Monday, November 24, 2014

Time to Unpack Part 1 - How I Got in a Suitcase

I've been doing some real self reflection the last few weeks. That's not really me all packed away in the red suitcase, but it could be. I do have a red suitcase, and I have come to understand that there is a significant part of myself that I have packed away and zipped up tight for a number of years. Now that I realize what it is I've done, I'm not all that proud. Let me tell you how a wound up in a suitcase.

Several years ago I took a job with the church I attend running the Nursery and Childcare Ministry. At the same time I was the ministry leader for what was then our POPS (parents of pre-schoolers) ministry, I served on the women's ministry committee, and I was on the Board of Directors for the preschool at our church (where I know work). Being in a lot of different leadership roles at church was awesome.  I was thriving and studying and generally loving life. At the time, our elders had a quarterly ministry leaders meeting where all the elders (or all that could come) and all of the various ministry leaders got together to not only discuss what the various ministries were doing but to evaluate what the vision of our church was and how our ministries fit into that vision. It was a time intended to help us all focus on making sure we were working towards the same goals and not actually pulling resources and purpose away from one another. At least that's how I remember it. I was excited and fired up to be a part of that process. I mean, I was just me, a little ol' Church of Christ girl serving in a leadership capacity in the church. But I'm getting ahead of myself....I need to share with your 3 things that happened over about a two-year period that rocked my world, and I realized now resulted in a suitcase life.

First I'll tell you about being on a vision committee. At one of those big ministry leader meetings the elder leading the meeting (I think it was an elder, it may have been one of the ministers) was concluding the thoughts for the day and explained that the goal was to put together a committee to write a vision statement for our church.  He asked something like this," So, if anyone has a gift with words and would be willing to serve on the committee please raise your hand." I didn't even think, I just raised my hand and even though I detected a slight pause in the processing of the man at the front of the room, I found myself on the committee.  I'm pretty sure I called my mom and said, "I can't believe what I just did.  I didn't even really mean to, I just raised my hand." I raised my hand because I was confident in the gifts God has given me, not for any other reason or agenda. As I served on the committee the first thing that shook my thinking up happened.  As we were concluding one of our meetings one of the elders on the committee said very casually," Sarah, will you close our meeting with a prayer." There it was, a moment that changed - well, me.  I hesitated only briefly and then said "Of course," and I worded a prayer to conclude our time together.  This time I know I called my mom. From the parking lot.  With shaking hands.  I told her what happened in an unbelieving, breathless way the belied the shaking and quivering I was still experiencing. I left the parking lot that night wondering how that was possible.  How was little female me allowed to word a prayer in a room of elders and other male leaders?  (Yes, I said allowed - that was the word my brain produced at the time.... now it uses different words.)

Secondly, I will tell you about my oldest daughter's baptism. As most of my readers, if there are any left, know, my oldest daughter has Asperger Syndrome.  That is only relevant to this part of the story because there were very few people in her life at that time that she truly trusted. I was top of the list. I was her safe person. Maybe you see where this is headed. After a year of discussing baptism and her begging us to let her be baptized, my sweet hubby and I said "Yes, of course, you should answer the call you feel to give your life to Christ!" She was so excited, and then she told me she wanted me to baptize her.  Wait, what? Could I do that?  I spent some time on my own studying scripture. I prayed a lot. I spoke with my husband, my parents, and my grandmother (miss you Nana!!!). I spoke with my boss at the church (the Children's coordinator) and at her recommendation, I went to speak with one of our elders. I chose an elder I had a good relationship with thanks to all of those ministry leader meetings. As a matter of fact, I think I caught him in the hall after one of those meetings to visit with him about this. He was wonderful and he confirmed what I had found on my own - there is absolutely NOTHING in scripture that says anything about whether a male or female could baptize someone.  So basically I got a big green light from the elder - provided it wasn't during a regular church service. Now, my sweet Aspie anxious child didn't want to be baptized at a church service anyway so this point was not one that mattered.  But still..... (And yes, I did baptize my daughter at the church building - on a Saturday afternoon with only a very few friends and loved ones present)

And third - the last piece that really shook me up. As I mentioned, earlier, I was active in the women's ministry at this time.  I did quite a bit of class facilitation and teaching and I was writing on this blog and my other ones on a regular basis.  I was asked to be one of the speakers for an upcoming women's event. It was the first time I had been asked to teach/speak on a topic that wasn't straight from a book for reference or directly related to my own story and testimony.  I was nervous, but excited at the challenge.  I learned a lot as I prepared for the event. God is so good and He was teaching me and I was excited to share that with everyone. Oh, wait, not everyone. I was excited to share that with the women. See, that's when it hit me. God had given me a gift of teaching, a way with words and communication that brings Him glory, but I couldn't share that with everyone. And there was no situation I could imagine in my world at the time that would ever give my husband, my daddy, or my son the opportunity to hear my speak and teach from God's word.  And that broke my heart.

So what did I do?  I started studying and looking for resources.  I found one book that I wound up throwing across the room because it was so poorly written. (sorry, I'm a bit of a literary snob I guess) A friend recommended a book that wound up being out of print.  Another recommended a book that I got but struggled through as it was just very heavy and read like a textbook (with no professor to help expound on what it meant).  I kept digging and praying and looking and then I found myself in a very scary place.  I found myself starting to think things like," Well, Paul said that, but JESUS didn't." Thinking like that quickly leads to a lot of doubts and questions - the kind that can shake your faith. And I didn't want my faith shaken. My life is not all that easy. I have kids with some serious issues. I need my faith. I need my Jesus. If looking into this issue of where women fit in the church, women gifted with leadership and teaching and administration and even prophesy, if studying this was going to make me doubt, then I wasn't going to do. So I packed it away. And along with it I packed away all of my writing, all of my speaking and teaching, and every leadership role I had at the time. I packed away some of my God given gifts.  And that is sinful. So maybe it's time to unpack..... but what in the world does that looks like?  We'll have to make that Part 2.....