Definitions trip us up

My young adult years were filled with a bit of wandering and confusion about vocation. I felt this pressure to find the “thing” that fit all of the definitions. It had to be this magical path in my mind.

I was 22. I felt a “call” as they say in the Baptist Church. I went down front in tears and clueless about the path I would be walking. The definition I was grappling with: Ministry.

The next week, I walked into the office of a mentor of mine that had lived the life of a woman in ministry. She listened to my wrestling and questions, and then she spoke beautiful wisdom to me. “Jen, do not make this about a cause of being a woman or a title to your name.” (this is paraphrased as it has been 22 years since this conversation) I nodded. Over the next years, it became an understanding in my heart.

My definition thought…you get the “call” from God, go to seminary and get a job in a church. But, the truth? I had no idea what I was doing and what my “giftings” were. If I had chosen that “path,” it would have been contrived.

Hilariously, my pride was taken down many notches because as I was waiting on this “plan” from God, I waited tables, worked as a nanny, worked as a receptionist, worked at a Summer camp, got kicked out of flight attendant training with Delta (because of heart issues/fainting), and many more.

I lived in 4 different cities during that time, and there was ONE thing that was consistent. I started discipleship groups for girls–middle school, high school, etc. I had not a clue what I was doing, but I knew there was a need.

I moved back to Knoxville 20 years ago to go to grad school in School Counseling. It made sense, and it seemed to blend with how God had made me. It wasn’t seminary, but somehow I knew I had not “failed.”

During this period of grad school, I led a high school group of girls for several years. I also went to lots of camps and retreats with Greg while we were dating and newlyweds and did informal ministry there as I connected with kids and college students.

As I reflect this morning, I understand that I was called to a way of life. It’s not about the cause or a title. It’s actually about living in less of me and more of Him. It’s about serving others (which is messy). It’s about “seeing” people by being an ambassador for El Roi, The God Who Sees.

While I worked in my first School Counseling job, I saw it as a ministry within the walls of that school for students and teachers. I also began leading a group of College Aged women that I journeyed and grew up with for the next five years week in and week out. They really taught me about what it was to love, to bear with others and to lead through messy spaces.

See, It wasn’t about a title or a platform. I think this world of platforms, followings and book deals today often precludes people from “seeing” others and their needs. Real ministry is done in the small conversations, the weary moments of recognizing a need. Real ministry is done by people who are in the process of being transformed by Him.

I began this journey looking for the “what,” but He was calling me to the “who.” It is not so much the “how to” for others as it is the surrendering of my heart to Him daily and over time for His renown and not mine. It is not about a “cause” of who gets to be in ministry or what title is given. It is about sharing the Hope of Jesus in the midst of brokenness–my own and others.

Ironically, it was 10 years from my formal call that I formed a non-profit ministry for women’s discipleship. It was just an extension of what I was doing anyway. And, when my sweet boys arrived on the scene with more needs than I could handle while “running” the ministry, I shut it down. In the old definitions in my head, that could have been disobedience or failure. However, in my business now, I am exposed to many people to “see” and to connect with the Hope of the Gospel. They are different outer definitions same inner call.

There are plenty, plenty, plenty of women who are broken and in need. Some look like they lack for nothing and yet they are empty and searching and shredded on the inside. Some look worn and are worn because they don’t have the means to “pretty it up.” They need someone to see them. The more I have grown, the more I realize that I am a mess of need with a Beautifully Gracious Savior. My life is about pointing to Him.

The very places that I have experienced brokenness give me eyes to see that in others and to offer a cup of water to them. You have those places, too. However, you may have been operating from skewed definitions of what ministry means. There are plenty of people with the title or a cause that are not living ministry to others. On the flip side, there are people who are equipped to serve but are hung up that they don’t have the title or the platform that they want. We have got to shake out those definitions because the world, your neighborhood, your family needs to see real Hope in action.

2 Comments

  1. “The very places that I have experienced brokenness give me eyes to see that in others and to offer a cup of water to them.”

    There is more wisdom in these words than you realize.

    Blessings.

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