When Healing Isn’t What You Thought

Disclaimer: this is a little long and pretty honest, so read at your own discretion.

“I, too, have known years of waiting – years of hoping and praying and dreaming of a cure no doctor could offer, years of waiting for a healing encounter with Jesus. Every new morning  was a reminder that I was promised no healing and guaranteed no end stamp on the condition I carried. . .It was in the middle of these questions and prayers and confusion that I found myself waiting for a God I couldn’t always make sense of or understand. But I met him in the waiting. And for me, that changed everything.” Ann Swindell, Still Waiting 

Every time I get my period without medication, it’s a miracle. Like a “Jesus really came through” miracle. Not the kind that is easy to talk about, but still glorious nonetheless. I want to share with you why.

I got my first period right after my thirteenth birthday.

And as you should be at thirteen, I was so excited. It meant I was less of a kid and more like my twenty-year-old babysitter who I thought was pretty much the coolest person since Hilary Duff.

This was my face after realizing my period had started up again in the airport before our trip to Europe. Shoutout to my grandma who found pads at an airport kiosk! Little did I know that my period wouldn’t stop for another 5 weeks.

I didn’t get my second period until months later. And it lasted for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s six weeks of PMS, cramps, and hormone levels, on top of my already crazy adolescent emotions. Tired, overwhelmed, and anemic, I saw the only gynecologist who would take on a thirteen year old. Pitying the poor, exhausted girl in front of her, I was put on the strongest birth control she could prescribe. It seemed like a one-stop-shop answer.

As the months went by and my birth control prescription kept changing because of insurance, it became alarmingly apparent that something wasn’t working. I had noticed a little weight gain and increased lethargy, but it was my emotions that proved to be the most concerning. I was on high levels of synthetic hormones and, at fourteen, I was self-aware enough to realize that something felt very, very wrong. When asked by my parents, I would describe myself as feeling detached, apathetic, and unaware. I felt like I was watching my life instead of living it, like I was in a daze or a dream. I didn’t seem to care about anything in a life that, months before, had been vibrant and energetic. I found myself wanting to sleep as often as possible, though often struggling with insomnia at night. There were daily headaches. Hot flashes. The need to hide my birth control from my church friends to avoid being questioned.

By fifteen, doctors were concerned enough to take an ultrasound and fifteen vials of blood. As they massaged the ultrasound machine over my abdomen, my thoughts were less about my impending diagnoses and more about how awkward it was going to be when I peed all over the examining table. I made it out of the examining room sans embarrassment and waited for answers.

“We don’t really know what is wrong. But you probably have PCOS.”

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 women. As a syndrome, the diagnosis comes from your symptoms and there is no cure. It’s categorized by cysts on your ovaries, irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues, and infertility. I was like the poster child for genetically inherited PCOS. It varies in strength and affects every woman uniquely and individually.

It’s hard to struggle with things that aren’t visible. Most PCOS symptoms aren’t, and the ones that are, like weight gain, can always be blamed on something else. When you acting irritable, exhausted, and anxious, it’s easy for people to write it off as annoying. It’s harder for people to “get it,” to believe that something really is off, when they can’t see it. And when it’s attached to inherently female issues and hormones, it can make people a tad uncomfortable.

at a dance competition in 2009

So, silently and often alone, I tried to fix it myself. I kept a journal. I spent time with Jesus. I tried to maintain friendships. I ate healthy. I danced competitively. But despite my best efforts, I still did not feel like myself and I continued to gain weight.

And that began to cause other problems. Dance teacher’s told me that if the XL leotard didn’t fit that they would have to special order a bigger size. We would be measured for costumes and our measurements would be called out, which all the girls would later compare. We’d try on our booty shorts and, while everyone else complained that theirs were falling off, I struggled to make mine not look like they were tailor-made for a stripper. Friends would bring cupcakes for their birthday and I would feign a stomach ache. Without realizing it was happening, my world suddenly became about how I looked, what I weighed, and what I ate. Getting a solo or mastering a triple pirouette didn’t seem to matter when I heard girls snickering about how I was the biggest in the company. My crushes were exploited for laughs and my body was used as a punchline.

My medical diagnoses swirled with the reality of my teenage life into a perfect storm of disordered eating. I would go hours without eating. I would count calories. Skip meals. I would come home from hours at dance to do more workout videos. On occasion, I’d jam a toothbrush down my throat to try and make myself throw up. Then, when I got hungry, I often found that I couldn’t stop – I’d binge on a whole jar of peanut butter or pack of cookies. And I’d beat myself up about it, crying myself to sleep and vowing to do better tomorrow.

junior year of college, hiking in Colorado, on a new medication and feeling very sick

When I lost weight, people would comment. When I gained weight, people would comment. Everyone had an opinion on my body and everybody had an opinion on PCOS: if you lose weight, it’ll go away. Everything will stabilize if you would just lose 10, 15, 20lbs. One gynecologist even suggested that I tried belly dancing, offering that maybe my weight gain was just a workout plateau. I tried every medication – ones to help stabilize my hormones, ones to help lose weight, ones to help with insulin resistance, ones to help regulate my period, ones to help with my headaches or insomnia. But none of it worked.

 

With every new doctor, every new lab result, and every worsening symptom, I kept crying out to Jesus: Why won’t you just heal me?

He healed the woman with the problem of blood and all she had to do was touch His clothes. My problem felt eerily similar and yet, month after month, the headaches, the weight gain, the mood swings, the insomnia, the irregular periods journeyed with me. Jesus, in your power and for your glory, won’t you please heal me?

That is still my prayer.

For me, full healing still hasn’t come.

But the funny thing about healing is that it doesn’t take completeness to see miracles. It doesn’t take victory on the other side to assure you of Christ’s presence with you in it. In a season that reminds us of the blessings of God in the midst of waiting (advent), I’ve come to see my journey of healing the same way.

Because while PCOS, it’s associated symptoms, and the remnants of my teenage eating disorder still creep their way into my daily life, I’ve found healing in vulnerability. I’ve found healing in people who believed me, who didn’t tell me to try not eating after 7pm to lose weight, but instead cried with me as I told them my story. Who believed that when I told them that I was experiencing gut-wrenching stomach pain or that I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am, that I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’ve found healing in giving myself freedom, in the permission to both enjoy my life and be honest about my physical pain or emotions, especially when they mean leaving a situation. I’ve found physical things that work – vitamins that help supplement low levels, always having ibuprofen on hand, watching silly TV shows when I can’t sleep, or not eating breakfast until later in the day.

I’ve found healing in clinging to Jesus when the day feels long, stress emphasizes my symptoms, I can’t fit into an old pair of jeans, or it all just feels like too much. I let Him take my tears and frustration and anger. An incomplete healing propels me closer to my Savior, as I put my hope and expectancy in Him and the empathy He demonstrated on the cross.

My story of healing isn’t over, but in reality, none of our stories of healing are over. I know, with full confidence, that all Jesus would have to do is say the word and my cystic ovaries would look shiny and smooth. My wacky hormone levels would be balanced. My sleepless nights would be peaceful and I wouldn’t need carry a sweater around in the summer. But if that never happens, it doesn’t make Him less loving or faithful.

cliff jumping in Turkey, in the summer of 2017 – living into the freedom and hope of life in Christ

For as much as I believe that the Lord can heal my PCOS, I know now that He may not. I may never have biological children. I may always get headaches, have digestive problems, struggle with insomnia, and find myself unable to regulate my weight. But you know what? That isn’t the worst thing because it, quite literally, keeps me clinging to Jesus. I recognize, everyday, that I cannot do this without Him.

My hope is in the healing and redemption of eternity, not of this life.

My hope is in my risen Christ.

I won’t be living in a redeemed body until I’m standing before my Jesus, face to face. And if that means I have to carry PCOS in my bones (or, more accurately, my reproductive organs), for the rest of my life, that’s okay. He gets to

chose the story that brings Him glory. And, as He’s proven time and time again, He is faithful.

Holidays in Ministry

I remember coming home from Palm Sunday service in April, with a full and exhausted heart. I shuffled through the front door of my college house, hands full of overflowing tote bags, into what was an equally full kitchen. I remember being greeted with a dozen high-pitched welcomes and rapid-fire questions that I’d grown to expect (and now miss): How was church? Were you teaching? How’d it go?

The conversation quickly shifted back to the previous topic: the sweetness that everyone had experienced at their Palm Sunday services. Friends talked about how they’d cried when the children skipped down the aisles, waving palm branches. They commented on how moving the presentation of the story had been, how tangible the Spirit was during worship, and how relevant the sermons had been. Partaking in communion during holidays usually carries a different weight.

I just listened, laughing to myself. That hadn’t quite been my experience…

I don’t know what our palm processional looked like because I was in the back, consoling a crying toddler and convincing my middle schoolers that waving palms was still cool. I found myself in the middle of a palm branch duel between brothers, being smacked by the branches as I threatened to take them away. I ran, in my heels, to find extra palms (or, let’s be real, probably a stick from the parking lot) because, inevitably, someone didn’t get one.

For everything that’s moving, beautiful, and meaningful in a church service, there’s someone behind it who’s making it happen.

I’m specifically talking about ministry-related events here, but the principle extends further: at stores, restaurants, events – whatever it is that we’re experiencing, there’s someone on the other end who is doing all they can to make it happen.

That isn’t to say they don’t love their job. It isn’t to say that people are bitter about what they’re missing or that they are dying to be appreciated (if they are, maybe it’s time to give them a break). This isn’t a complaint about spending my Palm Sunday morning playing games with pre-teens; believe me when I say I loved every bit of it. My Christmas Eve will be spent as the liaison between the middle schoolers who we’re letting plan the program and the kids they’ll be directing in it. But I’m pretty sure I’m living the dream here. I’m choosing to have youth group on my birthday because I love what I do. 

I love my students more than I ever thought possible. I love watching them fall in love with Jesus. I love watching them play stupid games, care about re-decorating their youth room, or hanging out with each other after service. How can this not be the best job in the world?

It’s not a complaint.

It’s just a reminder not to forget.

Don’t forget the people who are working behind the scenes. Don’t forget that the things you enjoy, the things that are causing you to meet Jesus – they don’t just happen.

For every beautiful children’s program, there’s a tired, overworked (and probably really happy) children’s director. For every craft or candle that gets passed out, for every giving tree tag that you pull off, there’s someone behind the cutting, glueing, and assembling. For every moving sermon and powerful worship set, there’s a pastor, worship pastor, and any number of people running the AV system. For every service that is made reverent and special by the removal of your kids, there’s someone whose missing service to watch and teach them. They’re probably missing the holiday, or at the very least, the church service, with their family.

It’s lesson planning, lots of Dollar Tree runs, papers all over the bedroom floor, too many questions and decisions, weekend work days, justification for buying reusable tote bags every time you stop at the grocery, and too many hugs, laughs, and sweet moments to count.

It’s a whole lot of the faithfulness of the Lord. And a whole lot more of His grace.

If you’re in ministry, I hope that you love what you do. I hope that it feels like the very gift that it is.

We wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And, we love hearing that you find what we’re doing meaningful and moving. Just don’t forget that we didn’t experience it like you did. Be gracious in the way you speak and be cognizant of the subconscious reality of making those in the background feel like they’re missing out. We may not talk about the sermon, the program, the worship, or the processional, but it’s encouraging to hear that you met the Lord in it.

We’d also love to talk about our students, the craziness of the morning, or that we met Jesus too, if you’d like to listen. Sometimes, all we need is someone to get as excited about memory verses, new technology, or an injury-free event as we are.

With another busy, holiday season, where things in ministry tend to pick up instead of slow down, remember to be kind. Encouragement, gratitude, and just simple noticing goes further than you might think.

There’s a lot that goes into the 5 minute video that you’ll see on Sunday morning. Someone is making a last minute sprint into the grocery to pick up items for communion. The handouts that you’re getting, the graphic on the screen, and the quietness of a service sans children – yep, someone is behind all of that.

Managing the program. Putting together the videos. Troubleshooting the unforeseen challenges. Teaching students about what it means to love Jesus. Sometimes it feels rewarding, sometimes it feels thankless. Sometimes we come through that door on cloud nine, amazed at the works of the Lord, and sometimes we come ready for sweatpants and a nap, unsure if we’re making a difference.

Holidays, when your life is ministry, can look quite different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Open Palms and Applications

Trust is not a new topic for my thoughts, my prayer life, nor for this blog. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and written about trusting Jesus over the past five years and a little update about where we are now:

In 2013, I wrote about what it looked like to trust the Lord in moving to Wheaton.

1.) Trust is harder when you feel the need to prove yourself. Control is a natural feeling when situations seem to necessitate changing other people’s perceptions. I’m young, I’m single, I’m currently living at home while I finish up my M.A. – it can feel like all eyes are on me when it comes to my future. What is she going to do next; how is she planning for it? When the goal is less “pleasing God” and more “appeasing  man” (Galatians 1:10), it becomes a lot harder to step into crazy places of trust. Because, as might be self-explanatory, it can make you look a little crazy.

2.) Trust is synonymous with peace; it’s not synonymous with comfortable. There is tension, impatience, and anxiety when I’m trying to figure things out in my own strength. Manipulating variables so that I feel like I have a handle on something usually means I spend most of my energy trying to keep my handle on it. When I’ve submitted something to the Lord and am walking in what I know to be His will, there’s an inhuman level of peace and security. It’s the kind that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), because you feel it permeate everything even when the variables don’t make sense. He offers peace and it’s amazing. But peace doesn’t mean it ever really feels comfortable. It’s imbedded in my human nature to want to be in control of things. Just because I’m feeling divine peace doesn’t mean that I’m ever like, “wow, it feels so natural, comfortable, and easy to give up everything that makes conventional sense so that I can trust Jesus and watch Him show up!” Feels good, exciting, and full of security in who He is – but it’s rarely comfortable.

3.) Sometimes, trust is less about the emotion and more about the action. If God says to do something, I wouldn’t second guess it, regardless of how much sense it makes. Scripture is full of stories of those kind of commands. My life is full of those kind of commands. Chances are, if it’s something that brings Him glory, and is something you wouldn’t choose or didn’t bring about, you can probably trust it. What’s more, if you’ve prayed, fasted, been honest about your humanity in it, and sought wise counsel (remember 1 Corinthians 1:27 here), and the consensus is that it’s right, I wouldn’t hesitate. This may mean giving away the money, signing up, buying the ticket, getting in line, or getting rid of most of your army (a la Gideon in Judges 7). You’re heart still may be wrestling, the doubts may still creep up, and the discomfort may feel debilitating at times, but sometimes, you’ve gotta force the step and pray for faith as your wait. Believing with unbelief is not an unfamiliar concept to our Lord (see Mark 9:23-25). Thankfully.

In 2014, trusting God was less of concept that I was trying to wrap my head around and more of a gracious, nudging, reassuring command of the Lord.

4.) Trusting God starts with the small things. How am I supposed to believe God for miraculous provision or impossible actions if I’m not believing that He will sustain me today? You can pray for God’s glory and for miracles and you can want Him to show up all day long, but if you aren’t willing to give Him the little places of dependance this hour, your soul is going to struggle when trusting Him means turning everything on it’s head. You’ll struggle when trusting makes you look really crazy. Have faith that God sees everything, including your emotions, your frustrations, and your confusion. If you don’t see Him as big enough for your daily slough, then your conception of Him is still too small. I’m grateful for all the crushes, tough classes, and “small” prayers that had me clinging to the Lord; every time I believed Him and He proved Himself faithful, my heart gained that much more resolve in trusting Him with all my finances, healing for my body, and open doors for my future.

5.) Trust is strengthened when we look back. Journaling may not be your forte, but I highly suggest writing your prayers, your stories, and the works of God in your life – big and small – down. Or speak them into your iPhone voice memos. Set up rocks in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter, just find some way to keep an account. When you see His faithfulness in the details, when you see pieces of the story that connect in ways you missed in the moment, it becomes easier to trust that He is who He says He is and that He knows what He’s doing. Help your heart out here. Not only that, but it makes it easier to tell the stories and give the Lord glory when you have a way of looking back on what you believed Him for and how He showed up. You can’t tell the stories of how the Lord has shown up if you don’t remember them.

 

2015 had me smack-dab in the middle of the trusting God, confused and frustrated by things that didn’t seem to be working out or lining up, and using truths from my past to propel my faith.

6.) Trust rarely makes sense in the moment. It feels uncomfortable. It’s often not what we want or had anticipated, both on the front-end and the back-end. Trusting God doesn’t mean we ask for want we want and then open our hands to receive; we ask Him what He wants, open our hands in submission, and then act, pray, and live accordingly. And the things that He gives us are usually not the things where we go, “this is exactly what I thought, happened exactly the way I anticipated, and is exactly what I wanted to do!” From what I can see, that’s not typically the reaction when God says He’s going to light wet wood on fire (1 Kings 18) or asks you to march around a city for a week (Joshua 6). If it makes sense to my rational mind, it’s probably in my control, which means that it’s more about me than it is about the glory of the Lord. When it feels a little crazy and like it doesn’t totally make sense, that’s when I know I’m probably on the right track. That doesn’t mean that we’re rash, unthoughtful, or idiotic; quite the opposite, in fact. The things of God should demand more thoughtfulness, prayer, care, and processing. Just because we step into them with care and intentionality doesn’t mean that they likely make logical sense. Jesus gets the glory in things that are impossible or strange for our humanity; it makes sense that those are also the things that tend to raise an eyebrow.

A big year for my trust in the Lord, the health issues, life changes, and future plans of 2016 deepened my trust in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

7.) Trusting God means confidently believing that He can . . .We need to have a bigger view of God than we often do. To use some good, adjectival conditionals: He’s stronger, more loving, more faithful, more powerful, bigger, better, and greater than we dare to imagine. The response that people have in Scripture to those who doubt or question the craziness of their trust is always, “who should speak against, stand against, or hold back the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). How can I not be all in with my God when I know who He is? As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, not only do we believe that He able to do it, but that He will (Daniel 3:17). A little future imperative to demonstrate just how resolved they are in the belief that God not only has the abilities but the trustworthy characteristics that define His actions. We should have that same confidence.

8.) . . . but also believing so fully in His sovereignty that you are okay with “He may not.” If our “trust” is contingent on a certain outcome, it’s not real trust. That is just us believing for something that we want. Our view of God should be big enough that it leads us to believe Him for impossible things, but it also has to be big enough that we believe any outcome means that His sovereignty is still in control. It doesn’t mean we have to love all the different outcomes equally, but they should not affect our trust. As soon as we put our hope in the expectation of the thing itself, we’ve missed the point. In that, we run the risk of having a disappointed or offended heart. The end result of trust CANNOT be the object of the trust, it has to be Jesus. If all we ever gain in this life is Jesus, that is more than enough. And if our “trust” leads us to be disappointed, disillusioned, hurt by, or offended with Jesus, then it somewhere along the line we lost real trust. Ultimately, we don’t get the healing, the home, the open door, the family, the city, the situation, or the resolution, we get more of Christ.

9.) Trust comes from intimacy. That is why trust has to come from a nearness to the Lord. First, we only know the heart of God and what He’s leading us into by being near to Him. That means investing time, emotion, and energy into the relationship – like with any human relationship. What is Jesus asking you to do? Don’t ask me; ask Him. Ask Him to speak. Sit and listen, without any pretense. Soak yourself in Scripture. Learn what it means to be intimate with our incarnate God. Experience the nearness of God with others, in community. Second, if the real prize of trust is gaining Jesus, that’s going to feel pretty lame if you haven’t experienced the life-changing, radical, consuming love of the Lord. If you don’t quite get how Paul can say that everything is a loss compared to the infinite value, the surpassing worth, the excellency of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8), then let your journey with trust start there.

And here we are, nearing the end of 2017 . . .

I’ve submitted an application that pretty much every current plan for my future is dependent on. I’m walking forward in things that aren’t, by any human terms, for sure. I’m doing things, talking about things, and praying for things in a way that is a little crazy. The rubber finally meeting the road on some of the biggest places of trust in my life. And I’m all in with trust. I’ve stepped off the ledge and it’s up to Jesus. I’m not betting on any human process here; I’m betting on Him.

When it comes to believing my God, I’m all in.

I know, it’s crazy. It’s always crazy. And believe me when I say it’s not always comfortable. I’m not under any illusion that everyone understands. But if God is who I believe Him to be, that means He either gets everything or nothing. So, He gets everything.

And time and time again, He’s proven that He’s worthy of that.

More than that.

Here’s how it goes: He asks me to keep my palms open. To let Him work. To step out of the way, give up my control, so that He can get the glory. He, graciously, slowly, and methodically places things in them. His dreams, hopes, things to believe Him for.

The hardest part for me isn’t opening my hands in the first place or getting okay with whatever Jesus puts in them.

It’s keeping them open when He fills them.

When something is in our hand, our biological reflex causes us to want to clench our fist. We want to grasp onto, wrap our fingers around whatever our palms feel. As soon as I do that, I take the glory away from Jesus, I throw away my trust, and I try and manipulate His plans into something I can control.

It’s easy to trust when my palms are open and empty. It’s a heck of a lot harder when I’m holding something concrete, something He’s given and grown in me, something that I’ve come to love. THAT is when He asks me to trust Him. To hold the things in my hand with steadfast, unwavering faith. To believe that He can. And to keep my palms open, so that He can give and take away as His sovereignty demands.

To be unoffended with the outcome.

To gain Jesus.

This is what I’m learning about trust nowadays.

10.) Trust really has very little to do with us. If you think that trusting God is solely about His faithfulness to you or your role in it, you’re probably missing the point. Our God is faithful just because He is. It is, very simply, who He is. And chances are, the things that we are trusting Him for reflect more than His faithfulness to just us. Remember, His vision and glory are for the nations, the marginalized, and the grand narrative of humanity. It’s less about your ability to hear him, to pray steadfastly, to fast continuously, or even how well you live into the other nine parts of what it means to trust the Lord, and more about who He is. Because, ultimately, it’s not about you. A small part of it may be, because, in His infinite love and mercy, the God of the universes chooses us and cares for us. He demonstrates His faithfulness to us because He’s not just a God of the macro things but delights in the details of who we are. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we, in some twisted and subconscious way, are in control because of our trust in God. We’re not. He is. Which means all of it has very, very little to do with us, and everything to do with who He is.

That’s the story. And He’s the only one who gets the glory in it.

To Not be Remembered

It was about halfway through the promotional video that I realized they were using my words on the voiceover. Every subsequent word confirmed it. Excitement rose up in my bones: they were using my letter! I would be named at the end of the video! I was surprised that no one had asked permission, but I shrugged if off. After all, it was a public letter, written as a part of Wheaton College’s Tuition freedom day. That year, I’d received a particularly generous scholarship and wanted to communicate my gratitude. Stories of the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. And now, in the official college video, they were using my letter.

I’ll never forget the sinking feeling when I got to the end of the 1:34 video and all I saw was the school logo. Where was my name? My picture? Even the handwriting of my letter? I dug through my recall – had I put my name on the letter? Why wasn’t it included? Why had no one tried to track me down? Here was this beautiful, professional video with my words eloquently weaving the piece together. It was my gratitude, my story of God’s provision. And yet, my name was nowhere to be found.

The video would come and go and I would never be associated with it. No one would ever praise me for it. I wouldn’t be getting the glory for thanking the donors that year or for being obedient to the Lord in steps of faith that don’t always make sense.

Then again, the donors aren’t being praised for their faithfulness either. Most of them don’t have their names all over campus. It’s a quiet, nameless sort of obedience to be the “vessels that God is using to provide for my education.”

I remember later that semester of my sophomore year, one of my professors posed a question:

Are you willing to serve, do all that is is worthy and beautiful, to give you life away, and not be remembered for any of it?

Clearly, I wasn’t.

But it wasn’t entirely my fault. Because, for as much as I had learned and actively pushed myself (or had the Lord push me) towards humility up to that point, there was still more. The process of being made nothing and Jesus getting all the glory is uncomfortable and painful. And there always seems to be more. It is the actions of anonymity, the hours of intercession in solitude, the offering in secret, the handing over the microphone, or letting your name fall from the record.

We say things all the time that make sense in our head: Jesus gets the glory, it’s His story, not ours, we’re only living for an audience of one, and we will become nothing so that He can be magnified. But when we fade deep into the shadows and the things that make us feel worthy are no longer seen, the reality is something different. We don’t mind it being Jesus’ story if we’re the one who gets to be seen and praised for telling it. We want the life worthy of the biography, but the kind that gets written because you live with such humility that you’d never dream of writing it yourself (ironic, right). We see the people in Scripture who seem insignificant compared to Abraham, King David, and Paul, but they still get a minute in the spotlight. People like Rahab, Boaz, Abigail, or Joseph of Arimathea. I tell myself that I’m okay with humility if it means being one of them. I don’t need to be as beloved or well-known as John, as long as I get to be remembered for my faithfulness like Anna or Lydia.

But what if loving Jesus means that I don’t get to be remembered at all?

What if I lived like it really isn’t about me?

What if I really did decrease, so that He really increased?

What if obedience and faithfulness looks more like the story of the man in Ecclesiastes 9, a story that is only two verses long –

“There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

The man was clearly operating in some personal and probably spiritual gifts, including a bent towards leadership, if he had wisdom enough to deliver the city from the siege of a great king. Yet, Scripture is clear about both his poverty and his lack of recognition. Yet no one remembered that poor man. God gets the glory in the city and he fades into the shadows. Poor, unremembered, and deeply known by the King of Kings.

Stewardship and humility are not mutually exclusive. We are called to die and that means dying to our desire to be remembered. If we’re fighting for the accolades, the book deal, the speaking engagement, the twitter hashtag, or the biography-worthy life, are we fighting for our glory or Christ’s? None of it is about us. We must decrease.

The reality about being remembered is that the closer I get to Jesus, the less it seems to matter. When I hear Him tell me just how deeply He delights in me, how permeating His hesed love is, how His covenant with me is irrespective of my worthiness, the easier it is to spend my life being forgotten. I can say that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), knowing that it’ll mean spending all my energy, my body, my resources, my time in a love for Jesus that may not be remembered. The more that I feel and know that I am as beloved as John, the less I feel the need to be remembered for that.

The more that I’m fighting for Jesus to be illuminated, the more I’m okay I am with living in the shadows. The more that I’m okay not being remembered if it means that Jesus is.

But I Said I’d Go Anywhere.

Way back when, I told Jesus that I’d go anywhere He wanted to send me. I’d be obedient to anything He told me to do. I’d hold nothing back. And in classic Maddie fashion (is this just me, y’all?), I had a sort of idea about what that would mean. The sentiment to go anywhere… Read more. . .

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline.… Read more. . .

Don’t be Like Usain Bolt, Be like Jesus.

The realities of how our world, and more specifically our American culture, is structured are such that the demands are never ending. What concerns me in this? The church has structured herself in the same sort of way. It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who is planting a church, while sitting on the city council board, leading… Read more. . .

Summer Updates

To those of you who are praying for me, planning on supporting me, or are just generally nosy, this is for you. I’m here to give you more than just the “my trip was great; it gave me lots of pieces of things to process” answer about what the Lord is doing and how the… Read more. . .

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until… Read more. . .

Impatience.

This impatient heart inside me yearning for answers . . . to know unsatisfied with in-between, spiteful of my need to grow. • • • The heart within me groans – how I hate the call of waiting! how I hate all that’s unknown! • • • He tells me His work is slow, His… Read more. . .