Today's 'thought' goes out to those who may be wrestling with fear. Fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of being vulnerable, and even the common fear of those in ministry -- the fear of letting God down or not doing things in a fashion worthy of His glory (as inappropriate as such thinking can in many cases be).
In it she is extremely open, honest, and transparent. And as is typical of her writings, they are saturated with grace-filled insights. I offer it to any who might be dealing with a fear of their own profound sense of inadequacy. Enjoy.
"All I know is that I was slowly dying inside. I was lonely. I was afraid. I was unbearably sad. What added to my hopelessness was the fact that I had no idea what was wrong with me. I loved God. I enjoyed serving Him. I believed He loved me.
Some nights I would drive out of the gates of CBN and turn my car toward the ocean. I would park at the far end of the beach and get out and walk and walk for miles. I remember sitting on a sand dune, gripping my knees to my chest and groaning from a place too deep inside for me to understand. I decided that I was losing my mind.
My father had died in his thirties in a bleak psychiatric hospital in Scotland. The legacy seemed to be imprinted on my soul, "Like father, like daughter."
I remember sitting in Pat Robertson's office asking for a leave of absence, telling him that I had been accepted as a patient in a psychiatric unit in a hospital in Washington, D.C. I was filled with the shame that is particular to those who struggle with mental illness...
My greatest fear growing up was that I would end up in a place like my father. What I did not know then was that God had planned to deliver me from myself in the ruins of my life. I did not understand then that some of God's most precious gifts come in boxes that make your hands bleed when you open them. Inside is what you have been longing for all your life. Only His love could do that. Only God would do that. Only His love is as fierce and relentless as our deepest pain, our unspoken fears. We become accustomed to simply surviving. God wants more...
There are doors in our lives we have locked so tight, we are convinced that if we were to open them we would be consumed by what is inside. We would be left alone. But that's the whole, glorious point: We are not alone. I discovered that on that rainy night in October of 1992 when I checked into the hospital. I thought I checked in alone. I wanted to check in alone. But Christ checked in with me. He sat with me, all night, on the floor....
As the days turned into a week, then two weeks, what I discovered was a group of people very much like myself. They were people who loved God but didn't have all the answers. They were people who were struggling to come to terms with their humanity lived out in imperfect obedience. A pastor who had nothing left to say to his people. A teacher who had lost hope in the future, whose futility had rendered her impotent to give anything at all to her students. A young girl whose only perceived area of control was to starve herself; the success of her rebellion was killing her. And me... as deep as the marrow of my bones I felt unloved and unlovable... Was I so afraid of my 'not good enoughness' that I kept God's perfect love standing as the front door? It would have been easier if I'd had some terrible sin to confess, what we consider with our skewed human sight to be one of the 'big ones.' But all I had was me and a sense that I was not enough.
And I was right.
That was the bad news and the good news rolled into one spectacular gift. I wasn't enough. Even in all my supposed best moments I wasn't enough and never would be. But that's the point. Christ is enough. He loved me completely, shadows and all.
That hit me one morning as I sat with several of the patients and nurses in a small church. It wasn't a remarkable service or a particularly new sermon topic, but I was raw and open; my defenses were down. And deep in my soul I heard and I believed: 'You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.' I wept the exhausted tears of one who had been wandering alone in the desert for years and finally catches sight of the way home. There was no quick fix or dramatic rescue, just the relief of finding Christ, the Way...
I had based most of my Christian life on all the things I could do for God. Now I had nothing. I was empty-handed. I was like a newborn child learning how to live. I was living a divine paradox. I had never felt less worthy and yet more loved. I had never been so disenfranchised yet more welcomed by the Father. I began to realize I had spent most of my life trying to make God glad He chose me. I had run myself into the ground because I wanted to be invaluable. Now there was nothing good left to say about myself, and even if there had been I was too tired to say it.
There seems to be something that the desert experience alone can gift us with. Perhaps it's because there are no distractions. Perhaps it's the very aloneness, the silence, that makes us finally listen to all the rumblings in our souls. Now I think 'How kind of God to let all my greatest fears happen rather than simply to remove them.' I longed for a rescue; He gave me a relationship. I wanted deliverance; He gave me companionship in the ruins. If He had simply removed my fears I would have lived the rest of my life dreading their return. To let them happen and sit with me, bloodied and bruised, was the most precious gift of love...
A girl was sitting on a bus reading [a book which included a chapter on grace]. The man beside her asked: 'What's grace.' 'I don't know. I haven't gotten that far.' That was me. I knew it was in the book, I just hadn't gotten to it yet. Grace is impossible to grasp outside of the framework of the love of God. It makes no sense. It's as Lewis Smedes described in his book 'Shame and Grace' -- 'The gift of being declared worthy before we become worthy.' What a gift, but how contrary to how we live our lives in this world, in the church, where proving yourself is everything.
At the moment I began to grasp hold of grace, I was as the prodigal son with his well-rehearsed speech drowned out by the love of his father. There is no quid pro quo with God. We have nothing to give, nothing to barter with. He has and is everything. I now believe that God delights to use those of us who have had our hearts and wills broken in the desert... The desert leaves you with the absolute conviction that there is nothing you can do to make God love you and nothing you can do to negate that love. You are left with the liberating awareness that all we are in our best moments are earthen vessels to contain the grace and glory of God."
She shares much more, and its all very good and helpful, but if you desire to read that you will need to pick up a copy of the book, which also includes stories by other well-known Christians who have gone through difficult times in the 'desert' (J. I. Packer, John Trent, Charles Stanley, John Maxwell, Jill Briscoe, etc.).
I will end with one last quote from Shelia that I also have found true in ministry. It is worth much consideration in itself: "The amazing thing was that my brokenness was far greater bridge to others than my apparent wholeness had ever been." How true. How true.
In the Grip of His Grace, Pastor Jeff