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When Harassment Meets Forgiveness

December 5, 2017

We had been living in the Middle East for a while and I knew culturally what was proper and what wasn’t. I knew the language. I knew how to deal with sexual harassment. It was appalling, but also expected, since it was so common. Dress modestly. Don’t look unknown men in the eyes. Don’t talk to the opposite sex in public. Keep conversation with taxi drivers to a minimum.  

I was fortunate in that when I was with my husband, I rarely had trouble. Having children with me was sometimes a deterrent to the less aggressive harassers. When I was out and about in the city, I grieved that I had to prepare what I would say or do when touched or spoken to inappropriately.   

Sexual harassment was rampant. It shriveled my soul and made me feel unfortunate to be a woman and ashamed at what men were like. I came to detest and judge men I didn’t even know as I saw each one as a possible predator.   

What angered me, though, is that I could do everything right in that culture—according to their rules I was doing what should protect me as a woman—and still be hassled. In my dress and my behavior, there was no cause for harassment of any kind. Yet, it still happened.   

And in their culture, I was the one to blame. Not the men. I discovered that women, though veiled and covered from head to foot, would continue to be an object of sexual interest and still be at fault for arousing that interest. I learned that when a woman is harassed, she is to blame. She bears the responsibility. Men are free to continue pursuing evil.   

There were socially acceptable, and often effective, responses to harassment. I could ignore filthy words though they still pierced my heart and dismiss lewd gestures though they offended my morals. Seeking help from others nearby was an option. I once asked an older man for help and I can still see him chasing the young men away with his upraised cane. Other options included praying for protection and resorting to a physical response such as hitting or punching. Though not encouraged, it was sometimes necessary. In seeking to protect myself and a friend, I had no recourse but to swing a fist at a young man who unfortunately (from my perspective) or fortunately (from his) ducked and I missed. There were phrases to shout to shame him such as, “Don’t you have a mother or a sister? Would you want them treated this way?”  

Time after time, year after year there were episodes of harassment. After every unwanted touch and unwelcome proposition, I felt a little less pure, a little less whole each time.    

It came to a climax one afternoon when I was walking down the street doing everything that was culturally proper. From a distance, I saw that there was a man walking toward me. I was modest and looking down, not planning to say anything. Moving away to the other side of the walkway, my goal was to avoid any encounter. He veered toward me and made an obscene gesture, impossible to miss.  

Angry, I said, “God damn him to hell,” as I evaded him and hurried away to get as far from him as possible.    

Did I pray those words? Was I asking God to condemn him? I think so. It was as if all those pent-up feelings of helplessness and rage came bubbling to the surface. I hated this man so much that I wanted him to suffer everlasting agony apart from God because of his wicked behavior toward me.    

I didn’t get far before I seemed to hear God whisper, “Is that really what you want? Do you want this lost man to spend eternity in hell?”    

“Yes, that is what I want.” I thought.     

And then I thought about what hell is like. Eternal punishment. What it would be like apart from God—forever in torment, in agony, in darkness away from the light and love of God. I reflected on my sin and what I deserved because I am a sinner, too. My destiny was that same eternal destiny until God in his mercy saved me.    

I realized anew that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, because of my sin I would also be doomed. God forgave my sins through Christ and I could now spend eternity with him. What if I had never met Jesus? What if no one told me about his love for me? I, too would stand condemned.    

In that moment, I knew I could not wish upon a fellow human being that eternal punishment. And by God’s grace I forgave that man. I prayed that God would not hold that sin— aimed against me— against him. I prayed for his salvation, that someone would tell him about Jesus.    

That forgiveness didn’t change my circumstances; it was not a one-time event that changed my heart forever! Yet, forgiving and continuing to forgive, kept his sin from poisoning my soul. I still went out of my home prepared for possible harassment and struggled in my attitude towards men in that culture. I was angry at the injustice for women in that place and still am.   

Forgiveness didn’t condone his actions nor excuse his behavior. It didn’t mean that if there was a way for him to be accountable for his wrong-doing I wouldn’t take it. In some parts of the world, women have recourse. They can take legal action, go to the press, report it to the police or their employer. In many of the countries where women go to share the gospel, this is not the case. These women do what they can to protect themselves and others. Teammates seek to be of help. The community can come to her aid. But, for the sake of the gospel, they encounter unwelcome touches, rude comments and immoral propositions. They do so knowing it will continue to happen until communities are transformed by the gospel they came to share!   

I want to acknowledge their hardship, affirm their ministry, and pray for their protection. I pray that God will shield their bodies from harm and their souls from bitterness. As they live godly lives, in the midst of darkness, may their light shine in the name of Jesus. May men and women come to know the forgiveness found only in him. May harassment stop and respect given as God changes lives. 

I recognize there are women who have experienced far worse than harassment. Young men face predators. Evil people extort the weak; exploiting children and marketing slaves. It is heartbreaking that people sell other people. It is soul wrenching that people buy them.  

I long to see injustice in this world stopped. I hope to see evil punished and justice come. May mercy flow and the vulnerable find protection   

Let us pray for all souls, those who are wronged and those who perpetuate the wrongs, to know Jesus. He is everyone’s only hope for this life and the life to come. One day God’s wrath will come. Injustices and evil will be punished.   

Until that day, may we each experience that amazing grace where we find forgiveness of sins in Christ. Out of that grace, may we also forgive those who hurt us and seek to protect those who are yet vulnerable.   

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A Crown, A Boat, and Four Graves

November 3, 2017

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In the busy years of parenting our four young children, I had three drawings in my prayer journal that I looked at as I prayed for them. I am not an artist, but as I saw these pictures, I was encouraged to pray and to remember truth as I prayed. These pictures helped me not only during the challenges of parenting, but they have given me life lessons for whatever difficulties I might face today

At the top of the page was a crown. This reminded me that who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow. I could know that who my children were (back in the tumultuous days of raising them) was not who they would become. There were days when they acted like little pagans—bickering, moody, and disobedient. There were even a few days when they are more like saints—helpful, kind, and loving. Sometimes they asked deep questions and other times they thought they knew all the answers. The picture of the crown prompted me not to give in to despair when things with the kids weren’t going well and not to be proud when things were going better than expected. God Himself was at work in me and my children. He will complete what He has begun.

Life lesson #1: The Lord grows and develops his children. We are all people in process. God is at work in each of us. We can give each other grace.

In the middle of that page there was a picture of a boat on the rocky waves. Being a parent is like taking a boat ride with Jesus. I thought a boat ride with Jesus would be a nice calm ride, but as the first disciples found out, boat rides with Jesus are not always calm! There are storms in which the boat is flying up and plunging down. When the boat is on top of a wave, we may think, “Wow! This is great. My kids are doing so well.” Then the boat dives down and we’re wondering, “Oh God! How could this happen? What am I going to do to help my child?” Up and down, up and down, day after day we ride the storms of parenthood. There were times I wanted to abandon the ship, wondering if God made a mistake and my kids needed a mother who knew more and could do a better job at parenting.

When I focused on the waves and the ups and downs of life circumstances and children’s choices, I felt alone— as if it was all up to me! Fear became my constant companion on the ship. The secret to these boat rides is remembering who is with us in the boat and who is ultimately in charge of the waves. At no time in any storm was Jesus ever terrified. He never gave way to despair. He was always in control. When I recognized that Jesus was with me in the boat ride of parenting, I could focus on Him and not on what the boat was doing at any point in time.

Life lesson #2: Whatever storms are raging; the truth remains the same. I am never alone. Jesus is always with me, always in charge and never worried about what will happen.

At the bottom of that same page were four little burial mounds. I think all parents, either consciously or subconsciously, have plans and desires for their kids. From the time they are born, we have certain ideas of what they should be like, what they should be when they grow up, how they should act and what others should think of them and of us as their parents. As kids grow, these plans change. Our kids are not like us when we were little. Their personalities are different. Their world is not like ours. They are not little mature adults who make wise decisions all the time. They sometimes burp out loud or pass gas in church. What adult would pick their nose and hold up what they find on their finger in the middle of a public meeting? I even think I wanted my kids to be and do all that I never was or did. They would be like little Dons and little Sues … only better.

Our kids may disappoint us, hurt us, amaze us and thrill us–all in one hour! There are 24 hours in one day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year and at least 18 years of hard work in raising these dear gifts from God. Depending on how our children behave at any given moment, we may feel like the worst parents in the world or the best. But my focus is not to be on what I desire for my kids or who I want them to be. Rather, it is to be on what God is doing in their lives and who God created them to be.

I didn’t even know I had these expectations of them or of myself until they were not met. They weren’t little Dons and Sues (thank you, God!), but because of my own faulty expectations of them and myself, I felt frustrated. I finally recognized that I was dealing with unrealistic expectations of myself (to be a perfect mom) and my children (to be the perfect children). I realized that I needed to have a funeral for my unrealistic expectations, thus the four little graves with crosses on top of them to remind me to bury what my own expectations were for my children and trust God with his plans for their lives.

After a burial, there is a mourning time, a time for grief. But there is also the realization that there is a resurrection and this causes great joy and delight, new life and hope. I could begin to focus on helping my children become who God wanted them to be. God created them. God has a plan for them. I needed to daily give them to the Lord. I am so very thankful that God made them with their personalities and gifting, that he has been crafting their life stories from the very beginning of their lives to serve him.

Life lesson#3: We’ve had dreams, ideals, goals, visions, expectations of what we would do and who we would be, what our life would be like. Maybe some of those have come true; some have not.  It is possible some expectations were unrealistic.  But some seemed realistic, yet still weren’t fulfilled. What is our response? We can hold on to those expectations and grow bitter or disillusioned. Or, we can have a funeral service for them.

If we do not have a funeral for our faulty expectations, there can be no resurrection of hope in God and his plan for our lives. If we hold on to our expectations and become angry that they have not come to pass, we will stay in a constant state of grief. We will stay self-focused, ignorant of blessings because we are consumed with what hasn’t happened or what should be as opposed to what is and how our Lord fulfills his plans for us—to be with us, rescue us, and give us hope.

As I look think about these three pictures from my prayer journal from days gone by, I am reminded today that God is faithful. He answers prayer. He is at work. I see a crown (Jesus is at work in each one of us), a grave (I need to bury my own expectations and be alive to God’s plan) and a boat (reminding me that while I may be seasick in this boat ride of life, I am never alone!).

Life Lessons from Haircuts Around the World

October 6, 2017

In America, I once had a perm.  They left the chemicals on too long and when I left the salon my hair was dry, frizzy and looked awful. I cried. Don saw it and said, “Don’t worry. People like you for who you are, not what your hair looks like.”

Nevertheless, I called the salon and pleaded for help. The next day they put a relaxant on it and though still not ideal, at least it was better. When Don saw the improvement, he seemed relieved and teasingly said, “Whew! I thought it was going to look like that forever.” What happened to people like me for who I am?

When we lived in the Middle East, I visited a salon near my home. Someone washed my hair, then the man began to cut. I don’t remember what I told him. I do know the style I got was not what I would have asked for. After he cut it, he styled it using a curling iron that was heated over a gas flame. He must have been very pleased with the result because he used a lot of hair spray to make sure it stayed the way he fixed it.

I was distraught. It was puffed high (picture the biggest, puffiest hairstyles from the 1960s), hard and stiff from all the hairspray. I did not like it. The cut wasn’t that bad I told myself, it was just the way he styled it. So, as I paid and left I thought I could just go home, wash it and fix it myself. I looked at my watch and realized I had no time to go home because I needed to pick up my daughters from preschool.

I hailed a taxi. Back in those days the taxis had no air conditioning so all the windows were open allowing a breeze to alleviate the stifling heat. Due to all the hairspray holding my hair in place, it was as if I was wearing a helmet. The wind couldn’t blow through my hair, it could only blow around it jolting my entire head at every turn!

You know it is a bad haircut when friends see you, their eyes widen a bit and they say things like, “Oh, did you get your hair cut?” without adding, “It looks nice.” Or even, “Don’t worry. It will grow.” I picked up my daughters, who thankfully still recognized me, and went home.

Once we got home, they took a nap and I was so tired I waited to wash my hair a little later so that I could rest as well. When I woke up, I looked in the mirror and realized that my hair looked even worse! Now not only was it puffed up high, it tilted to one side. I was standing straight but the top of my head seemed to be slanting to the right.

I was going to wash it, but it was time to fix dinner. Don got home before I could adjust my leaning tower of hair. Smiling he said, “Oh, did you get a haircut?”

A few years ago when I decided to stop coloring my hair, I thought rather than go through the ‘ugly stages’ of the dye growing out that I would just get my hair colored gray. I called several salons when we were in the states and finally found one that said they could do it. I went there and we looked through a book of colors and finally found one that I liked. “First,” she said, “We need to do a test strand.” So, she clipped a strand of hair to see if the color would work. I waited. She came back and said, “We can’t do it. Your hair turns green.” Green wasn’t the color I was looking for!

Recently in Spain, I looked up the words in Spanish I needed to describe what I wanted in a haircut. I meant to ask her to cut a little off. I think she thought I said leave a little on! As I watched her cutting I was thinking this is too short. I wanted to get up and run away but that’s now how mature women my age are supposed to act. My mind was scrambling for the words to say, “Stop, it is short enough.” But at that panicked moment I could only think to yelp, “No more corto!” Not correct, but effective!

I am getting my hair cut tomorrow. It is a new salon. I am a bit nervous, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons through the years that give me courage. People like me for who I am, not for what my hair looks like. If in dire need of a helmet and one is unavailable, hair spray might make a good substitute. Even when your hair is tilting a different direction from the rest of your head, you can still cook dinner. Knowing the language doesn’t necessarily determine a good haircut. Hair grows back.

And finally, no matter how it turns out, I can always be thankful that at least it isn’t green!

Mopping, Missioning, and Mothering

September 15, 2017

I was interacting with a woman serving across cultures who had young children. She said she didn’t have much time for ministry because she was busy with her children.

I remember thinking along similar lines when I was a young mother and trying to figure out how to balance ministry with family. However, I came to realize that ministry and family are not separate designations; they are both ministry—just ministry in different spheres. It is ministry in the home and ministry outside of it. We need discernment when deciding how much time we invest into which sphere of ministry.

When our children were younger my larger sphere of ministry was in my home. I had a view of what to do outside as well, but time was limited. When they were in preschool, I had mornings for outreach; we sometimes met with friends as a family in the evenings in our home or theirs. Other times my husband and I would take turns babysitting so one of us could meet with friends. Occasionally we would have a friend come stay with our kids so we could minister as a couple or go out on a date.

Picture1Mostly, though, I was home with the kids when they were home. I helped them with homework, took them to the park, watched movies with them, played with them, mothered them, had devotions with them, prayed with them, loved them and disciplined them. Of course, I did all this imperfectly, with much love, a lot of prayer… and some whining! I was playing hide-n-seek with my little ones—partly because it was fun, but also because I needed time to myself. I remember praying while hiding behind the file cabinet before they found me, “Lord, I just need a few minutes alone!”

My husband, too, dedicated time to his ministry in the home and fathering our children. I remember a marked difference in our family as he began to more intentionally choose to minister in our home and not just focus on the ministry outside of it. Balancing time in our spheres of ministry is not just a women’s issue—men and women both have a vital ministry in the home. Choosing how much time to invest in each sphere of ministry is something about which mothers and fathers must be purposeful and prayerful. We talked about it together, made some adjustments, but still were never sure we were balancing well! It isn’t easy to discern how to juggle all we need and want to do. We look back on the time we invested ministering in our home as an eternally valuable investment of time and energy. Our four children are now parenting their own children and seeking to do so while loving Jesus! We praise God for his amazing kindness and we thank our children for their forgiveness when we made mistakes!

With older kids, I had more time to serve outside my home.  I met with friends to talk about spiritual things; we had recipe exchanges where we also shared a devotional. Exercising at an aerobics class and having language exchanges all provided opportunities for sharing the gospel. Even when more of my ministry focus was devoted to my home; it didn’t keep my total focus. Serving Jesus did and that took place in and out of my home.

There is a third sphere of ministry that takes place in the home that can seem menial and not ministry at all. That is the mopping, the cleaning, the dishes and the laundry—all those things that threaten to overtake us if we get behind and are so necessary in caring for ourselves and our family.

We sometimes see these mundane tasks as obstacles to ministry! Living overseas, these chores take up even more time than they did in the states! There are often no dryers so ironing becomes an added chore. Soaking and washing fruits and vegetables, sifting dead bugs from frozen flour, picking through rice for stones, shopping at four markets instead of one supermarket, cooking from scratch out of necessity and not by choice! It all takes time and it’s hard to remember that this, too, is ministry. It is caring for family, serving those we love and ultimately honoring the Lord not only by what we do but how we do it!

Mark wrote about some of the women who followed Jesus, “In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.” (Mark 15:41). I think they did some laundry, cooking and probably some cleaning. It did not go unnoticed because they did it for Jesus. They served him in practical ways!

Whether we are mopping, missioning or mothering—or doing all three at the same time—we are serving to honor the Lord. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17 and 23-24:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

We can serve the Lord wholeheartedly as we minister inside and outside of our homes!

 

A new decade; A continuing challenge

August 2, 2017

It is said time passes quickly; it seems true to me that decades do indeed fly by!

This is my last month to be in my 50s. One fun thing I can think of in turning 60, along with a party, cake and presents, is that I can be called a sexagenarian—just one letter away from being a sexy-genarian!

I was alarmed when I read, “Almost everyone who does not finish well fails in the second half of life,” in the book Live Like You Mean It by T.J. Addington. Knowing I am well into the second half of life, I must continue to be on guard because I desire to finish well.

As I’ve considered reasons why the second half of life might be more perilous, it makes sense!

  • We can grow overconfident trusting in our own maturity that comes from life and ministry experience. We might forget how desperately we need God’s power.
  • We can grow lazy and content in our current condition. It might be tempting to rest on our laurels glorying in past victories without much thought in pressing onward and pursuing God for future endeavors.
  • We discover what we are good at and can choose to stay in our comfort zone avoiding risks that would challenge us beyond our competencies to further reliance on Him.
  • We think we are safe from giving in to sin and become negligent, especially if we have been successful over major temptations in the past.
  • Our walk with God can grow stale as our quiet times become mere ho-hum rituals.
  • Maybe bitterness from past hurts has taken up residence and is enveloping a larger portion of our heart causing our love for God to grow cold.
  • We are tired. It takes energy to live well and as we grow older we don’t have as much vigor as we used to, but we keep living and serving like we do!

There are probably many more possible reasons for not finishing well! But there is only one person who can help us stay the course–Jesus.

By his grace, may I love Jesus with all my heart. Pursue him. Abide in him. Live for him. Pray to him. Trust in him. Know him. Hope in him. Notice all the action verbs! We keep actively pursuing God by faith whatever our age! But our actions are only effective because it is the Lord on whom we rely and He empowers us to live for him. He is the giver of the gift of eternal life, whether we are tricenarians, septuagenarians or octogenarians! One might think that 90 is really old, but look at the term–nonagenarians— ‘non age’ is how it starts!

Being old in physical age pales in comparison with the eons of eternity. Whether we are in the first or the latter half of life, we know that life continues even after physical death. Jesus invites us to relentlessly pursue him in this lifetime as well as to live with him in the eternity that is to come!

For all who are aging may we be reminded:  Stay the course. Keep eternity in your eyes. Never give up. Jesus is powerful. Jesus is worthy.

May we each finish well as we prepare for a good start on our forever after with him!

 

 

 

 

 

Uni-Tasking!

July 11, 2017

Though many years have passed, I still remember the day as a mother of four little children when I multi-tasked to the best of my ability. My baby daughter was hungry, I had to go to the bathroom, and as always there was laundry to be done. So, while sitting on the toilet I was also nursing my daughter, and since the washing machine was situated next to the toilet so I began pulling out the damp clothes that eventually needed to be hung outside to dry. I felt harried. In the midst of multi-tasking there was no cuddling my daughter (it was probably not the most comfortable nursing experience for me or her as my arm swung to and from the washing machine!) nor was there a tender moment gazing into her lovely, big brown eyes. I was thinking of the tasks that needed to be done and I was getting three done at one time! I felt that it was necessary to multi-task to finish everything I needed to do.

kids when littleWhen the kids were little, life was busy; days were full; nights could be sleepless. Nothing prevented the accumulation of things that needed to be done. I’m sure this is true for moms whether you work across cultures or not; but I think all would agree that there is added stress when living outside of your home country. There was the soaking of fruits and vegetables in bleach water, boiling drinking water—and not confusing the two! We hung clothes out to dry and thus there was a need for ironing. Dust from the Sahara blew daily through open windows on hot sunny days which resulted in more housework as well as warm sweaty bodies dirtying their clothes that caused more soiled laundry and the cycle kept repeating! Add to that time with neighbors and friends, helping the kids with homework, play time, family devotions, and settling sibling squabbles as well as marital disagreements! I was tired. I needed to multi-task to survive. I think, to some degree, I felt better about myself the more responsibilities I could juggle at one time.

And yet in hustle and bustle of life, there are other precious moments that stand out to me when it didn’t look like a lot was getting done, but my soul was being restored in simply enjoying one thing at a time!

I remember sitting in the one corner of our hot apartment where I could feel a cross breeze and nurse my baby. It was quiet. I was still. It was her and me. I could rest and take that time to enjoy the closeness of just my daughter and me. No laundry. No dusting. Just me, her, and a gentle breeze.

I set my alarm a little early so that when I got up the apartment was quiet. I put on the tea kettle, sat down by the open oven door when it was winter, and read from the Bible. I prayed. Oswald Chambers became a friend as I often read through “My Utmost for His Highest”. I sought my heavenly Father in the stillness before doors slammed and feet ran. Again, to an outsider looking in—what was I accomplishing? I didn’t appear productively busy, but I met God there and he prepared me for the day.

I remember a few late-night talks at the foot of our kids’ beds. I knew there were other things that needed to be done, I was tired, but on those occasions when I took the time to sit I heard deeper questions and enjoyed unrushed conversations with four of the most important people in the world to me. Those other things to do would be there later and would be there again next week and next month and next year. There would always be tasks. There will always be laundry.  Not so, these opportunities when my kids were living at home.

Most of my memories involving multi-tasking tend to run together—except for my proud multi-tasking moment in the bathroom which one must wonder if it was really that good of a moment! I can’t remember much about multi-tasking except that there was always more to do!

But those quiet moments, those uni-task more intense relational opportunities between me and others or me and God, stand out from all the rest and still manage to bring a smile to my face and joy to my soul.

In today’s world, I think it is way more difficult to concentrate on one task at a time. We have many time-saving devices, but we have filled our time with more devices! Our phones are dinging, face book is calling, computers are waiting—all urgently trying to divert our attention away from the important people directly in front of us. We now mentally and physically multi-task more than ever. Texting and driving, texting while talking, never quite giving anyone in front of us our undivided attention. It can seem more of a priority to connect with people around the world than the ones in our living room!

I’ve been with my grandchildren, ten of the most significant people in my world that I don’t get to see very often, and I am sad to say there is often a smart phone in my hand and multi-tasking on my mind. Before I know it, I have missed an opportunity to interact face to face one-on-one with my full attention on this little person who might not recognize by my actions that they are more important to me than anything on my phone.

Spending time with God away from my smart phone, sitting to read a book that encourages my soul, resting on a Sunday afternoon, chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee ignoring even the slighted buzz of my nearby phone, actively listening to my grandson’s imaginative story without interruptions—these uni-task opportunities are intentionally delightful and ultimately more purposeful than doing even a thousand things at once!

Maybe life shouldn’t be so focused on being productive that I lose sight of living purposefully.

Multi-tasking can possibly make us more productive; I know it makes us busier. Multi-tasking can also be a relationship buster and soul burdener.

We have one life—each day is an opportunity in which to intentionally and meaningfully choose to live with purpose. There is a time for productive multi-tasking. We must also make time for purposeful uni-tasking!

 

 

My Wheaton Moment

June 14, 2017

Years ago, our older daughter was looking at colleges. She applied to several and was accepted by all of them except one. Wheaton. She had already decided she didn’t want to go there and had chosen a different college that she was excited about. But it irked her that Wheaton didn’t choose her.

Why not? Why didn’t they want her? What was wrong with her?

I told her that it didn’t matter since she didn’t want to go there anyway. She didn’t choose them so why did it matter that they didn’t choose her?

She still wondered why.

Why not her?

I teased her about it every so often.

But no more!

I had my own ‘Wheaton moment’ last month. The church planting council I am a part of was going to nominate two people to serve on the international council of our organization. Serving on the international council was an opportunity to serve and help our mission achieve its goal of church planting among least-reached peoples. My name was mentioned along with two other names to make up the slate from which we would vote.

As I thought about this opportunity, I realized that I was already juggling several projects and had some training opportunities coming up with which I would be busy. I also thought about my strengths and wondered if they would be needed as much as what the other two people would bring. As I looked at timing, gifting and personnel, I decided to vote for the other two people.

And so did the majority of others. I was not elected onto the council.

It’s strange knowing I did not vote for me and had already decided that not being on the international council would be best for me and the council—yet after hearing that I wasn’t chosen by others, I started wondering why.

Why didn’t others vote for me to be on the council? What was wrong with me? What was I lacking? Was this a vote against my leadership capabilities? What weaknesses were people seeing? Maybe I didn’t contribute to meetings as much as I was hoping I did.

I was reeling and this shocked me. I learned a long time ago that my value as a person is not related at all to my accomplishments or to other people’s opinions of me. I know these concepts well and have applied them to my life; I’ve even taught them to others! And yet in this one instance it took only a few seconds for old doubts and long-buried feelings of insecurity based on Satan-driven lies to rise to the surface. I was left doubting my significance and value.

Why not me?

I was embarrassed that it affected me. After all, I’m 59 ¾ years old! I thought for sure I had outgrown feelings like this!

A bonus of being older is that through the years I have learned what to do when confronted with feelings that erupt from lies (you aren’t worthy, you aren’t important, your gifts aren’t needed). I forcefully waded my way through those untruths and got back to truth found in the Word of God,

In truth and by God’s power, I can be set free from feelings based on lies.

I can focus on truth. I am loved by God. I am gifted by God with gifts of his choosing. I matter to God so much that his Son died for my sins so that I could be reconciled to the Father. I am a member of the body of Christ and as such have a role to play with his power— not left to my own limited resources. The Lord has a purpose for my life and sovereignly places me where he can use me for his glory.

I thank God that has put me in this place for this time. I am confident that this decision was God’s will and praise him for his plan.

I sincerely believe that those we voted on to the council are needed and well-equipped. They will provide valuable insights and clear thinking. I am happy for God leading in this way and I pray often for this council that God will guide their steps and establish the work of their hands.

Believers in Jesus are not held captive to lies; we are not hopelessly doomed to repeatedly give in to temptation. We can choose truth and be set free.

And there is always hope that when I turn 60 I will have finally outgrown those pesky adolescent-like feelings of insecurity that occasionally flared up in those first five decades!