The Redeemed Life
In the world of ministry, there are many misconceptions. Misconceptions both from me and about me. Just this year I heard my daughter talking about an encounter in school. Her friend said, “You wouldn’t understand. You are a preacher’s kid.” Oh, how wrong that statement was. They have no idea the battles people in ministry have to fight. Coming from a preteen, junior high kid I understood that it was strictly immaturity speaking. Being in ministry for 18 years, I’ve come to realize it is not just a junior high mentality. As I hear people speak about their issues to me it is sometimes said with an underlying, “Not that you would understand. You have the perfect family”.
As I share my story (my not-so-perfect story) I see walls of preconceived notions falling down. At the very moment people see that people in ministry have struggles and trial just as they do, the option of success is finally an option. To see trial on the other side breathes life into their current situation, which I’m sure seems unending. When you are in the midst of trial it is difficult to see an end. It can feel like this is the way things will be for the rest of your life. The small statement from a friend “I promise, this will feel different in a year. I’ve been here” relieved my heart. I wanted to know that pain would subside and pleasure would soon resurface.
Failure is a part of life. Trial is a part of life. The Bible even tell us in James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." “Whenever” does not mean “if”. This Scripture tells us that it will come.
I always considered my trial relational tension. Of course, everyone in ministry will deal with relational tension. This is inevitable, considering you have to work with hundreds of different personalities. Always being the bigger person can be so draining. As I navigated through day to day life my mind never even imagined the trials I would have to face. As a matter of fact, my mind drove in the opposite directions saying, “I’m glad I will never have to deal with that”.
My trial has destroyed more marriages than I care to think about: betrayal at its core from people I loved and trusted. The battle is real! I have known from Day One that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus brings abundant life. As God is ordering our steps the enemy is working to trip those steps up. Even though you are knowledgeable of something doesn’t mean you are ready for it. The blow that would come from the enemy in my life DID steal, kill and destroy some things. My heart crushed, my trust broken, my dream thrown out and my spotless relationship, filthy rags.
Thank God, that wasn’t the final chapter.
I made the decision to give my filthy rags, my broken pieces and my crushed everything to God and let Him handle it. I have watched the Lord redeem that which was lost and restore all that was broken. It’s not Christian cliches. It’s real! It’s literal!
I just returned from a missions trip to the LA Dream Center in Los Angeles, CA. This place is a showcase of what God can do. Men and women who had lost ALL hope--living on the streets, addicted, sold, used, abused among other things. They not only found hope but found a NEW life in Christ. I think we see redemption as putting a new coat of paint on a rusty car. Redemption is creating a new car. God is not about patch work. His style is making something out of nothing. Do you remember Jesus' teaching about not putting a new patch on an old wine skin? The wine skin would bust. He is not patching us up. He is Renewing! He makes all things new.
The life of ministry can wear us out. Trials and struggle will come in all shapes and sizes but God’s word is never changing. The enemy will tell you that you are the only one and you should fix the issue yourself. Keep it in the dark. Telling someone would be embarrassing, right? Wrong! God will tell you to agree with people in prayer so that brothers and sisters in Christ can fight with you.
Bringing light to a situation brings healing.
Share your story! Perfection doesn’t help anyone. It actually pushes people away. Being real and transparent makes you relate-able. Let people see your scars. No one wants to hear your accolades; they want to hear your survival stories. You will be amazed at the people who have walked through the same situation or maybe they are at the beginning of a trial at a loss of what to do next. We need each other! We were not made to walk alone. It builds our faith to share a victorious outcome.
I understand the difficulty that comes from living inside the glass house. You have not been called to an easy task. You are fighting spiritual darkness and being an example for all to see. They may see you fall on your face or they may see you standing on the mountain top. Either way, be honest. Reach out for help or reach out to help others. I never dreamed of being a spokesperson for my trial, but that’s what I have become. This is not because I hold all wisdom on the situation but because I am willing to help others walk through darkness into Light. I’ve seen both sides. It is my responsibility to take the wonderful things I’ve been given and give them away. I’ve seen what is dead come to life with my own eyes. I have watched a hopeless situation redeemed and used in a powerful way. Let’s stop trying to put new paint on a rusty car. Let’s hold onto the promise: “I make all things new”!
Ashley Simmons has been married to her wonderful husband, Tim, for 18 years this July. They have served in ministry together since the day they were married. Tim and Ashley have 2 beautiful children, Cole 14 and Kennedy 13. Tim serves as Executive Pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Olive Branch, MS and Ashley serves on staff at the Guest Services Director. Her hobbies include "having two teenagers! It is quite time consuming." Ashley loves to write, share her story and minister to women. Before coming to Life Fellowship, Tim and Ashley traveled and spoke on the restoration of marriages. The tour was called, For Love For Life. The enemy wants to destroy the family but they have seen God turn ashes in beauty! Read more from Ashley at www.ashleylsimmons.com