When my girls were little and my brain was turning to mush, a neighbor invited me to a women’s bible study at her church. Frankly, she had my full attention and grateful acquiescence the minute she said the words “free child care.” Being the parent of little people made me tired, so “free child care” was really all I needed to hear before saying yes to almost anything in those early parenting years. In fact, I think I may have ended up with an unwanted gym membership around that time.
Months turned into years and I found my participation in these bible studies to be a much-needed source of connection, community, and intellectual stimulation. Digging around in these ancient texts and meeting together with others similarly engaged was a lifeline for me, socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Eventually, we started offering similarly formatted bible studies (and free child care) at my own church and I became more and more capitivated by God’s word as revealed in the Bible.
However, after several years, I began to get restless. I was leading bible studies, teaching Sunday School and doing all manner of other “church lady” activities. I was teaching my kids about Jesus, inviting my neighbors to bible study and making an occasional casserole. I was praying regularly and trying really hard to cultivate the famous fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Occasionally, I even demonstrated these characteristics in dealing with my kids and my husband. Wasn’t this what I was supposed to be doing? Wasn’t I being obedient in all the things I was learning in the bible? I didn’t understand why I had this nagging sense of discontent.
Here was the problem: the more I immersed myself in the scriptures, particularly the things that Jesus said, the more I began to suspect that I might be missing the point. Apparently, being comfortable and happy was not the ultimate goal. My personal salvation was only part of the story. Feeling all the warm and fuzzy feelings was a lovely by-product of faith, but not the reason Jesus came. Jesus wasn’t talking about blessing the blessed or further educating people who already knew Him. He was preaching about radical, hard things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, loving my enemies and binding up the broken-hearted. Jesus loved and spent time with the poor, the unclean, the lepers and the sinners.
I was mostly hanging out with other middle-class church ladies just like me.
What was I to do with this confusion, discomfort and dissatisfaction? What did God expect me to do with these difficult things Jesus was saying? Was He really serious about this Sermon on the Mount stuff? Did He really mean what He said in Matthew 25? Isaiah 58, really? Did He expect me to move to Africa? What about my kids? What if I couldn’t plug in my hot rollers? Why couldn’t I just be satisfied doing my work around the church?
Recently, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “Interrupted,” and I found these words that perfectly describe how I was feeling during those restless days:
How was I to serve in the new way of the Spirit? What did that mean? And if that service involved me going instead of them coming, I was leaving my safety zone, where I know the rules and had collaborators, where I was a little popular and God was the soup du jour. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I asked.
It appeared that, at the very least, I was going to have to step outside of the church building.
In May of 2008, I was still wrestling with God and paralyzed by my need to have a plan, a blueprint of just what exactly He was up to in my life. To be honest, Jesus’s words were starting to wreck my comfortable Christianity. I had been perfectly happy in the safety of my suburban church and then I wasn’t anymore. In this frame of mind, I read these words in the Priscilla Shirer study I was doing at the time:
Our motto should be “Whatever He says to you, do it.” If you are ready to make this motto your own, write it in the margin. Sign and date it as a reminder of when you made this commitment.
Initially, I wouldn’t write those words. I knew God had been pushing me, but I still wasn’t clear on His plan. I needed to know what the “whatever” was before I would agree. I needed details. I needed answers. I was comfortable in the safe familiar, why should I sign up for the unknown?
But what else had I learned during my time studying scripture?
- God has a plan for my life. A plan to give me a hope and a future.
- I can be bold and unafraid because God will never leave me or forsake me.
- I will find Him when I seek Him with my whole heart.
- God has not given me a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power and of love and of self-control.
- If I remain connected to Him, I will have abundant life.
- The Kingdom of God is near.
If I believed these scriptures, shouldn’t I be willing to trust Him, no matter what? Even if I didn’t know all the details?
So finally, on May 12, 2008 (I still have the book) I wrote the words “Whatever He says to me, I will do it” in the margin of my study book and I signed it. I don’t know where you are sending me, Jesus, but I will go. I say Yes.
Even if it means leaving the safety of the church building.
2 months later, in July of 2008, through a series of “coincidences” completely unrelated, I found my way to the Lamb Center for the first time.
I have been leading bible study every Tuesday afternoon at the LC since that first day in July of 2008. This year, I am also serving as Chair of the Board of Directors and we are in the process of building a new, bigger building to better serve our guests. It is exciting and meaningful work and I feel most alive on Tuesday afternoons around that table. I share this not to boast of my meager efforts, but to highlight God’s crazy providence and extravagant generosity. He is willing and eager to involve us in His adventures. When I whispered my tremulous Yes, He pointed to the door He had already opened for me.
God has used this humble place to change me. I look at the world differently now and I trust God more. My friends at The Lamb Center have continued to reveal the Kingdom and God’s perfect love to me in ways I find hard to put into words. From the selfless staff and volunteers, I have seen real-life examples of how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need it most. I believe God still works miracles and I believe His Kingdom is worth fighting for every day.
And I believe God can and will use comfortable middle-class church ladies as part of His plan to love the broken and heal the hurting. What a privilege!
I am ready for the next adventure! How about you?
Is your comfort making you uncomfortable? What is God preparing you to do next? What would it take for you to say Yes to your next assignment? Are you ready to go on adventure with God?
Thank you to Suzanne Eller once again for the writing prompt for our wonderful #LiveFreeThursday community. Please visit #LiveFreeThursday this week to read some of the other amazing posts on the theme, But If You Say So.