In my late teens I was left very suddenly as the only musician in our small community church.
We needed a worship leader for Sundays, and the choice was between me or my dad and his repertoire of about three songs from the 80’s.
As much as I’m sure a lot of people still enjoy a rousing chorus of “He is Exalted”, the general consensus was that I was the more suitable alternative.
So, I got up there that first Sunday, alone and sad and so totally out of my depth. And after years of dreaming towards being a worship leader and having some kind of great ministry that would really make a difference in people’s lives, all of a sudden this very clear thought hit me like a big ole slap in the face -
I DO NOT LIKE DOING THIS.
I didn’t like it! It wasn’t fun! It was hard!
Week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year of leading worship completely alone in my tiny hometown church (six years in total) the initial unfun-ness of it turned into frequent battles with deep, painful discouragement.
In my inexperience I longed for a mentor or creative peers I could learn from and grow with, but no doors opened.
Over time my ability slowly improved with experience. Eventually, God provided a co-worship leader who, conveniently, turned out to be my future husband as well. Because God is really just the best multi-tasker.
Today, many large church movements are providing top-notch training and resourcing to leaders and creatives. I think this is amazing. The pieces never fell into place for me personally to do a school or a program, but I’m never going to be one who talks those things down.
However I do think that in the flood of excellence there’s a trap we can fall into without realizing it.
Let me say first: it’s good to recognize your own gifts. It’s good to get good at stuff. Josh & I lead our worship team here at Anchor Point and we want our musicians to grow and become empowered in their gifts. I believe God loves excellence.
But looking back at my own journey, I can see God was after something much more important than the development of my abilities. He wanted to give me his heart for his church.
He wanted me to come to love people.
Not to love their response to me, but to love them - whether or not they responded to me in the way I wanted them to.
Love hurts. Love costs. Love tears open my borderlines to include other people in my dearest longings and hopes. Those borderlines are my expectations of how my life will turn out, what my dreams will look like, and those borderlines become very dear and very precious and it is painful to have them adjusted.
Real love will at some point cost me some of the things I thought I couldn’t live without.
Every dream, at some point, takes on a sense of weight. You dream of getting married, then you get married, and somewhere past the honeymoon phase you realize that involving another person in the nitty gritty of your life is really not romantic and it’s hard sometimes. That hurts.
You dream of having babies, and then you have babies and it takes exactly one hour into one fussy, sleepless night for it to hit you: this thing is no joke. The way you lived before your time was so completely not your own has to die, and it hurts. A lot!
You dream of having a particular ministry, and then suddenly (like me) you have that ministry, and you realize that responsibility doesn’t look like a rock star. It looks like showing up when you least feel like it — and not only showing up, but being soft-hearted, which is much harder than just being present.
I believe that God gives gifts and that he wants us to use those gifts, but ultimately, he doesn’t position people based on their capability. He positions people based on the position of their own hearts.
Sometimes, he even requires that we yield our own gifting to allow someone else into the position we wanted, whether or not they are more capable than us. Sometimes he asks that we yield our time to allow other people in. Like kids. Kids take a lot of time. Are they worth it? Is love worth it? Of course it is. But it hurts.
Letting your heart and your dreams expand to accommodate other people is a painful process.
But what’s the alternative?
The alternative is that you don't expand. You don't grow. Your borderlines stay tight.
The alternative is that you don’t let people in. Nobody ever really gets to know you. You don’t allow anyone to come close enough to your heart that they might cost you something.
The alternative is that you have to shield and defend your role or position like your life depends on it and eventually, your identity becomes dependent on that position. Which is really counter-productive because positioning ALWAYS changes, whether you want it to or not.
The alternative is that every time you take on a new responsibility you quickly give up because you didn’t expect it to hurt.
And ultimately, the alternative is that you never get to experience the kind of intimacy that God has designed us to need.
It's so hilariously, simply true: when I abandon myself to the ownership of God over my gifts, he expands my vision.
He doesn't crush it. He doesn't kill it. He grows it. I grow. My pride dies, but I don't. I just don't. I don't die. Do we get this? Really?
Love hurts. Intimacy hurts. But it won't kill your dreams. It will grow them.
This is why I think God limits us, sometimes severely, in order to teach us how to love and to serve. He has to put bars on our ambitions so that our hearts can extend in intimate connection to him and the people he’s put around us.
This is a very rewarding process. Intimacy is good. It’s meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
But we can only see that when we stop resisting it.
I WILL YIELD. NO RESISTANCE. This is what I'm saying to God these days. Will you say it with me?
THIS POST CONTAINS SOME adapted material from my FREE e-book, COURAGEOUS DREAMERS. Download it here!