I have been meditating much lately over the deeper meanings of things that I have known, seen, and heard my whole life. And it’s because I have discovered that real life, that has real problems, will actually pass through distinct seasons, rather than stagnating in one place, indefinitely. I consider it both a blessing and curse, to have the ability to ascend to a higher level of consciousness, through cross-cultural experience. I have found that this is actually what develops an anointing for ministry, and makes it approachable, real, and has the ability to heal and restore those it touches, even indirectly.
Ministry is a highly misinterpreted word in our culture, that is usually seen in a harsh light, because of how some choose to malign it, with their own twisted theology. While it does usually mean some kind of attachment to religion, it really has a stand-alone meaning of its own. The root word of ministry comes from French, and transliterates into, “one who acts upon the authority of another, a servant.” That is really quite simple. True leaders are humble and able to submit to an authority higher than their own. Sadly, there are so many buzzwords that set people off, these days, because of just how much our language has been twisted and inverted to justify the abuses of authority, that should have served as a safe place of guidance and training. Being forced into submission is never OK, and is evidence that someone has, either lost their focus on the original vision or is just totally out of focus, altogether. I say all of this, because I planted a Children’s Ministry in 2012, that I ended up having to resign from 2 years later. I felt like such a failure, even though I had accomplished what I had set out to do, after being given the opportunity. I stepped down, because I had a mental breakdown, from all of the things I could see, and I saw myself as being too unstable to lead appropriately. Things could not have gone more smoothly, when I finally had to resign, even though I had been quietly struggling for a while. The day I went to the pastor, who is also a personal friend, and had been for years, and told him why I needed some time to heal, another man in the church stepped up, and revealed that he was an experienced Children’s Pastor. He had been quietly watching me the whole time, and never said anything, because he said I was doing well. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants.
When I say I planted the ministry, I am not kidding by any stretch of the imagination. I started with 2 children, in any room we could find, in rented space, because we were founding members of a church plant, that didn’t have a physical church building yet. I never had any curriculum. So I created my own, which was basically the beginning of what I do now with my blogging and spiritual metaphors. I had been a Kindergarten Sunday School teacher for years, but this was the first time I had actually been a leader of any group, alone. I pray prayers in desperation, that I really do mean, and then I am always surprised at the price I have to pay, for the manifestation of whatever my heart has desired. I think it is because of the cultural deceptions that people create when they make ministry about their own comfort, that they only want to cocoon themselves with. There is much that will become dark, stifling, self-limiting, and frustrating, if we take that approach. I love butterflies. They are such amazing and beautiful creatures to me. I could write a whole other post, just from what I have learned from watching them in my yard. When they come out of their cocoon, they have to gain strength without assistance, to even be able to fly. If someone came along and tried to help them out of their cocoon, they would literally be so disabled, that they would always be too weak for anything they were created for, because their wings were never able to properly develop, through the struggle of opening their own cocoon. Having good intentions, sometimes, gives a disadvantage, that will be felt for a lifetime. They draw their strength from the sun and have to hide from the rain because a single raindrop weighs more than their whole body. Butterflies can’t see their own wings, but yet they know how to use them to guard themselves. They only feel their wings, but others can see how beautiful they are. My point to this is, that this is how it really is in places that we are actually making a very deep impact on, even if we feel like we are just causing unintended effects on the atmosphere around us. I am sure many have heard of the “butterfly effect.” There is even a movie about it, that is very interesting in its abstract parallels. In simple terms, “small causes have larger effects.” And in the movie, it is discovered that trying to change a painful past, only alters the course of the present. This, of course, creates a paradox, that also splits into alternate realities, and just creates confusion. This is a common theme in science fiction.
I had another mental breakdown in 2016, which was 2 years after the last one. And it was after having to abandon, yet another ministry. I got to the point that I stopped trying to go to church, and be involved, because of the problems that always arose from my presence. I figured that others were better off without me, which is the thinking that drives any form of suicide. In my attempts to save myself, and to recover from all of this, I found things that had never been given meaning, purpose, and conviction, by anyone that I had been influenced by. I began to explore and recognize my own patterns. The last two mental breakdowns had been caused by the cognitive dissonance that rose up from the truth that was revealed to me, in the midst of what others were trying to normalize, that wasn’t Biblical, or even Christlike at all. For every time I made a significant breakthrough, others made it unbearable and irrelevant, by defining it with their own pain, that was then projected onto whatever was bringing in a healing virtue. As an artist, I have discovered the same thing, that applies to vision in ministry, as well. A sad artist does not have the ability to produce beautiful creations, any more than an afflicted leader, can bring comfort and direction to others. What I originally saw as only a distraction, became an Achilles heel. Much like the butterfly being too weak to fly, when helped too much, a visionary becomes completely unable to walk through anything, when they have been rained on too much. They have to hide away and seek a place of shelter to preserve their own lives so that the rain doesn’t damage their wings.
So here’s an observation I have been making, ever since I planted my first ministry. It gets to be too much when I believe that I have to do it in my own strength. And it becomes a lost cause when others try to stop it from becoming what it was always intended to be. Six months after walking away from Children’s Ministry, I was asked to do something even greater, that took even more strength and courage, than I possibly ever had in the previous season. Six months after that, I was told that I should start publishing what I write online, which became my original blog site, “Ashes Among Thorns.” Two years after starting that, I also have another website, that I never saw rising up out of my own ashes, from the thorns that others have tried to choke out my beliefs with. Now, a year after having that last mental breakdown, I have been asked to be a leader, with greater responsibility, than what was required of me, originally in the same ministry. I have spent the last year wondering why my brokenness was never seen as a liability, but always what made others approach me with greater opportunities in areas, that I was deemed worthy to lead in. These words have been said to me many times, by many people, in the last decade. “I wanted to talk to you first because I knew that you would listen, and would understand.” This has escalated since I cut ties with any church, denomination, and/or defined ideology. I haven’t really known what to do with this, since I need healing myself, and I feel like I am just overwhelming others with my own intensity. Here’s where I have landed, with my meditations. I was brushing my teeth one night, and my eye caught a scripture card, that a sweet friend gave me, many years ago, when she was doing her own ministry to comfort and lift others up. She had been very intentional in this gift. It had my name on it, which is rare to find anyway. And it was paralleled with the 18th Psalm. For whatever reason in that moment, I was struck by this, even though I had seen it every time I had brushed my teeth and/or washed my hands. I was familiar with that Psalm because I had prayed it over my oldest son for years, out of my fear and desperation for his life, which I felt responsible for ruining. I believed that, because that was projected onto me by, my own mother, that felt the same way, that she had ruined my life. No one really has that power, and it is a lie from the pit of hell. We may be a hot mess in things that we think we are completely doing wrong, but there is someone that sees the truth that we carry and knows the undercurrents of our soul but aren’t drowning in them. Those are the people that, will ultimately, make us grow the most, even if they are causing us some kind of pain, in what they are responding to in us. So I want to end my thoughts here with what it is that really connected with me when I went back and read the 18th Psalm in context. God was angry, because of the injustice, that David was having to personally deal with. David was having to run for his life, from a religious tyrant, that had already tried to kill him. And he says this in a song of praise.
“He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.”
Other translations say, “…Your gentleness has made me great.” I find it very interesting that this came before the Psalms of Ascent. His rescue from certain death was only a prelude to something greater, that was to come. After a lifetime of feeling insulted and demoralized by what passed for faith, in mediocre terms, this blew me out of the water. I cannot even begin to describe how much awe I had felt, knowing that the key to my own redemption, was buried underneath all of the pain, that others tried to define my whole life with. I believe this isn’t just a game-changer but is what ministry was always supposed to be about. It was never about politicized religion. That’s what Jesus came to give us an option in. He was just as disgusted by it as many of us are. And wanted to show us a better way, than what we had known or had been taught by traditional means. This is the life I wish I had always known, and now want to show others how to find, too, which goes far beyond some obnoxious desire to get others “saved.” It’s about wanting others to share life with me, that isn’t being overshadowed by what has always been an idol, that blocks out the sun.