Darkness cannot destroy me….

I wanted to get a tattoo that said “WARRIOR” but I decided that it might seem a little too Gladiator or  Braveheart which was NOT what I was going for. In fact, my husband would testify that those are the best movies ever and I would safely say they are awful.

When it comes down to it, here is what I am working with:

I get angry.  I am determined. I am not content to sit and watch the darkness creep in.

I have a creed I live by that goes something like this:

I will fight with those who are in the battle of overcoming. I will walk with those committed to the cause of finding their own freedom. I will not engage with people who want me to work harder at their lives than they do.

If we love by those standards the expectations are set and it simplifies life greatly.

I think of darkness in this way. You know that early morning fog that comes on you while you are driving on the interstate? At first it seems manageable but suddenly you realize you cannot see just feet in front of you? By the time you are in it that deep you don’t know what cars are around you and how long it will be before you get out of it because you are blinded by the fog.  You don’t know how you got there and you aren’t sure how long you will be stuck in it. That is how I see darkness.

When we walk in the light we can easily avoid dealing with the darkness most of the time. We can numb the reality of our own brokenness. We can shop, drink too much, watch tv, scroll through Facebook and never once think about our “stuff.” I know because I do it  too.

How can we give what we don’t have?

So if we are virtually unaware of our own issues of greed, selfishness, pride, lack of faith….we cannot possibly be available for anyone else in their time of need. Think about it- when you are going through something, do you call the person who lives in their own little box- insulated and protected with little insight? Of course not. You call the one who will get real and enter into that pain with you. I am not saying it is easy to do. It is so hard. It is exhausting. It is an opportunity to die to self which is almost impossible for us sometimes. But we are called to push through and dig deep and step into the pain alongside someone else.

I know how difficult it is. Last October I went to Haiti a week after the devastating hurricane. Crops and homes were completely destroyed. People were desperate for shelter and food. I was only there a brief time but what I saw changed me. I came home discouraged, undone. I went into a numb phase that I am barely pulling out of. I remember seeing my friend Courtney right after I got back and she told me she would pray that I could do the next thing.  At that point I was not even sure what that was. It took me a while to figure it out. I decided I did not want to go back to Haiti and have to face that kind of loss ever again. But I leave in a  few days and will have to face my fear of what I will see and how guilty I will feel that we have not done more. Everything in me says run and God says go. So it is a done deal.

When we say YES to God and  reach out to love people well, we make ourselves vulnerable….and then the potential to get hurt is pretty high. Ok let’s face it- pain is inevitable. We get our feelings hurt, we are misunderstood, and we are rejected. That is just reality. So who in their right mind would continue to try? It seems almost crazy to keep going back into the hurt and opening ourselves  up. But….there is a reason. And it’s an amazing reason. It is called fulfilling our PURPOSE. And it will make us come alive.

The “me” a few years ago would have taken about 5 seconds of being misunderstood and tapped out. Run as far away as possible and then be too hurt to put myself back out there.

The “me” now has a totally different understanding. I know without question that I do not serve man. If I did I would be crushed. Done. And the wall around my heart would get thicker and if anyone tried to look in to find me they would see me curled up in the corner. Meanwhile, I would justify why I got that way and begin to insulate my life more and more because that is what people in pain do- they run from anything else that will hurt them.

At least once a day someone asks me WHAT I do or WHY I do it. It really is simple. It is what the Bible calls us to do.
“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

It is not my job to fix anything. God just says to show up and He is sufficient.

We recently took someone into our home, converted my office into a bedroom, threw a baby shower and made her a part of our family. After some time, she began to heap accusations on me that could not even possibly be true and the end of that arrangement came. How did I deal with that? People ask me all the time.  It is  like when Jesus hung on the cross and pronounced “It is finished.” We have to know with our boundaries in place when our role is finished and be ok with it. We cannot carry another person’s brokenness and when it gets to that point we have to lay it down. We can walk with them but  we cannot protect them from the demons that haunt them and their unwillingness to go deep and battle them.

I remind myself that I am not in the business of transforming people and change takes time.

We all want the story of the stripper who loves Jesus and never struggles again or the student who lives in poverty in the third world and makes it to law school. The reality is that those changes come over time, the obstacles are enormous, and learning an entirely new way of life is never easy.

I have watched women struggle and often return to their old ways. Back to the abusive boyfriends and back to the drugs.

I have watched children in Haiti excel in school one year and fail the next. I have seen healthy people get deathly ill with no explanation. I have seen parents pull their teenaged boys out of school to work the farm and we lose them forever.

Most people ask, “Isn’t that discouraging?” and the answer is a resounding YES but it is not an opportunity to quit. See….I am a fighter. A scrapper. I am not ok with injustice and I can’t tolerate people being victimized. I cannot sit and watch darkness take over even the smallest amount of light. The Jesus I serve calls me to be brave. In Creole it is Ou dwe brave- be brave. I live by those words.

In Matthew 25, God talks about the sheep and the goats. All week I have been telling God, “I don’t to be a goat!” This is what Jesus says to the goats (those who did not give to those in need):

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

YIKES!!

So here is the good news…..

There is hope! The Ashleys, the Ambers, the Veronicas. The Willems, the Vilias, the Jelins. God working in the moments when no one is looking. God providing when it all seems hopeless.  The decision to go to school in Haiti when they have not eaten for a day or two. The choice to not darken the door of a strip club and allow men to be abusive to make a few bucks.

As long as there is darkness, we will be called to it.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We have the light. Light in a lit room is not needed.  Face your own brokenness. Dig deep.  You will come alive. And God will give you opportunities to love people and you will never be the same.

 

What We Want in a Pastor

My husband has been a pastor for the 20 years we have been married.  Some denominations would not have considered him a pastor until he got his Masters of Divinity degree this year, however, I know his heart and he was a pastor.  One of our first dates was taking a group of middle schoolers to Night of Joy. All I can say is….I REALLY loved him to have stayed after that experience!

He has been a youth pastor, church planter, and now an associate pastor.  We have been in large denominational churches and small non-denominational churches.  They have all been in the same city surprisingly but the churches have all given our family a wide array of experiences in ministry.  As his wife, I have learned a lot and God has given me the grace at each stage to find my place.

I have really felt lately that I wanted to share my heart with pastors.  Why?  I have no idea. Am I reluctant?  Absolutely. But God is God and I am trying to be better about obeying that nudge of the Holy Spirit.  As I write, I cry with emotion…I guess this hits me at a heart level more than I thought it did. Not sure even what those emotions are at this point but God will show us as this unfolds.

As I was looking through some notes from a conference I attended, I saw this term- HERO SYNDROME.  As the church, we don’t need you to be our hero- blessing us with just the right Sunday morning attire and the perfect families and wives who are Mary and Martha all rolled into one perfect individual.  We have our hero- Jesus. And He was perfect but he was also humble. We need you to be humble too. Taking the low place. The role of a servant. Riding in on a donkey, not a throne of grandeur.

We, the church, also need you to be approachable. Not visible on Sunday mornings from a pulpit that you flee as soon as the message is finished but present at the coffee shop discipling others, at the auto repair shop picking up a member of the church who did not have a ride, and at the grocery store when you stop by on your way home to save your wife a trip.

We also crave your authenticity. If all your stories come from Chicken Soup for the Soul and none of them are from your real life, please re-read the previous paragraph because you are not approachable. We want a pastor who will share from the heart- brokenness and failures, as well as victories and growth. We want to know you are secure enough in yourself that you can tell us about who you really are. Not who you want us to think you are.

We deeply desire a pastor who understands that WE the PEOPLE matter more than committees, numbers, and denominational meetings. When we are in churches driven by campaigns and gimmicks, we notice and our hearts hurt.

We want your teaching to challenge us. Why do we want to come if we don’t leave knowing that God has used you to show us where we can grow?  Some of us have other people in our lives who will show us this too but some of us don’t because Sundays are the only time we make God a priority. We need you to not be scared of the fall out if you preach the TRUE Gospel and make us uncomfortable. We need to hear it and we need you to have the courage to bring it.

We need you to be real and every time you talk about your families as if they are borderline saintly, we feel a deep sense of failure. And deep down we know they are sinners too but it seems like so much of the time you try to convince us otherwise. It is not helpful to any of us.

We are already insecure about not knowing as much as you do about the Bible so when you talk down to us and quote all these different languages in an arrogant way we don’t even want to open our Bibles because it already seems too hard so we don’t want to try. We love when  you give us biblical background  and history but please remember most of us don’t know where Asia Minor is so keep it simple.

We don’t need you to inundate us with quotes from theologians because we want to know what God has shown YOU. And we certainly don’t need corny illustrations that you try to stretch to the ends of the earth to make a connection. Just say what you want to get across and God will handle the rest.

When it all comes down to it, it is all pretty simple. We need you to live your life in front of us being honest and genuine and showing humility and teachability.

We don’t need a businessman, a committee member, a CEO, an unapproachable preacher, a networker, or a Bible concordance.

We need a pastor.