Have you ever not known what was going on until you verbalized it? Maybe it’s due to the more dominant extroverted parts of my personality, but there are times I don’t realize what I’m actually thinking until I finally say it out loud.
To my complete and utter surprise, I’ve had the recent honor of being nominated for an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity. As part of the process, I was asked to write a cover letter describing my calling and experience up until this point in ministry. As I began writing, I found myself discovering something about myself I hadn’t considered fully (something that others have probably perceived about me, but I’ve been too slow to catch onto myself). I guess the extroverted stereotype is true: I think out loud…even in writing.
In the spirit of vulnerability and community, I thought I’d share this with you. Perhaps it can be a help to you in understanding what’s been subconsciously driving you, to give you a language for what you’ve been feeling but not known how to express, and ultimately, provide you the tools necessary to silence those nagging voices deep down that never seem to leave you alone.
January 1, 2016
To whom it may concern,
It’s an interesting time to be writing this. Today, I find myself 2 days away from the first Sunday service for a church that God has called me to plant. I’ve wrestled over the last several months in some serious ways with this calling. I’ve questioned. I’ve doubted. I’ve fought against it. I tried running away. “God, surely there are others who can do this! There must be others far more suited to the task than I am! There are people more qualified than me.”
I’ve been saying this my whole life. Even when I first heard I was nominated as a candidate for an honorary doctorate (which, by the way, thank you), my immediate thought was, “Well, someone else more deserving will get it.” My whole life, I’ve wrestled with insecurity.
And it’s really the most bizarre thing. You’d think I grew up with unsupportive parents, or had a family too poor to provide me proper education, or perhaps only recently gave my life to Jesus, but the opposite of those things are all true. On paper, there should be nothing standing in my way. Loving parents, a great education, I’ve been walking with the Lord for over 20 years now, and yet there’s been a voice deep in my soul crying out “but you’re still not enough.”
I excelled at many things growing up: art, music, math, creative writing, soccer, lunch, you name it, yet the words “never enough” continued to echo in the deepest parts of my heart. Whenever I put my hand to something, I did everything in my power to make a name for myself in it, because I was desperately trying to silence that voice. Yet it’s been in the midst of this transition—this calling to church planting—that has become for me the crucible God is using to purge away the dross of doubt and fear in my heart. I don’t get to bypass it. I don’t just get to go around it (believe me, I’ve tried). I have to go through it.
And here, in some senses forced into the place of Pastor, I find myself like Jacob, in the darkness of night, face to face, wrestling with the Almighty: “I will not let you go! I will not let you go until you bless me! I cannot go on without you, God.” Like Joshua, I find myself standing at the river’s edge—unsure how to cross, but told to step in first before He makes the way clear—because God intends to wash away my fear and increase my faith as the cool water rushes over my foot as my heel hits the ground in the water of the unknown. Like Moses, I find myself still offering up excuse after excuse—“I can’t speak well, I’m not a leader, those people won’t accept me”—but to all my insufficiencies, God says: “I am with you,” so that now, I repeat his words in desperation: “I will not go unless your presence goes with us!”
You see: my deepest insecurities have helped me see that no level of success or status or approval could ever silence them. The only answer to the nagging questions in my soul is: Jesus. JESUS! In the words of Augustus Toplady: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” My hope, my peace, my rest, my identity comes solely from the life, the death, and resurrection of Jesus. His finished work for me allows me to work for Him. Not to perform, but to be formed. Not to be saved, but because I’m saved. He’s changed me. He’s changing me. What He’s begun at age 5 in my life, He’s continuing and will continue to do because He finishes everything He begins.
This ministry I do is not my ministry; it’s His. And for some strange humbling reason, He invites me to join him.
In His grasp,