Tonight I led our women’s Bible study. It was an impromptu step-in. Come to think of it, both roles I helped with Sunday were also spontaneous.
Could these situations be a lesson for me? Our adult Sunday school lesson was from the Old Testament. The message focused in on obedience and stepping out of our comfort zones to go where we are being led or called to.
Ya’ll… I am an introvert. I struggle to leave my bubble. Spontaneity is not usually my jam.
Besides that, I’ve always viewed people who lead in the church to be willing and able to throw all their personal stuff out on the public table- and own it with grace. Putting my personal baggage (of which there are heaps) out in the air makes me anxious.
Following close behind the anxiety is a solid couple hours of second guessing my choice of words. Then worrying that I might have said too much or omitted something important sets in.
The past two days of spontaneous ministry… whew! What words to describe? Uplifting. Honest. Humbling. Spirit led. The grace extended to me by the adult Sunday school class, children’s church group, and women’s study was above and beyond what I could have hoped for.
None of this ministry was about me. I am just a tool. It’s all about a relationship with God.
In my previous installment “Fatigue,” I wrote about how much fatigue slowed me down this summer. It basically ground the month of August to a halt in terms of activity for me. During this time period, I was also struggling with my faith. Not actually doubting that there is a God – I see and feel so many actual points of proof for His existence – but rather feeling alone.
Yesterday, I taught children’s church. This takes place during our normal Sunday service for 30 minutes and is open to kids ages 2-up. In a completely disorganized fashion, I hadn’t planned anything as of 9:50am. Church starts at 10am. As I dashed into the bathroom to apply mascara, I saw my children’s rubber bath tub spout cover. It’s a whale. On the way out the door, I grabbed a flashlight, the whale spout cover (story props), and my Bible.
You guessed it. I taught a lesson about Jonah and the whale. The story is found in the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. Basically, Jonah knows what he should do. He’s been told what to do. He just doesn’t want to do it and heads the other way on a boat. God stirs up a huge tempest. Jonah admits he is disobeying God. The crew of the boat asks God for forgiveness for throwing Jonah over and then launches him off the side. The storm calms. The crew has a new-found faith in God. (He uses ALL things for His good.) Jonah is swallowed by a huge fish and survives IN THE DARKNESS and with PRAISE for three days and three nights before being deposited on the shore.
There’s a lot to take from this portion of the passage. This entry won’t touch a fraction of it.
Jonah and I have quite a bit in common here.
Growth is hard.
In August, I attended a women’s faith conference: “Boost! Bloom Where You Are Planted.” I donated an entrance fee essentially to cry the whole day. Tears streamed down my face during the fantastic speakers. Tears hit the floor during guided prayer. Tears salted my cheeks during the praise songs. It was a complete TURNING POINT.
I’d spent the summer keeping myself so busy that I was that ship headed in the opposite direction. I was blown about, cargo being thrown overboard to keep afloat, ignoring those peaceful words that I could only hear when I’d slow down: Be Still.
This seems to be a recurring message for me. I get all wound up with the happenings surrounding me and shirk my devotions, praises, and generally start disliking everything around me. My fuse gets short. Patience lacks. I want to be alone. My cup is empty.
Here’s where the growth happened- light bulb moment: I’m not supposed to fill my cup. The Holy Spirit does that… unless I’m too busy holding my hand over the top of the cup.
I took my hand off the top of the cup. How? Bybeing still. I am a volunteer by nature. I WANT to help. Saying “No” doesn’t come easy. Truthfully, it usually comes with a *sigh* and a couple of drafts of thoughtfully composed words before I can hit send on the email or text. There’s guilt in the those two little letters: N-O.
By stepping back from some activities, I can honestly say we’ve found joy, patience, and peace again at our house. I’m back to reading my devotions most mornings. The waters have started to calm.
Sometimes God isn’t asking you to do more, He is telling you to do less. He is asking you to re-focus like a good, loving, and caring Father does.
Back to Jonah – His story isn’t over after the boat ride and the fish. He made both good choices and bad after that. Although I’m hopeful I’ll only make good decisions, I’m human. Gloriously human. Thank goodness for grace and mercy!