In preparation for an upcoming workshop, I had to read through some documents and files that were painful. Emails from one organization, letters from another (before emails). In the mix were also letters of apology, notes of encouragement, and timelines. The stroll down those memory lanes stirred up some grief.
The cuts from stained glass go deep and wide. They typically come out of nowhere.
Those years of reading Beth Moore’s “Why Godly People Do Ungodly Things” and Francis Frangipane’s, “The Three Battlegrounds” gave me vocabulary for my experiences. It did not make the hurt any less deep nor less memorable.
I relied on God every single day, every single night, every single conversation, every single relationship, and knew He was with me every step of the way. But the hurt still came.
So this is what I did….
1. I read….ALOT. Books like Ronald Richardson’s “Creating A Healthier Church,” Andy Stanley’s “It Came From Within,” and Namie & Namie’s “The Bully at Work.”
2. I did lunch…ALOT. I stayed in contact with my networking groups, Emmaus reunion group, Christian Educators Fellowship (now Christians Engaged in Faith Formation) and my personal board of directors (thanks, Jim Collins’ “Good To Great.”) I joined them for lunch, tea, and any continuing education I could include, even when all I really wanted to do was stay in bed. I do admit, I prayed that no one would ask me anything. Most knew. They honored my space.
3. I read Psalm 119 outloud three times a day.
4. I worshiped…ALOT. I found a local church which had services either early in the wee hours of Sunday morning before I had to report in, or services after my responsibilities were over, or on Saturday evening. I lifted my hands and I sang through the tears that seemed to flow and flow and flow.
5. I cried…ALOT. I cried out to the LORD. The first months were “why?” The following months were “Show me Your glory in this.”
6. I prayed…ALOT. I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me sin in this.” I prayed that I would not feel the need to spend whatever energies I had left defending false allegations and blame that were not mine to take. It was overwhelming to think how many people I’d have to go to to say, “That’s not right…That’s not the truth…That’s not the whole story.” Instead, I carried it…straight to Jesus. In my prayers, I asked Him to help me clarify what battles were His and which battles were mine. He kept reminding me that Jesus spoke the truth and did not argue.
7. I took bible study at another local church…I looked on websites and registered for a bible study that offered no childcare to ensure I’d be with saints. Saints with floppy bibles from years of use. Women of faith who didn’t know who I was, yet gave me visual examples of God’s overcomers to this overwhelmed and broken woman. Saints who were ok with silence in a classroom and laughter through tears. This is why it’s important to communicate bible studies online. You never know when your organization might be the hope of someone else.
8. I left…both times. I submitted to my authority at the first place, yet it threatened the current staff, so I was hung out to dry. I feared for my physical and emotional harm in the second place. After hitting ‘SEND’ on an email to one on my personal board of directors at 3am asking, “Is God being quiet for me to continue to stay in this? Is serving in the local church supposed to be this hard? Or has He been speaking and I’m just stupid?”, it was healthier for me to accept the latter. I worked on becoming ‘whole’ again, so the next organization wouldn’t be hiring a broken, fearful servant, but one with a great history of redemption.
9. I persevered! Through a long season of hurt and constant wounding. I questioned my call to professional ministry. I questioned any value I could bring to the table. But I was surrounded by God’s Word and His people who spoke truth into my life, my mind, and my heart. I practiced the spiritual disciplines of old with fervor.
And God sifted the “people pleaser” out of me in the process. My only fear now is that I will disappoint my Lord. There is such a sense of urgency in my soul now that burns hot every minute of every day. If I’m awake, I’m counting on Him, and He’s counting on me. If I get it wrong, I want to be quick to apologize. He honors my efforts and loves me anyway.
In the process, He has placed me in positions of influence to be the voice of others who were called into professional ministry, but maybe not seminary. I speak for their hopes, dreams, plans, fears and insecurities. I get to be the advocate for the bi-vocational children’s director, the Sunday-only lay-staff member, the 1/4 time, 1/2 time, 3/4 time, full time and the super volunteer that has no idea God has called him/her into professional ministry with children. And I pour out that hurt like a drink offering unto my Lord.
“You shine brighter when I’m broken.” – McClurg Brothers’ ‘Shine On’
“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.” Psalm 119:132
Susan Joffrion said:
Through all of the trials of my life I have learned that God puts us where he need us. We may not always understand his reasons, but we are put there because it is his plan for our lives. We need to trust him because he knows what is best for us. Many times it will test our faith and make us question his decision, but it always makes us stronger. DeDe, know that you are where God needs you to be so that you can help others in there journey through life. Take care my friend and God bless you for always being there for me.
DeDe Bull Reilly said:
Thank you for your kind words, Susan. He IS faithful, indeed.
Vanessa Myers said:
Awesome article! Ministry does hurt and I’ve been there and wonder why people who are Christians can be so hurtful to someone who is doing what God has called them to do. Thank you for sharing your struggles in ministry and how you handled it. You are an awesome person and I’m glad I met you and feel blessed by you encouraging me in my ministry. Keep on doing what God has called you to do! You are a true servant of Christ!
DeDe Bull Reilly said:
Thank you for your kind words.
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