs stronger. You will walk further, faster. But one day, you have walked the distance. The promised land is in sight. All that God was working out in preparation for your arrival, unfolds before you. The journey was long and arduous, but it was worth the wait. It was lonely, and sometimes even felt dangerous. It was worth the wait.
The book contract, as exciting as it is, is nothing compared to the moment you find yourself again through the One who created you. When you can let out that final, big, sigh of release. When you are comfortable in your own skin because of not trying to live up to the expectations of others, or those who try to define or limit your call. Walking out in faith means there is a level of comfort in myself that whatever God is asking of me, I can trust in His hands. I just need to show up, authentically, the way He created me to be for the purposes He set for me.
Greater than publishing a book, is the mending of a heart.