I’ve recently had to come to terms with the fact that my life is not normal. I’m not entirely sure what “normal” is, but it seems like Noland and I are pretty far from it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a conversation we had with my dad right before we got married two years ago. I remember him telling us that as two “game changers” in the kingdom, as he calls us, getting married and giving our lives to plant churches, we were basically knocking on the gates of hell saying “na-na-na-na-boo-boo” and willingly becoming targets for Satan to want to attack. He told us there’s no greater adventure we could possibly embark on together, but that we needed to be prepared for a fight.
It was some of the most honest, true advice my dad had ever given me, and I have been more aware of how true it is than ever before in this season. I think when I thought about being spiritually attacked I pictured some epic Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader sort of situation, with light sabers and laser guns.
Maybe that’s what it looks like in the spiritual realm, but here in the natural it’s surfaced in things like fear and anxiety, or insecurity and envy. It’s almost worse than a punch in the face, because it’s creeping up from inside of me like a disease that I’m not sure how I contracted or how to get rid of.
As I sit here writing this, I’m unemployed and completely at a loss as to what my next move is. Meanwhile I have friends from college and high school living in studio apartments in New York and climbing ladders to their dream job, working at major networks in Los Angeles, making records in Nashville and shooting photos all over the world. They’re in med school and law school, and they’re closing big business deals and bringing home big paychecks.
I’m just trying to find a part-time job while I go through church planting school, live within my teeny tiny budget that all my aforementioned friends would probably laugh at, and then raise support to go plant a church in Utah. (Good thing all my friends are becoming doctors and lawyers, right?)
There are plenty of days that it would be so easy for me to look around at my friends lives in other cities and think, “What the heck am I doing?” There are plenty of days that I do exactly that. But every once in a while, there’s a day where God reminds me exactly why this is all worth it.
A few weeks ago, Noland was leading worship for the Antioch Discipleship School at their spring retreat before they headed overseas for three weeks on outreach. I went with him to worship and pray with some of our friends in the school before they left.
It happened to be the day after Easter, and all day long I just couldn’t escape the parallel of the timing of it all. I thought about a resurrected Jesus reappearing to his disciples, showing them the scars on his hands and his side, assuring them that he was capable of the impossible.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” [John 20:26-27]
I thought about how he had said we would do even greater things than him, and I imagined what it must have been like to actually hear his voice give that commission, to have felt his breath as he filled them with his holy spirit and said, “Go.”
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:21-22]
I was walking around the room that night thinking about all these things, about what He had done on the cross and what he asked us to do after he rose. I looked around at a room full of his disciples, getting ready to go fulfill that commission, and there was just something so powerful and so sweet about that picture.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with youalways, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]
As I watched all the students worship I happened to lock eyes with a friend of mine. In the previous year, she had gone through a recovery home for women coming out of addiction, and I had walked closely with her through that year. Every Wednesday afternoon we spent a couple of hours together, going grocery shopping for the house, talking about the kinds of things that grow friendships in weeks to a place that normally takes years.
I saw her walk through the darkness of addiction, relapsing and running away, and then coming home and returning to Jesus, letting him heal her and hold her even when she didn’t know how to be held. I saw her slowly let him transform her and soften her. I saw her confidence grow as she let her identity be placed firmly in His love for her. I saw her heart break and I saw her heart heal, and in many ways mine broke and healed with hers.
After she transitioned out of the house, she went straight into the discipleship school. And there she was, at the end of her school year, face shining with the love of Jesus, and at one look at her I just came undone. Two years of watching her journey flashed before my eyes and I couldn’t believe the work of transformation God had done.
I told her I was proud of her, and I wrapped her up in my arms and we cried joy tears together, both of us astonished at what Jesus is capable of. We prayed together and cried together some more, then we laughed and we danced, because this moment was worth celebrating. And today she’s walking around somewhere in Uganda, sharing Jesus with people who have never heard.
Noland and I drove home that night and I was still crying joy tears, and I told him, “Those are the moments I know that this is all worth it. I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care what’s in it for me. I would walk through that fire all over again with her if it meant I got to stand on the other side of it with her for a moment like tonight.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of normal or comfortable that a lot of my friends will be. I don’t know why my journey looks different, and I know it certainly doesn’t discredit the lives they live, just because we’re planting a church and they’re practicing medicine or making music or selling real estate. I’m no more holy than they are because I’m doing ministry just like they’re no more established or important because they’re big shots in the business world.
What I know is that being obedient to what God’s called you to is worth it. What I’m certain of is that seeing lives transformed by Jesus is absolutely the most rewarding thing in the world, and it can be done in ministry and in business and in art.
But this is the road God has called me to walk down. And today that looks like being still and knowing He’s good, even though I’m not sure how next month’s bills are going to be paid. It looks like writing when I don’t feel like I have anything to offer. It looks like humbling myself and knowing that this season is for a reason, and He is forging something in my spirit that I will need later.
It looks like counting the cost, but letting my focus be on the treasure. When I lost sight of the treasure was when I began to resent the sacrifice.
I think maybe this is the battle my dad was talking about. The battle where everything that’s normal about the world has me wondering all the time about what my life could have been like if I’d chosen a different road. The battle where things get hard and everything in me wants to question that same thing the serpent convinced Eve to question in the very beginning, “Did God really say ______?”
But I’m thankful that God is gracious and He reminds me why we’re on the road that we’re on. I’m grateful that He isn’t shaken by my doubt or my fear, my insecurity or my tendency to look at others and think, “I wonder why my life doesn’t look more like that.” I’m grateful I have Noland to walk through it all with.
There are so many things about the journey we’re on that don’t make sense to me. There are questions I don’t have answers to, circumstances I can’t understand why God has allowed, and destinations ahead that are still covered with a bit of a fog.