There’s a foot of snow outside my office window. And while I love the snow, I find myself dreaming about spring. I dream about what I’ll plant in my garden. I’m a flower girl – people say that’s my real love language – so it’ll be flowers for sure. But I need to be careful because not just any flowers will bloom in this mountain-desert soil that’s only a step away from sand. I need to choose them carefully and plant the ones that God created to thrive, right here in this place.
Oh yes, you see it coming. But let’s press into this anyway – or you might forget.
God reminds me, in these flowers He gave me, that He crafted me especially for the ministry context that He’s put me in. Whether it’s the church plant that meets in the elementary school that hardly anyone’s heard of or the multi-site that seems like it has all the bells and whistles that everyone’s heard of, if He’s put me here – He’s prepared me. But sometimes it’s holding babies when we long to be teaching God’s Word, or preparing a meal when we long to be planting a church, or working to send others to proclaim the hope of the Gospel when we long to be taking it to the Nations ourselves.
I’ve struggled with where God planted me. In fact, sometimes I still do. I see what other “get to do” and wish that were my destiny. For twelve years, I worked with a non-profit to develop speakers and help them to equip God’s people. That meant that I often sat behind a camera, designed press pages and worked with organizations to help them find a speaker that was a good fit for them and what God had called them to. Some of the time, I thrived in being able to build into these up-and-coming messengers of Jesus’ Truth. But some of the time, I secretly wished that I could have an opportunity to deliver that Word of hope – myself.
My best friend was one of our speakers and I got to help her hone her gifts and see the Lord use them in magnificent ways. She was a missionary at heart and there was always a blissful longing to be able to take her gift to those that have little, in far off places where women were struggling to bring Gospel hope to a different culture. All this time, we were serving together in a small church where we learned to do a lot of Kingdom work with very little resources. Our family worked really hard and we got really tired. But God saw that and provided almost yearly adventures for us with some generous extended family members. While my friend was tethered to her ministry at home, I got to see some of the great wonders of the world, literally. This created some tension. But in working through it, we learned some life-long lessons that would serve us well later.
In those days of raising Littles, we’d walk several times a week together. And it was on one of these walks that we realized some crucial truths that would bring clarity to our struggle and help us to bloom where we were planted.
Here’s what we began to learn:
1. Every ministry context has visible blessings and hidden hardships – Every ministry context that looks enticing, easier than what you are having to survive now or even like something you deserve to have, has its own hidden hardships. It’s like the big house that brings with it an increased responsibility to show hospitality. I remember praying for God to give us an opportunity for Craig to use his teaching gifts for bigger Kingdom impact. But little did I know the challenges, the stress, the heartache that would come when God moved us into such a place. When we look at another’s soil, the place where God has planted them, remember that we often see the easy, the enjoyable, and the success. We rarely see the difficulties that go with it. And they must be embraced together because they go hand in hand.
2. God wastes nothing – It sounds trite but I hold tight to it because it’s a truth that gets me through. When we were digging out a field for a playground, or soldering some old sound cables back together because we couldn’t afford new ones, or mowing the church lawn late Saturday night because someone didn’t get to it, or helping kids paint houses to bring in enough money to go on a missions trip – when we were doing all of these things… God was building His character in us. He was creating the grit (or perseverance) we’d need to face things like division and criticism on a large scale. He was creating compassion and a hurting heart for individuals that we’d need to translate to the multitudes. He was creating humility that we’d need to face the dangers of pride and power that come with a bigger stage. He was wasting nothing and was using EVERYTHING to prepare us for what lie ahead. He’s doing the same for you.
3. We thrive when we celebrate what God is doing in another. It takes our eyes off ourselves and rests them on Him and what He is doing. When I allowed her “blooming” to call out joy in me instead of competition or jealousy, when I fixed my eyes on Jesus and His Kingdom advancing – it made it easier to see “her win” as “our win”. We were able to celebrate together when God worked through one of us. And how I’ve seen this bear itself out as we bind together with other churches! A win for one is a win for us all. Being intentional about celebrating the wins of other churches takes my focus off myself and squelches the seeds of discontentment.
4. He created me to do what only I can do. Especially in this gig as a pastors’ or ministry wife, there is a space only you can fill. Only you can be your husband’s wife. Only you can contribute to the integrity, the reputation, and credibility that will help your congregation grab ahold of what he has to teach them. Only you can help him wrestle with the hard doubts and fears that threaten to take him off mission. Only you can remind him of the calling when he wants to quit. Only you can do this because only you are in this space. There are other voices, but only yours was created as one who comes “alongside” – a parakletos. That’s you. Don’t give up that space for anyone – or anything.
Lord, sometimes it’s hard for me to celebrate where you’ve planted me. Sometimes I feel cheated, or jealous, or just impatient. But Lord, I trust You. I trust You to intentionally use every hardship HERE to prepare us, our hands and our hearts, for what you will call us to THERE. Help me to embrace this place You’ve put me… the geography… the people…the responsibilities…the challenges…the joys…the things I “get to do”…and the things I “don’t get to do”. Lord show me how You’ve uniquely crafted me to fill this unique spot beside my husband as we shepherd God’s people and help them love you more. Help me savor this moment, to relish the ways I get to see Your hand – even in the hard. Help me to bloom, right here. And it’s all for Your glory, Lord. Amen.