January 22, 2013

On My Heart: Choosing Joy

When God called my husband and I to leave Texas and move to Virginia to plant a church, I said yes. I didn't hesitate, nor did I fear, but I simply trusted God and followed His lead.

Then we actually moved and started the church and, surprisingly, people didn't stampede to our door. They didn't respond to the gospel or to our invitations. Instead, they were suspicious, hesitant, and looked at us as if we were weirdos from another planet.

That's when the fear kicked in, when I began formulating a plan B, when I started questioning everything. I also got mad--really mad--at God. It felt like a bait and switch--I went out on a limb for Him, way out to the thin branches on the tip top, and then He didn't come through in the spectacular fashion that I thought He would.

Instead He made me do ridiculous things like depend on Him and wait on Him and believe in Him in the face of spiritual barrenness. He asked things of me that I just wasn't comfortable with, like initiating conversations with strangers and serving sacrificially. And for the love, I had to use my precious garage space to store church equipment and actually serve in ways that weren't within my high scores on my spiritual gift inventory.

I kicked and screamed and threw myself on the floor all the way through the first year of church planting. To my long-suffering husband, there was one thing I said more than anything else: "I don't have a choice." Oh poor, pitiful me who got dragged along into an impossible life.

What I meant when I said this to him was this: I have to do all these things because of your job and I don't like it. It's too hard.

But what my heart was really saying was this: I'm not in control and I want to be.
I couldn't stand the fact that I wasn't in control. Because if I were in control, things would look a whole lot different than that current reality.

As any good Father would do, God disciplined me when I threw those tantrums and I learned to trust His authority. I actually began to find joy in not being in control. I certainly thought I had learned my lesson.

But this past fall, the chorus of complaint in my head started up again: "I don't have a choice." People expect things of me just because I'm the pastor's wife and I don't want these pressures, but I don't have a choice. This ministry needs help and no one else is stepping up, and even though I can't take anything else on, I don't have a choice. Ministry requires so much from me that, even though I need to rest and hear from God, I can't stop because I don't have a choice.

What I meant was this: I have to do all these things and I don't like it. It's too hard.

But what my heart was really saying was this: I'm not in control and I want to be.

And I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until I stopped and took a good look around. I had lost the joy of what we were doing and a love for people. Ministry had become a constant list of obligations, fueled by my own belief that I lacked a choice, that I lacked control over my own life.

In fact, I don't have control over my own life. That's what it means to be a Christian. I do, however, have a choice every day in everything. I have a choice in how I live and for whom I live. I have a choice in my attitude, my motivations, and my intentions. I have a choice to let bitterness grow or to forgive. I have a choice to seek to be served or to serve.

I can choose dutiful obligation or I can choose joy.

I choose joy.

This week, I will be writing a few posts entitled On My Heart, in which I share what God is currently doing in my heart and what He has done in me through church planting. I am answering the very question that I invite you to answer on your blog in a link up I will host starting January 30: How has God used church planting or ministry to change your heart? Consider what is "on your heart" and begin preparing your post now.