Saturday, December 5, 2015

the hands of leadership

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 1:4-6


Since I became a Christian in 1994, I have probably had hundreds of people pray for me. I can’t really remember very many of the prayers. I vaguely recall a few snippets of faith over the years. For the most part, though, I prayed like the world depended on it (because it totally did!) and then forgot almost all the details when seasons and prayers shifted.


But there is definitely one prayer I can’t forget.


It was the last Sunday before I moved to Austin from LA. I was engaged to my future husband, giddy with the feeling that my life was really beginning at last. My friend and mentor stood there, praying for me. She grabbed my hands and said, “Lord, I pray you would give Carrie the hands of a minister’s wife.”


I froze up a little. I wasn’t sure I really wanted the hands of a minister’s wife. Besides, she sounded a little scared for me. I also thought I detected a hint of pity in her voice.


In that moment, I suddenly recalled how many women I knew that had told me over the years that they did NOT want to be pastor’s wives. Oh, snap. I was marrying the wrong man!






Then I thought about Morgan and how much I loved him, and I let that happy thought push the paranoid fear out of my mind. The truth was, it didn’t matter what I was getting myself into, because I knew what I wanted most: to love God first and Morgan second. Surely I could handle whatever came along with the role of “minister’s wife”. Surely.


This is how you get out of your depth in life, one blind leap of love at a time.


After the wedding fun ended, we settled into our routine. Morgan and I worked as campus missionaries on the college campus at the University of Texas (Hook ‘em for Jesus), and we made enough money to barely get by. I worked several tutoring jobs and had a job at our apartment complex in addition to ministry responsibilities so that we could eat things like cheese and meat.


The greatest shock to me about ministry life was the amount of time I had to spend with... people. I’m sure I should have had a clue about that, but I didn’t. I am intimidated by large groups of people, horrible at remembering names, and if given a choice between small talk with new people and minor surgery, I would choose to be knocked out, thanks so much.



During the drive to the weekly campus meeting I usually leaned my seat all the way back and cried like a big ol’ baby. I apparently had some minister wife’s hands but not the proper backbone for the job. In hindsight, I should have called my friend up and asked her to repray her pity prayer. 

Maybe I could call her now. Because all these years later, there are still days I’m leaned back wailing because this ministry life leads forever and ever on into more challenging waters than I expected. 

Being a leader means living on the open sea, far beyond comfortable depths. It means learning to ration out the portions of talent and energy you have been given, to build warm fires that will win even the coldest of enemies into trusted friends, to sing when the darkness overwhelms, and to punch sharks in the face when necessary.


Distant shores sing of rest and a carefree life, though. There are seasons of leadership that make that siren song difficult to drown out with ideas like calling, faith, and courage. We must choose to take the leap all over again.


The illusion of power is strong in the modern world. We think we get to choose our career, where we live, the image we present to the world. But so much of what we “choose” is based upon what we could never choose. 

If we forget this fact, we need only think back to middle school, the days we longed to change all kinds of impossible thing about ourselves: wardrobe budget, speed of physical maturation, height, hair, skin color, ability to be “cool”, etc. All I wanted in Middle School was to be shorter than the boys and to finally like my hair. Alas, these things were not my lot in life. I’m married to a man who is shorter than I am and I change my hairstyle every five minutes because I still can’t seem to get it right. I'm pretty sure God thinks all this is adorable.

In many ways, what we are able to choose is determined by all that we don’t choose. And when our circumstances leave us feeling unbearably powerless, there is only one true and painful choice to make: We choose whether or not we will submit to all God has chosen for us. We either die to ourselves or die to God’s plan.


I used to wish I was more like the straight arrow man that I married. I longed for a heart that was easily submitted, and a humble will to match it. But like my height and hair, my will and soul were formed by God and I didn’t get a vote. God makes all kinds of craziness on purpose. Consider the narwhal, the platypus, the jellyfish, and every reality show you’ve ever seen. The world is made from piles crazy. I am simply a part of it all. So are you.


And we crazy folk are God's very own delight.

I don't know what kind of God would choose people like us to love, to live with, much less to die for. If we were a Craigslist ad, we would be flagged the first day we posted: "Painfully unstable and flawed person looking for an omniscient, perfect God to take all my crap, magically form it into my eternal purpose, and love me when I screw it up." God answers that ad every time, paying far more than we realize and giving us far more than we deserve.

And He answers all our prayers, too. All the desperate, stupid, pitiful cries we eek out as we bang on our steering wheels and tell Him all the ways He has made our lives impossibly hard by asking this one thing of us: to trust Him and follow Him in all things.

Lean back, my friend. Wail it out. None of us get out of this place without struggling to accept what we can never change.

But someday every aching moment of life on earth will disappear in the presence of His magnificent love. My hands are going to get me from here to there doing the one thing they are finally learning to do best of all: open up and receive whatever His will declares is mine.

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