To be honest, God has been pressing my heart to write about this for awhile, but I pressed back for fear that I wasn’t ready to write about something I was still struggling with. Still, I am struggling, but onward I write because as much as I need this, you do too. Thank you for being so faithful with tuning into my journey- let’s press forward:
This month is my 8th month since God has revealed to me that I struggle with acceptance in my life, and it has been one of the hardest journey’s I’ve ever been taken on. There has been so many tears, screams, questions, frustrations, and convictions. The Lord has brought me to my knees again and again and continues to push this area over and over with full intention of bringing to completion what he has started in my heart- thank you Lord! A couple months, though, I realized that I had become discontent in several different areas of my life, and it began to breed a root of bitterness against God. Why am I still HERE and not THERE? Why THIS and not THAT? I inquired of God. I was so worried about being in another position or season, that I had lost the luster of the season that I was in. I became frustrated, aggravated, disappointed, and angry to the point where my heart began to harden. At this point, God simply couldn’t use me- I wasn’t allowing him to. I was mad because I wasn’t hearing from him, but I wasn’t actually paying attention either. I was too busy screaming at God about how to do his job that I couldn’t hear his reassuring whisper. God had me right where he wanted me all along, and he had knitted together every area of my life so intricately. As he is doing this for me, he’s doing this for you too. Planning every season, strengthening you, testing you, giving you opportunities to EMBRACE the PLACES he has put you to see his glory in full effect. It’s the process that makes us more like Him and shows the world more of Him.
So let’s look into three areas of life that I struggled with embracing my place in. I’m praying that through these words you would hear God’s reassuring whisper to you. That you would feel empowered and encouraged knowing that He is who he says he is, and He does what he says he will do!
My heart burned with anger as I sat on the bus on the way to the local church we were volunteering at for a mission trip. We were getting ready to do our huge youth night, and they were recruiting for certain aspects. I really wanted to be in a skit, but I wanted a good part. You know- the one that people get the spotlight for and everyone applauds them for after. The one that knocks people out of their seat and sends them falling towards the altar for salvation after how great you just performed. That’s the part I wanted, and that’s absolutely not the part I got. I got the backup part. The one that they didn’t have the original person for, so they stuck me in with hopes that I’d do it just as great as the prior. I’m pretty sure you could imagine how discouraged I was. Looking around I started to compare my parts to others, and even the amount of time I had on stage compared to everyone else’s. I felt so insignificant and so stupid until I turned my back around preparing for the first attempt at the whole skit, and God so vividly spoke the words over me, “embrace your place”. It was one of those whispers that knocks the senses back into your prideful and oh-so-emotional little heart. I took a deep breath and told myself, “you are going to be the best actress at this part that anyone has ever seen in their life, you got that Brooke?” And with that I stirred up all the energy I had left in my body and rocked that small, backup part that I got thrown into last minute. I did it with all my heart and strength, and at the end I didn’t really care who was proud of me- I knew that Jesus was.
Much like I did in this skit, I know that so many of us do this in our ministry. We begin to look at others who are in the spotlight, who have jobs on staff, who plan and organize, who speak and preach, and we think, “Man, God, why am I not right there? Why am I still HERE?” And your here can be anywhere. Your “here” may be being the one picking up the trash every service, printing up the order of services or announcements, doing lights, giving the band water, or leading a small group- the list is endless. The point is that you think you’re job is insignificant compared to the others. Or maybe you don’t think that. Maybe you know that you still play a big role, but you just don’t believe that doing your job every service is BIG ENOUGH, and you’re just wishing that God would place you somewhere bigger.
I bet King David felt the same way. In 1 Samuel 16-17, David is anointed as King and then given the opportunity to kill a giant called Goliath. Now, David wasn’t in any high position when he was anointed as king. For one, he was the youngest of his brothers, and usually the youngest was not anointed as the next king unless the other brothers physically couldn’t. Second, he was a shepherd of the sheep that his father owned, which was not the most glamorous job to have considering you walked in the heat all day with stinky sheep. What’s amazing, though, is that after he is anointed, he goes out to battle to talk to his brothers and a huge giant named Goliath comes up. No one has the courage to go against him, so David speaks up to fight. Everyone gets angry and discourages David because he is so young, but in verses 34-36 he says, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears and this uncircumcised Philistine shall belike one of them…” (ESV). To wrap up the story, David ends up killing Goliath with one stone, and everyone ends up going crazy.
I share that story in the Bible because you are David, the shepherd. Your are tending the sheep. Your work feels dirty, useless, and boring. It can be overwhelming and you can be overlooked more often than not. Your work in the field seems daunting and like you’ll literally be stuck there forever- but you won’t. Be encouraged that the place God has you in in ministry is preparing you for the next season he is taking you into. He is going to have you protecting sheep, killing lions, and running off bears in this season because he is preparing you to kill your Goliath. Embrace your place in ministry. If you are doing lights, be the best freaking lights person the world has ever seen. If you’re picking up trash, be the best and most diligent picker upper that the church has ever known. Do everything in excellence, even the little things, because then God can trust you with the bigger things that your heart desires. Know that your part of the body is just as important as the rest. The heart would have no job if it didn’t have a leg to send blood to, and the same in ministry. You matter, and your place matters. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN MINISTRY.
I was sitting at the desk at the hospital scrolling through my phone as I was volunteering. I volunteer to get some hours down on my resume for PA school in the future, but while I’m there I do a whole lot of nothing (usually just writing in paperwork when it comes). As I am scrolling, I come across a video of a girl. She looks about my age, has the same style, and she loves Jesus, the only thing difference is that she’s standing in front of a crowd of thousands preaching, and I am sitting in front of an old desk in a hospital watching her fulfill her dreams. Immediately, discouragement washed over me. For awhile I had been hearing from God about different visions he wanted to accomplish through me- a youth girls conference, a class to equip high school girls for success, a book one day to be written for youth girls- and here I am, scrolling through Instagram on my phone, feeling like I’m doing a whole lot of nothing while this girl is doing a whole lot of something. I texted my mentor immediately and described how discouraged I felt because I didn’t feel any closer to fulfilling this purpose I knew God had set out for me, and she responded with, “It’s good to remind yourself that dreams take time and even when you feel like all your doing is ‘not doing your dream’ you are actually putting in the time and consistency needed to make those dreams happen. To make opportunities for the dreams to happen. A big part of dreams is patience. So as long as you’re literally not being a couch potato, then you probably are right where you’re supposed to be. Waiting and doing the lowly work is just not as glamorous.”
So many of us have dreams and visions of things that God wants to do in and through us, but it seems so far away. You see all these other pastors and young leaders doing the dream you feel like God has called you to do and you feel like you’ve missed the mark. You’re still living with your parents, still going to school, just sitting in front of a desk like I was and you feel so powerless because you aren’t in the exact position that you feel like God is calling you into. Be patient. Where you are is going to benefit your dream more than you realize. It’s going to open up doors for your dream or give you skills for your dream that are a necessity. God is building you up to be the person he has called you to be for the vision he has placed on your heart. Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 years old, and he only did his ministry for 3 years. YES! God’s son had to have 30 years of training and learning before he was ready for the 3 years of intense discipleship and ministry ahead. In the same way, God is preparing you. It’s much like a cake that’s being prepared for baking. There are so many ingredients that are put into the mix, and if one is missing or one step is not done right, yourncake will be disgusting once it has been baked. Likewise, if you are given the opportunity to advance your dream, or vision, before your fully prepped and ready, then the outcome will be a failure. God loves you way too much to see that happen, so he is prepping you and preparing your perfectly for that moment. He’s in the waiting. He’s in the preparing. He’s in the process.
On the other hand, you may not even know what your future looks like. When I was in high school, I had the dreams of going to a private college on a full ride for nursing school, and did not end up getting the scholarship. I remember the fear that washed over me the moment I got that call from my mom. The fear of the unknown, the fear of what was to come, where I would be, and what my purpose was. I couldn’t see what was next or where God was taking me, but in order to get through I had to embrace the place God had me- the ministry he called me to, the girls he had me leading, the community I was in at the time- taking it day-by-day and walking in obedience to God’s word. If this is where you are, it’s okay to not know the will of God for your life. It’s okay to not know his plans. I don’t actually believe we’re supposed to know, because if we did we wouldn’t need to have faith and trust. He hems you in behind and before. He knows where you will go and what you will do, and the outcome will never be against you. I mean c’mon, we serve THE God who created the universe. His plans for us have got to be out of this world. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN YOUR PURPOSE.
Soap box moment: this battle with acceptance has ripped me to shreds. I have watched my friends win victory over many things around me. I have watched them fight battles, win them, and move on while I was the girl who was STILL battling with the same thing. I have probably cried to every friend asking them why I am STILL in this place, STILL battling this fight, STILL not where everyone else is when it comes to victory. A few nights ago, I was crying out to God about the same matter. I’m trying so hard Lord, why do I still feel like I’m treading the same battlegrounds of blood, sweat, and tears? In that moment, I felt such a huge peace over me- sometimes they are battles, and sometimes they are wars. Man. Sometimes what you’re struggling with is not just a battle, but a war. And as seen in history, wars usually have far greater gain than battles do. We learn about the wars of the world and are told to memorize them, because they have made the greatest impact on America and from the wars we’ve won, they give the greatest reward as well. Your war that you are fighting will reap reward that will change this world.
Now Like me, you may want the over-the-counter quick fix, or the over-the-night-wake-up-and-I’m-delivered victory, but there’s no character building or becoming like Jesus in that way. Much like when you’re trying to gain muscles, there is no pill you can take to make them grow or inflate. Muscles are formed when old tissue is torn apart, leaving room for new muscle cells to build on top. This means that you have to be dedicated and persistent to working out in order to see results, and it also means that you have to be pushed past your limit to grow. You can’t quit after a couple days, though. Six packs aren’t gained in a week (trust me on this one, I’ve tried and failed). You have to keep going and keep pushing, and always remember that the place you feel MOST stuck is the place where God wants to set you free from MOST.
If you don’t get told this enough: YOU ARE AWESOME! What you’re going through is normal. There are so many people around you who are probably going through the same thing. We have a God that sympathizes with what we go through and how we hurt (Hebrews 4:15). Your war is not stupid. You are not defeated, you are a fighter and you are a warrior. With Jesus, you HAVE overcome this fight. You are so dearly loved and you are so dearly cherished. You WILL get through this. You are MORE than a conqueror. That means you won’t just WIN the fight, but you will BENEFIT from the victory. Hold on to your hope. Take courage. If no one believes in you, I do and God does. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN YOUR BATTLES.
Practically, I’ve learned that the devil fights most in the mind. He schemes and he plans for just the right moment to attack your thoughts and bombard you with jealousy, bitterness, and rage. Put on your helmet of salvation, and make “small deaths” to your flesh daily. We may want to dwell in these thoughts because they seem fair and they seem like right to feel that way. Die to yourself. We may want to stay in our pity party because it seems comforting and we’ll get the most attention from people that way. Die to yourself. We may want to jump to a different season that God is NOT calling us to yet. Die to yourself. Die to yourself over and over and over again, remember God’s promises written in his word, and speak them over your life out loud for the devil to hear. Where you are is where God wants you to be. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE.
“You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.” John 13:7