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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Yourself in my shoes

I haven't updated in a while, for a combination of reasons. I've been very busy. I decided to tack a Master's of Divinity on with my MSW degree. It has been a scary ride. The hours are long and the reading soul-searching never ends. I'm learning so much about myself and my calling.

And that is why the words have stopped for a while. I have a calling. I really did not want to admit that to myself, because being called to the ministry is scary. I thought I knew what it meant when, at 17, I walked an aisle and told my church I was surrendering to the ministry. I really didn't even know what that meant, especially for a female like myself.

I went off to college, made some great friends and got me a great husband. We always ran hard and fast after what we felt God was calling us to do. Inner city ministry, international ministry.

Then, I had my first baby, and I did what (I thought) any good Christian woman would have to do - I quit all other forms of ministry in order to minister to my home. My husband got a job as a youth minister, and I became a stay at home mom. (I did work briefly at a crisis pregnancy center in between babies number one and two, but other than that, I stayed at home with my kids.)

Imagine that you are me now. You have been told that you needed to go and do great things for God. You have literally traveled the world sharing the gospel. You've walked foreign streets and eaten strange foods. You've learned new languages. You've felt the deep darkness all around you that is poverty, oppression, abuse. You've felt both exhilarated and beaten down by your work, but you felt fulfilled.

Now, imagine that you are trying, trying with all of your might to be the best homemaker you can possibly be. This is your calling, after all. Anyway, your husband is ministering hard enough for the both of you, what with being in seminary and working for the church so much. You start to resent seminary. You start to resent the church. You feel that there is no place for you there.

You start a blog. It starts out as a homemaking blog. A natural homemaking blog. Its fun, and you like the cooking and the gardening and the little cloth diapers. Somehow, though, things get away from you and you find yourself writing more and more about social justice issues. About the Gospel. You feel this fire burning inside of you, these words. People thank you for your words, for sharing your heart. You start to think that maybe you have something to say to the world, and that you'll do that through your blog. In you free time after taking care of your home and kids, of course.

Then, on Valentine's day 2013, you find out that you are pregnant again. This will be the third baby in three years. The days become relentless. There is screaming, there is crying, and it's often coming from you. So tired. Insomnia keeps you from sleeping more than 3 hours a night, and still the children need you, all. day. long.

You are failing at this calling. You are a terrible homemaker. You can't be the support you husband needs. You still have these words burning inside of you, but every time you sit down to write, one of them needs you, or you just can't shake the other responsibilities off long enough to write. You are beyond tired.

You feel terrible because, instead of seeing your children as gifts, you see them as little prison sentences, with the birth of each one extending your time by just that much. This fire inside of you won't go away, as much as you wish it would. You feel so selfish for having this need to write. You feel guilty for being distracted from you true calling - your home. That's what they told you was your calling, and you just don't know any other way.

You can't stand to look in the mirror. You start seeing a plastic surgeon, hoping to cut away the things that are making you not enough. You almost go through with it. You have no idea that it's not the outer issues that you are unwilling to face. You have no idea who you are anymore.

You think about leaving. Every day. You hate yourself for it.

Then, over the course of six months, everything starts to change. God steps in. He doesn't really say much, but light starts to break through, and you start to see it all around you - something is going on here. You have no idea what, but you see the path in front of you. Not the path ahead, mind you, just the next step. If you knew everything that lie ahead, you would be paralyzed and you've never take that next step.

God speaks to you in a way usually reserved for cheesy pulpit stories - go to Baylor, he says. What? Waco? Nah.

You decide social work might be a good fit for you and you're husband's future ministry plans. You look everywhere but Baylor. You end up, of course, at Baylor. Through a strange and frustrating turn of events, you commit yourself to seminary, too.

The thing is, by this point, after the last 5 years, you can't imagine that God has called you to be a minister. You don't even like his bride the Church anymore, after all. And yet, you can't believe how much you are thriving in seminary classes. You feel this strange stirring inside of you again, and it terrifies you. You want to run back to the life you left behind, the one that felt like such a prison. The only thing that keeps you from doing it is the fact that you failed so miserably at that life last time.

The voices from your past torment you every day - you're being selfish they say. You've abandoned your true calling, they say - your home. You are a waste of space at seminary, they say.

Then, that light breaks through a little more. That fire inside of you? You start to feel in again, and your soul starts to thaw. It's scary. You keep moving forward. You feel alive and fulfilled again. Your family doesn't fall apart - it thrives. For the first time in a long time, people see you. Not just the mom or the wife, but the woman. It terrifies you and takes some getting used to.

You slowly start to uncurl from the knot you didn't even realize you'd tied yourself into, and you fight every day to open your arms and heart. To learn again to let that fire inside of you burn unhampered. It hurts, and you don't always win that fight, but you feel that you are finally growing into yourself, and it is going to be okay.

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