When You Suddenly Aren’t What You Have Always Been

leadingWhen I was in high school I had a very good understanding of what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I had been volunteering on my church’s worship team since I was 14, and was being mentored by a woman whose life I wanted mine to look like–she was a mom to two little boys and she was the worship leader at her local church part-time. From a very young age, I basically decided that I wanted to be just like her.

I don’t remember ever having lofty goals for myself–at least not in the sense of what others usually deemed “lofty.” I don’t ever remember having any desire to be well-known, or to write books, or to make albums, or to lead worship for tens of thousands of people. I don’t think that I really even ever planned on having a “career” of any kind, outside of wanting to lead worship part-time while raising my children.

All of this seems weird, looking back, since I was such an overachiever in high school. I remember that I was chosen as “Most Likely to Become President” by my classmates one year in high school, and I markedly remember being so confused as to why my classmates thought of me in that sort of way–because I LITERALLY knew nothing about politics or government. I graduated with above a 4.0 average, worked WAY too hard and took “gifted” and “advanced placement” classes, and was even chosen as student of the year my senior year–and I honestly don’t even know why I did all of it. Because, if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think that I even wanted to go to college.

All I wanted was to be a wife, and a mother, and I wanted to lead worship part-time at a local church where I could help usher people into the Lord’s presence every week. That was my life goal.

I got my first “real” job at the age of 16 in the insurance industry, and found favor with my boss who hired me as a full-time employee when I turned 18–doing a job that I honestly didn’t deserve to do without a college degree. In high school, I fell in love with a man that was conveniently 5 years older than me–just graduating college– and I married him at age 18. I got my first worship leading “job” about a year into our marriage, and worked two jobs for a few years. The plan was always that when we decided to have kids, I would become a full-time mom with a part-time worship-leading job. A few months before I delivered our first children (twins)–about 3 years into our marriage–I quit my day job.

I was officially living my life-long dream.

Somewhere along the line, I felt like the Lord gave me an important story that He wanted me to tell, and I wrote my first book. Shortly after I published my book, I felt like the Lord was calling me away from the church where I was working, and was calling our family to look for a church where we could go as a family–where I wouldn’t be on staff. It was time to get out of professional ministry for a while, or so I started to think. I started to wonder if I had really been called to lead worship, or if I was supposed to focus on writing as my “calling.”

Backing up a bit, about a year before I decided to leave the church that I was working for, I had auditioned at another local church for their worship leader position– I had gotten into the top two applicants, and I absolutely fell in love with the worship team and the church in general. I had received all wonderful feedback from the staff, and I honestly felt that the Lord was doing something–that He wanted me at this church. I was almost certain that I was going to get the job. I even felt my heart disconnect from my current church in a tangible way that I couldn’t understand. When I didn’t get the job, I was confused, and always wondered why God had tied my heart to this church so deeply if He didn’t want me to work there.

I found out from the pastor the name of the person that did get the job, and we became internet friends. I felt no hard feelings toward anyone–saw what a great leader this person was, and how much more experience he had than I did. It was obvious why he had been chosen. About 6 months later, I noticed that his worship website was hosting a worship leader conference at the church where we had auditioned, and that they were giving away a scholarship to the conference to one winner–and to enter the contest, you simply had to have people “nominate” you for the scholarship.

I posted on Facebook about the contest and simply asked my friends to nominate me for the scholarship. I thought that it would be a good way for me to have some time to sort out what God really thought about me continuing to lead worship–in whatever capacity I might do so in the future. Within an hour of posting this on Facebook, I received an e-mail from the leader saying that someone had paid my way into the conference. (I found out later that more than one person had offered to pay for my entry into the conference) I was completely shocked, and felt like, obviously, God was working here. I went to the conference, and was refreshed again, and clearly heard God saying that worship leading was a huge part of my calling. Again, I felt a strange connection to the church and the staff there, and remember commenting on this to my husband.

Over the next couple of months it became clear that it was time to leave my old church. So, my husband and I stepped out in faith and decided that if God wanted me to be in ministry somewhere, He would provide, and I put in my two weeks notice at my church.

I remember that told my husband that I wanted to visit that church first. The same church that had rejected me for a job a year earlier.

Two days after I put in my two weeks notice, I saw that my friend (the worship leader from this church) posted on Facebook that he had gotten an awesome job offer somewhere else, and he was moving. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t automatically think “Whoa. That’s such weird timing” and started dreaming. Less than 24 hours later I got a call from the pastor at this church, and was asked to come in ASAP to audition again. I came in, fell in love with them all again, but this time it was different. This time, I got the job!

Everyone was blown away by the timing of it all, and we all believed that it was the Lord’s hand that had orchestrated it all
I started a few weeks later, and my heart had never felt more alive. I loved this church so much. The Holy Spirit was moving in HUGE ways. I was writing more music than I ever had before. I was with a team of musicians that I loved dearly, and they loved me too. We were making beautiful music together. We were beautifying the stage together, and volunteers were coming out of the woodwork to help us go deeper in worship. I was FINALLY in my element. Our family got settled in and my husband and I started making great friends. We felt like we were a part of a community–together. For the first time as a family. I felt my heart come alive in a way that I had never even known that it could.

I was now, certainly, living my dream. I was doing what God had always called me to do. I was home.

And, in an instant, everything changed. I won’t go into details, because they truly aren’t important. What is important is that the Lord gave me this amazing job that I loved, He let me work there for about 8 months, and then about 5 months ago–in one moment– He took it away.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

It has been a difficult few months for me with God. Trying to sort out why He would so clearly guide me to this church, rekindle my passion for leading worship, and then so suddenly and violently rip it away from me–all after I had been so ready to let it all go just a few months earlier. It just felt so “mean” to me.

A few years after I became a Christian, I experienced an “identity crisis.” I didn’t know WHO I was to Jesus. I didn’t know what I was worth. I couldn’t see past my own weakness to the fact that Jesus loved me even in my weakness, and even when I was still a vile, wretched sinner, He thought that I was worth dying for.

And I know that this isn’t how it works for everyone, but one day, in the blink of an eye–through the Holy Spirit–the lightbulb just went on for me. Even in my weakness, I was loved. I was cherished. I was valuable beyond any price tag. I was worth His life. I was His, and He was mine. I didn’t need any other title. I didn’t need anything else to be me. I knew who I was, because I knew who He said I was. And that was enough.

And even in the midst of this personal “valley of the shadow” that I felt that I was walking, I can honestly say that I never lost sight of WHO I was. Taking away my title–my job, my dreams–did nothing to affect my value, or my confidence in Christ. I never felt like the last few months have been a questioning of “Who am I?” but a questioning of “what am I?”

I don’t really know why I’m writing this. I guess I just want to say that when you suddenly aren’t what you have always been, it really messes stuff up in your heart. It’s a weird situation to find theology for–when you know that you are doing what God has called you to do, and suddenly, everything breaks down and it’s over.  You don’t know whether you’re supposed to pursue your next opportunity, or just wait. You question your abilities. You question your intentions. You even question whether you even heard His voice in the first place.

I’ve been processing all of this through worship lately, and one of my favorite lines that has come out has been this simple prayer:

“I thought I’d heard You. I thought we’d named this road together. But now that it’s all broken down, help me learn to trust that You know better.”

His ways are higher than my ways. His dreams are bigger than my dreams. And He knows my heart, and my desires. He knows my pain, and He understands me when everyone else misunderstands me.

I know now–in a way that I never would have without this experience–that Jesus is a much better author for my life than I could ever be. I’ve learned so much about myself and my tendencies if left alone to my own devices in this season, and I feel like I have grown up in a way that I know that I couldn’t have if I had been left to my happy little “dream” life.

And now, my little boys are waking up from their nap, and I have to get back to the life that I have been called to lead in this season.

The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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