It’s a day I’ll always remember. The moment, the feeling.
As an avid social media enthusiast and participant, I struggled with the conviction God put on my heart to disconnect for the day: “God, this is a historical day! I’m a millennial, female pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church! How can I NOT participate!”
Learn to trust Me.
In your surrender, you will find Peace.
And so I did the unthinkable – I turned off my Twitter and Facebook notifications, (blasphemy, I know!). I went into the office like I do everyday. I spent the day worshipping, singing, reading, praying, praying with friends, ministering. Waiting, hoping, and learning to trust.
It was the right thing to do.
Later in the evening I was with a friend, a student I have the honor of serving alongside in Campus Ministries actually. Oh how I praise God for her! Her gentle spirit and comforting thoughtfulness had helped keep my eyes on Jesus throughout the day. We had decided to watch a childhood movie favorite of ours, but just a few minutes into the film I got the call. Brother, friend, co-laborer Garrison Hayes called just as the votes were being announced. Together the three of us sat in silence and we listened over the speaker phone as the totals were read aloud. Once. And then again. And the heaviness of my soul broke into soft tears – the burden of my heart for our church grieved me. “I’m sorry Anna,” my brother comforted. My heart shattered. I am too. Nevertheless, we should praise God.
Then came the flood. Mixed with tears of sadness was the rush of texts, phone calls, Facebook posts and tweets affirming, comforting, encouraging, uplifting my soul. Brothers and sisters in ministry, family, friends, mentors, co-laborers all speaking, writing, reassuring, and reaffirming the peace that passes all understanding and planting it firmly in the deepest caverns of my heart. We cried together, prayed together, wrestled with God together. Then, just as we promised we would, we worshipped together.
Precious Lord, take my hand [take our hands] and lead me [lead us] into the Promised Land.
Trust and obey for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and [His] righteousness.
I share all this because it is my testimony – my witness to declare that in my utter brokenness and confusion, disappointment and sorrow, pain and uncertainty I choose to remain. I choose to commit. I choose stay. I choose to follow. I am just another broken person in a broken church body. But…
It is in our brokenness that God makes things new.
His Word emphatically declares over and over again: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9. What if God desires our brokenness over our unity at this moment? What if, in our brokenness and weakness, we find our truest unifying motivation. When I read the SDA Bible Commentary the joy of this text becomes even more full:
“Inward strength to endure is a far higher manifestation of the divine grace than mastery of the outward difficulties of life. Outwardly a man [or woman] may be torn, worn, wearied, and almost broken, yet inwardly it is his privilege – in Christ – to enjoy perfect peace. . . . The Christian paradox is that occasions of weakness may be transformed into occasions of strength. Defeat can always be turned into victory. Real strength of character grows out of weakness, which, in distrust of self, is surrendered to the will of God,” (Vol. 6, 921).
Distrust of self. Surrender to the will of God. Honestly, it’s not an easy thing. Nor is it a destination we every fully reach, but more of an ongoing process. For God desires our holiness more than our happiness.
And so, Christ teaches me by His example, and I practice this difficult discipline:
I lay myself down. I lay myself down. I lay myself down. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God,” I declare with Paul, for I long to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me–the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return,”
2 Timothy 4:7-8.
Notice here – this “fight” is NOT against my brothers and sisters, it is NOT with my church: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 6:12.
No. In fact, I long to fight alongside you. To put away our sword-like tongues and other piercing weapons, and fight the enemy with the power of the name of Jesus Christ who has already secured our victory. For us to say “let’s get back to our mission” implies that we weren’t all that invested or focused on it to begin with – have mercy Lord! Let’s continue to lift high the name of Jesus Christ with the testimony of our lives and our own love for one another, that all would be drawn to Him, (John 12:32). Because when it comes right down to the most basic concept, isn’t Jesus the foundation of what we have in common? Just Jesus. Jesus.All.
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord…” mmmm that resonates with me. Not the literal chains of captivity, not at this point in time at least, but the overwhelming sense that I belong to Him. Paul continues with this incredible imperative:
“I beg you to lead a life worth of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves untied in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is
one glorious hope for the future;
one God and Father, who is
and in all,
and living through all.”
This imperative is not specific to just us women in ministry, or even male ministers, it is given to us – to the body of Christ. The One, the One who began the good work within us will continue to work it out unto completion, (Philippians 1:6). We find all we need in the One who established the foundations of the earth, by whom all things were created, and by whom all things are held together, (Colossians 1:15-20).
I don’t say this flippantly, I say this from the deepest part of who I am, trusting with my whole soul…
God is in control.
When it doesn’t make sense to me. When I can’t see the way forward. When I strain my ears to be able to hear what He would have me do. When there seems to be no way – God makes a way. No, He has already provided The Way.
And so, here in the offices of the Campus Ministries department at Southern Adventist University I look out my window and I am filled with peace. I hear the laughter from my coworker’s offices and I filled with joy. I am visited by young adults eager to deepen their relationships with Jesus and I filled with hope. I dive into the Word and feast for the day so that I may have overflow to share and I am filled with love.
Jesus is not finished with us yet! He has more transformation to do within us, individually and corporately. He remains the reason why we have all been called to testify of His life, death, resurrection and soon return.
Jesus. He is enough.
He is all.
In the midst of brokenness and confusion, disappointment and sorrow, pain and uncertainty let’s invite Him, “Good Shepherd of our souls, take our hand and lead us on!”
In the process, in the waiting
You’re making melodies over me
And Your presence is the promise
For I am a pilgrim on a journey
You will lift my head above the mighty waves
You are able to keep me from stumbling
And in my weakness
You are the strength that comes from within
Good Shepherd of my soul
Take my hand and lead me on
You make my footsteps and my path secure
So walking on water is just the beginning
Cause my faith to arise, stand at attention
For You are calling me to greater things
(And my favorite part…)
Oh how I love You, how I love You
You have not forsaken me
Oh how I love You, how I love You
With You is where I want to be