It’s been a bit quiet around here because all the “other things” seem to be shouting so loud right now. We enjoyed an overseas adventure this summer (after 30 Days Deeper) and then jumped into life and a new year of homeschooling with both feet. These words have been waiting in the wings for a couple of months, but I hope they speak to your soul today…
Spain. I left a piece of my heart in Spain. While we were there this summer, I heard this deep whisper in my soul that just breathed life and light onto a dark place in my heart that I didn’t even know was there. But I think I need to back up and give you a little backstory to make sure all this makes sense.
Many of you know I’m an American married to a South African I met in Scotland. The dashing gentleman who became my Hero Hubs was living and working in Edinburgh when I moved there to be part of a team starting a new church in the city. After a couple of much shorter overseas missions trips, this calling to do something “big” and follow the Lord as a “missionary” was something that resonated with my soul, and in 2005, the adventure of following Jesus to a new country began.
A couple years later, the Hubs and I were married and working for the church we’d help plant. Fast forward a couple more years, and we felt called to spend some time doing mission work more poverty-focused, and we spent two years doing just that in South Africa from 2009 to 2011.
At the very end of 2010, the writing was on the wall that the season in SA was coming to a close and it was going to be time to move to the USA — home for me, obviously a new home for the Hubs.
I’m not sure exactly what we expected returning to the US – I think that we would end up doing a different sort of ministry, perhaps serving as associate pastors in a local church, or even serving a non-profit ministry in some capacity. We were pretty surprised when we sought the Lord and He pointed to the camera in the Hubs’ hand and said — “Look what’s in your hand. Do something with it.”
Six years later, we have a thriving photography business that’s paying the bills. And that feels really normal — which feels really weird. When we ask God about ministry, perhaps leading a small group, volunteering with YoungLife or doing more than just helping occasionally with children’s church, we feel like He points to our four children and says, “Look at what’s in your hand. Do something with them.”
When we were on the mission field, God did some totally amazing things and blessed us in ways we couldn’t have even asked for or imagined. Financially things were very tight, sometimes emotionally things were crazy hard, but still He was there and we knew it and we saw Him work wonders.
What they might not tell you when it’s time to step off the mission field is that you might come home — completely at the leading of the Lord — and somehow feel like there’s a big “<” sign on your forehead. You know, < . The one in Math equations from primary school? Less than.
So. Here we are in 2017. And while I’ve had the privilege of visiting a fair number of countries in Europe, I’ve longed to travel to Spain for ages and ages and finally, just last month, the dream became a reality.
And we were on this beautiful beautiful beautiful island (Mallorca) overlooking the Mediterranean in this lovely house with a pool and view like WOW and we could stroll down the road to the beach and be up to our waist and still see our toes in the crystal water and honestly after a day or two I was just overwhelmed by the blessing of it all. This trip we worked and saved for and planned to celebrate the Hubs’ Mom turning 75, and for our kids to get to know their cousins? It actually came together even better than we expected and that was when the whisper hit me.
I had this idea deep in my soul that I don’t deserve gifts like this from God because I’m not “in ministry” any more.
Not like that was a thought I would logically think — but it was a belief, deep down somewhere — that God could not be as pleased with me now as He used to be, because now I’m not doing what I used to be doing and what I used to be doing is somehow better than the hard and holy calling of motherhood that I’m answering now.
When I write it down and think it out, it’s ridiculous. But there it was in my soul anyway, even though I didn’t know it was there. And it took us getting to the end of a day that was so wonderful that the Hubs looked at me and said “That was like… my perfect day. That was THE perfect day… playing with our kids at the beach and lunch and relaxing at the pool and…” We just marveled together at the goodness of it.
As I prayed the next morning, it all began to stir up in my soul, to this realization that I just felt like a Second Class Christian because I’m not doing “vocational ministry” anymore.
God whispered back to me again those words He’s had me ponder over and over again: Swim Your Own Race.
And I prayed it back to Him with a big YES: “My call to faithfulness has nothing to do with a less or greater or more like this, less like that concept — faithfulness means doing what You want me to do all the time.” And I wrote it and underlined it and wondered if it could be tattooed permanently onto my heart somehow: “My race is in my lane.” I confessed, “I thought I shouldn’t receive Your gifts and blessings — or didn’t deserve them — because I was not doing “missionary” work any more. But You have clearly showed me otherwise by blessing me so abundantly…”
These were the words my soul needed, and I wonder, does your soul need them, too?
Are you looking at someone else who is doing this thing or that thing and drawing a Less Than on your own forehead because you’re not doing that thing that they’re doing? Because that girl there is leading the Bible studies or that girl is on her way to that country or that girl is leading worship or even just seems like a full time working Mom that doesn’t yell at her kids or…fill in your own blank?
The matter drew itself to the most obvious conclusion that I continuously forget: God loves me and nothing I can do makes it a more or a less kind of thing. He loves us and He sets boundaries for us because He loves us. And sometimes those boundaries will look like little and sometimes they will look like much. I felt like I deserved more back when I was serving God in South Africa — but I had less. And here we are, no longer in vocational ministry, but we feel like our cups are overflowing.
Did He love us less then and does He love us more now?
Absolutely not. The love of God has already been poured our for us in Christ — while we were still failing, fallen sinners. And while we should be thankful for all that He gives, He demonstrated His Love when He sent His Son.
There’s no favoritism in it — He wants everyone to know this Truth. He wants everyone to find repentance, and salvation. He is the Gift — the rest is temporary circumstance.
Friend, you are not a Second Class Christian — or a Second Class Human Being — of any kind, for any reason. Don’t let some hissing whisper to your soul tell you otherwise. You matter to God just as much as the next guy and don’t let the fog of focusing on circumstances tell you otherwise.
Take a deep breath and choose to look down your lane and swim your own race. God is pleased to see you do what He created you — and no one else — to do.