Since we moved to our new home at We Will Go ministries, I've never doubted that we're supposed to be here. I've not at all wished we were back in the country and we've been aware of God's provision and presence. For the most part, the kids have adjusted really well to all the changes and have been enjoying life here in the heart of Jackson. We've had some fun times and we've been building new friendships and traditions.
But despite all this, I've still been pretty stressed. I have often feel overwhelmed and little things would just feel like too much.
Last night's Bible Study was one of those things weighing heavily on me.
On one hand, I knew it was an honor to get to share God's truth with the folks there. Many of them would be strong Christians who'd grown up knowing the Lord, but there'd be others who were brand new in the faith or don't even know God at all.
But on the other hand, I just felt totally inadequate and filled with dread. I'd been reading through Galatians, the book that I was assigned to teach out of, and had even listened to a related teaching online by Steve Brown. I'd asked people for prayer and done some praying myself. But over all, I felt like I was never getting any real time to focus on getting deep with my preparation. Life around here is just very, very busy and there was always something else going on and by the end of the days, I'm just wiped out usually.
So yesterday I woke up, and my first thought, before I even get out of the bed, is that I wished it was already bedtime again. I was worn out before I'd even opened my eyes and the day had started.
My friend Karen was due to come back over and help me unpack and organize our school room which was a big relief. We've still got lots and lots of unpacking that needs doing and this is another aspect that had been weighing heavy on me. I'm pretty stinky at organizing stuff and so I just look at the boxes, don't know where to put the stuff, and I feel that suffocating, overwhelming feeling sinking in.
Well, Karen arrived and we ended up not even touching the school room. We chatted, we laughed, Karen cut everyone's hair, and before we knew it, 3:00 had come around and it was time for me and the teenaged boys to head next door for canned goods ministry.
I spent the next two hours hanging out on the Love House porch. I helped give out food, met neighbors and did a lot of talking, introduced one of our ministry friends to Karen who was back at the house hanging out with the kids, and before I knew it, the time had come for me to throw some supper on the table and then head to the clothing ministry that happens just before Bible Study.
Yes, the stress and dread about Bible Study was constantly present in me by this time. I had been asking the Lord about it, but over all, I was still just feeling really not qualified for the task. I mean, after all, I'd not led an adult Bible study in years and years. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd led one. Back in my college and young adult years, I had led them on a pretty regular basis. But now? Now, I was a mom with a lot of kids who felt primarily called to minister to kids. Ask me to teach Vacation Bible School or Children's Church and I am perfectly at ease. But an adult class? Adults expect you to be smart and wise and organized and know stuff. You're supposed to know stuff they don't know and be all deep and everything.
And this group would have the added complexity of being a very diverse group. I'd be teaching a roomful of folks ranging in age from seven up to retirement age. Some would be church people but others might be prostitutes, addicts, alcoholics, transients, whatever.
I'd been attending Bible studies at We Will Go long before we moved here. All of the other teachers just seemed so different from me. I just didn't think I could do it the way they'd done it.
Slowly, I started getting the idea that I didn't have to do it the way they'd done it. I even asked one of the other missionaries, Sean, about how to do a certain aspect and he said I could do it the way I wanted to.
Not knowing the results of yesterday's events, I can only believe that it was God who was speaking to me and directing me because before I really even knew what I was doing, I was calling my kids --- and poor husband --- up to the front of the room and we were dancing and singing an African song and teaching it to the group. Singing and dancing to Siya Hamba (a song about walking in God's light) broke something loose in me. As the study began, I shared my story with the group. Tonight's Bible passage was on the subject that it is God's goodness and our faith in Christ that makes us right with Him, not our following of the law and our goodness. This is so much a part of my testimony. Growing up in church and knowing God from an early age, I'd lived the first twenty-five years of my Christian life being wrapped up in self-righteousness and always seeking to be seen as perfect.
As the study progressed, folks interacted, asked questions, and shared from their hearts. By the time it ended, I'd not only survived the dreaded leading-of-the-Bible-study, but folks seemed to have been ministered to.
Then I threw the kids in the van and we raced out to Swirly Treats where our daughter Betsie works and our church was holding a fund raiser.
Embracing my friends, taking pictures, and just chatting, I sensed that the burden was gone. I felt happy and free. The kids and I did a brisk walk down the long length of the shopping center and back. I enjoyed laughing and running and being loud and singing and taking pictures.
This morning, I woke up and I was fine. My first thought wasn't "oh, I already wish the day was over". I didn't mind getting up. The physical sensation of being burdened was gone.
I knew something had happened. I'd turned a corner spiritually and emotionally and started asking why things were different.
Yes, as the mom, I've had a lot of demands put on me over the last few weeks. Jim's been crazy busy with work. We've hit the road running with ministry activities. The kids still need to be schooled. Money has been incredibly tight, even nearly non-existent. And often, my best laid plans to unpack or work on a project, have gotten interrupted or even made impossible due to unexpected things coming up.
But I've had lots of demands put on me over the years. In fact, there have been harder and more intense times, like when I had four kids five years old and younger.
This time was different. And it wasn't until last night's Bible study was over and I felt the sweetness of freedom that I began to understand part of the root of the stress, a honking big root.
I was once again falling into the people-pleasing trap that I used to live in before I got set free in my early thirties. It wasn't that others were pushing me to that place, I was doing it to myself.
I was looking at me and comparing myself to others in the We Will Go family. For the most part, the way they pray and interact with others is just very different than who I am and the way I pray and interact with folks. And since I am a mom of seven kids, I also don't have the same freedom and flexibility with my time that many of the others do.
So as I looked ahead to leading the Bible study, I was feeling that I had to do it just like I'd seen the others do it and that freaked me out.
But when I led the group in a rousing rendition of Siya Hamba and then just told my story and did the Bible study in a way I was comfortable with, including teaching from The Message version of the Bible, it was okay.
Actually, it was more than okay. It was good. Jim, whom I consider to be one of the very best Bible teachers around, even told me that I did a stellar job --- that the weaving of my personal testimony with the teaching of Galations 3 was a very effective way of covering the subject matter.
See, what God did was get me to minister the way He has created me to minister.
God's the one who has made me this way. He's the one who has called me to absolutely love kids, enjoy silly songs, and be able to make conversation with just about anyone I meet. He's the one whose given me a bouncy personality, an easy-to-please attitude, and a desire to believe the best about most folks. I love God immensely but it is pretty simple most of the time.
I rarely feel deep or complex. He speaks to me through song lyrics, popular movies, and everyday happenings. I still love VeggieTales videos and Donut Man songs.
And that's okay.
Just before we moved here, a group of missionaries from Iris Ministries in Mozambique was visiting We Will Go. One or two of them prayed over us and spoke on this subject where I was related. They said that God wanted to use me at We Will Go just as I was. That I didn't have to be someone else. I just needed to let Him use me and my unique personality, callings, and giftings.
I forgot that.
Somewhere along the way, I started feeling inadequate because I couldn't or didn't do things the way that others were doing things. I was feeling guilty and inferior because I was me and not them.
I know...it sounds ridiculous now that I type it out, but that's the truth.
I am inadequate, but not because I'm different from others, but because we are all inadequate apart from God. If I try to do anything on my own strength, especially things related to minsitry, then I'm going to be a failure. A stressed out failure at that.
But when I rest in who He has created me to be and then allow Him to flow through me, empower me, strengthen me, then I am adequate.
Actually, I'm more than adequate.
Awesomely His and awesomely used for His Kingdom in ways that He has prepared for me and my uniqueness.
And that, my friends, is intoxicating.