Twelve years on it’s still easy to recall the stark white walls as I sat on the edge of the seat listening and responding at the mandatory counselling session because I was under the recurrent miscarriage clinic. I recall the feeling of hopelessness as she concluded that I had a great support network, was coping with the hard road as well as possible and there was nothing she could do with the consuming fear I had as my faith was slipping away and I couldn’t work out how a loving God could allow me so much pain, what the purpose could possibly be for all the suffering, and how I could cling on to God when I felt the relationship was holding on by a thread that was under huge strain and was on that final tension before snapping all together.
Then in the stillness of the room she lent forward, hands gripped together as her chin sat on them and she looked as though she was pondering. Picking up on the despair and desperation. She mentioned that she couldn’t help with faith, but asked if there was a pastor or someone I respected that could point me in the right direction, that would be worth reaching out to. My mind flitted to some of the isolating and hurtful conversations had by well meaning christians and leaders. Then my mind went all the way back to when I was a teen and the American youth pastors had an impact on the few weeks I had under their leadership and the fun of reconnecting while over there for my 30th.
I went home and reached out with a flurry of questions, many words written of our journey and my cross-road. Leaving it easy for them to grasp my frustration that within the bible I couldn’t find the comfort and guidance I longed for. Yet as I awaited a response expecting an amount of words that would rival mine I still recall the few lines it contained and how my heart sunk. It didn’t take long to be thankful that in wisdom they didn’t answer my questions, they didn’t try to allow me to settle for less by looking to them but pointed me to God.
Their direction led me to a global in-depth bible study. I still recall turning up and feeling like the odd one out as I was in my early thirties and most of the people there had white hair and old fashioned clothing. The venue was dark and the carpet was worn and old, with a smell to match. The seats were a beige colour, hard plastic and despite it being summer were cold to the touch. I sat there feeling like I didn’t belong as the welcome was given. Then when we all went into the main part, songs I couldn’t even begin to sing along with as the hymns were clunky and the overhead projector used to display the words not overly clear. You would think all that would have seen me go running.
But there was something about the words spoken, the format given that made me realise this was a place where I could dig deep into the Word of God and begin to navigate my way through the breaking away faith to see those threads mended. I concluded that I would be at the bible study for a year and then gap it once I had what I needed. I naively thought I would stick to myself and just get the goodies I needed and not even attempt to connect with these ones I didn’t belong with. How arrogant!
I still recall the morning a few years in where I was doing my exercise on the floor with the sun streaming through the trees into our living room and the trees softly moving in the wind. I felt very strongly in my spirit this was one of the last leisurely mornings before the bible study. I didn’t know what it meant but as I sat in the beige chair a few hours later I felt I was about to be on the first of many stepping stones in the path God had set.
A week on I was asked to be a children’s leader. I still recall the soft sofa, the drawn curtains the sun was streaming through and the awkward posture of the lady asking me to consider being a children’s leader despite my empty arms and hard journey. The tears stung as they streamed down hot on my cheeks. How unfair to be asked to be a glorified babysitter when I was there for myself. Wasn’t my brokenness plain for all to see, didn’t I deserve some time just to get through? Turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of all because every week I poured over truth to put it simply for kids, which meant my heart really got to grasp it and run with it. I had the joy of their company and being able to be a goof with abandon as we played play dough, danced to music and all sorts. My heart softened. I finally felt loved by God. I finally understood the backbone of Jesus, uncompromising in agenda, unwavering in grace, unapologetic in the depth of compassion for the lonely and broken, the unrelenting pursuit of the one who didn’t belong…the bible filled with stories of many messy ones like me who found safety in Jesus.
Only eighteen months of that joy and I was again being asked to consider a change. It didn’t surprise me as God always graciously gave me a heads up. I think it’s because He knows me so well, that stubborn streak that runs within and the need for confirmation it’s Him otherwise a big fat no thanks to someones plan. I was being moved to be a group leader. I struggled with the thought of leaving the fun for what I presumed would be boring. But low and behold God saw me get a group of ladies that were so beautifully real, so accepting of my quirky ways and just a thrill to do life with. It was even more short lived as after six months I was being asked to do another role where I would be teaching, training, shepherding. Three years of that where I was so out of my comfort zone, insecurities were exposed and lovingly tended to by God, challenges came and His wisdom was given, hurts were experienced and His grace was extended.
The next role saw me experience the biggest challenge of going to the States for training where I faced the fear of flying alone, experiencing our first nights as husband and wife apart, dealing with another layer of brokenness from the sexual abuse as a child in unexpected ways, the immense love received by some God appointed gems alongside when I felt I just didn’t belong as I didn’t fix the box. The eighteen months in that role ended up being another great joy like the children’s one where I got to see front and centre to audacious love and purpose of God, experience His unbelievable enabling and carrying, being refined and defined by His Word and ways all the more, peeling off the layers of not fitting and just enjoying being the me God created me to be.
But then came the next ask and during the interview process I conveyed with how God was working I wouldn’t be in this for long, given the woman before me did it for over twenty years, I wanted to give them an out because of all they would be investing and what a pivotal role it seemed. I was so sure it would be two to three years and that I would be concluding the season with a big round belly so I jumped in giving it my all. Wanting to leave a legacy of community, connecting, shepherding, loving, fun, realness, a safe place to grow, a joyful love for the Lord that allowed you to press in and on no matter the strange times were were about to navigate through. The time held some brutally hard challenges that exposed more ugliness in me to address. It taught me valuable lessons about doing life with others and will stay with me a lifetime. It wasn’t easy as the push to stay was hard, but I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God was bringing to a conclusion one of the most precious, life giving, faith shaping, foundational chapters of my life to an end. It took a lot of courage to step out of the nest so to speak and go into the unknowns ahead. From November when I informed them my time would be up in June till now that the conclusion has arrived I have been so immensely grateful as I trace the faithful fingerprints of God all over this season, in each role and stepping stone, in each hard lesson learnt, in each joyful experience had, in each precious person enjoyed.
I am so humbled and grateful that God unfolded things very differently to my agenda. I’m so humbled that thread by thread He put my faith in a better state than it had ever been. He built layer by layer in understanding of truth, acceptance of how relational and near a God He truly is, of how willing He was to get into the mess and lead me through, to take me higher than I ever could have hoped for in my faith journey, and to discover joy in refinement, satisfaction in being defined by His take and not the worlds, and so much more.
How I venture into the next knowing God will faithfully be alongside, purposefully lead, securely hold and guide, grow and love on me well.
How I feel that tug with each last these weeks have held as I say see ya later to my heart family and wonder how our paths will cross again in the days ahead. But in my final week at this precious and unexpected season my heart is filled with gratitude at the incredible experience God has entrusted me with and excitedly expectant for whatever lays ahead for I know in His will is the most wonderful and safe place to be. Trust & Obey! That is the only option.