Friday, March 31, 2006

What am I worth, anyway??

Reading Sarah's blog on a possible job change (resignation) took me back about fifteen years... to my own struggle as a wife and mom, with a baby less than a year old, family who all lived out-of-state, and trying to handle a my calling and ministry... and feeling like a complete failure because I could not do and be all that I dreamed of.

Part of the problem WAS me. I was idealistic. I was too confrontational for a senior pastor who was a schemer/dreamer and not good at bringing things from ideas and concepts to reality and procedures. I was not mature enough to handle some of the issues I faced (artistically, theologically and personally). We had some financial pressures - new home, lower paying jobs (and thought we needed my income). We had a delightful baby girl, whom I had to put in daycare for the days I worked once she was about 9 months old. That about killed me. Oh, add on top of that some post-partum depression... Yikes!

It was also a stressful, high performance job, with lots of pressure (internal and external). I persevered, thinking I just had to try to do a better job, work harder, walk on the water... (not!) I had nightmares of how I could mess things up. It. Was. Hard.

After 14 months, I had to stop trying. I did NOT have the full support of my senior pastor, in fact, there was a string of criticisms from him each week. (At least Sarah doesn't have THAT to deal with...) I believe he meant this critique to be constructive (do this, try this, NO, do it this way!) It ended up being destructive because I did not know what he wanted, other than "not" what I just tried. I didn't trust my boss or the people who worked for me. There was back-biting and jealousy on all sides. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and consumed by a lack of confidence in myself. It was crash and burn time! To save my faith, my marriage, my family, and my sanity, I resigned.

About the same time, Ken brought home a book from the 'free' shelf where he worked. The Road to Daybreak, written by Henri Nouwen, describes his journey of the heart and soul from Harvard Divinity School to working with the people at L'Arche. In a much smaller way, I went through the transformation of identity and self-worth that Nouwen did. Reading his journal account, I cried, doubted and worried my way to peace and joy. Note that I didn't do it gracefully, or with fabulous introspection and perfect application! (And it took me longer than a year...)

In the transition time, I had to come to grips with a couple of things... First, my baby would not be a baby forever. In the season of toddlers and preschoolers and elementary school, I needed to be more present in her life (and her future sister). The more divided I was in mind and purpose, the harder it was for me to do anything well. I also had to stop and learn more about myself: who I was, what my gifts were, and how my desire to serve God fit with the other priorities in my life. I had to stop trying to do it all and just try to do some! Finally, I had to grow up a little, take ownership of my mistakes and failings, and move on.

Fast-forward fifteen years... I'm back into the pull of wanting to do vocational ministry again. I'm scared to death I'll crash and burn again. And yet.. this time it seems to be different.

I'm a mom, but that doesn't define me. I'm a wife, but (while I do love him!) that's not the center of my life. I am a dependable volunteer in many different arenas, but it doesn't make me valuable or valued, (though I do feel appreciated!) I don't HAVE to do ministry to be validated, much as I love it. I don't even have to sing, write, or actually, to do ANYTHING to feel of worth in God's eyes. I don't have to be right, skinny or hip. I just am. Occasionally stupid, sometimes misguided and frequently pulled back to the cross of grace. That's the place where I find my worth - as a daughter of the King of kings, co-heirs with Christ... all those positional titles that I didn't earn, but was given. There is no God within, just the Lord I serve.

I keep having to remind myself of this. It's not my performance. It's His mercy and grace. It's not how well I parent, clean house or cook. It's showing His unending kindness and compassion. While I desire to give God my best, His love for me is not contingent upon a mistake-free performance. It's His working in me and (despite me) through me.

So I'm back here at the cross of grace... and peace... and hope... and remembering... with a heart full for my sister...

From our home to yours...

No comments: