Bidding Farewell to the Fat Smoker
I feel like a fake. I feel fragile. I feel weak. I’m a pastor’s wife, for goodness sake! I’m not supposed to feel this way, let alone let you in on the warring thoughts I’ve been up against. I’m coming out of one of the most difficult and stressful seasons of ministry of my life. Even walking through the grocery store a few weeks ago, thinking about all I needed to do in the days ahead, caused me to experience my first panic attack. I humbly write this fully knowing that this is not something that I’ve mastered, but I’m preaching this to myself right now. The greatest gift we can give our husbands, children, churches, friends … is the gift of ABIDING with the Lord.
I recently attended a conference where someone referenced the book entitled, Strategy and the Fat Smoker: Doing What’s Obvious But Not Easy. When I heard this goofy title, something clicked. It reminded me that we often know what we SHOULD be doing in our lives and WHY we should do it – just like the fat smoker. The fat smoker knows that he/she should eat better and exercise and put the cigarettes down. HOWEVER, just because something is obvious, it does not make it easy.
...we often know what we SHOULD be doing in our lives and WHY we should do it,...(but that) does not make it easy.
In a nutshell, this is a snapshot of my current life. My husband is a pastor. We planted a church with two other couples seven years ago. Last year I accepted the position of Executive Director of a crisis pregnancy clinic in my community. I’m an author and speaker. I have three children: Emma (19), Malachi (14), and Ava (10). My days and nights are often filled with ministering and pouring out.
But I can’t do ANY of these well if I’m not abiding. In fact, if I’m not careful, I can easily find myself slipping into a works-based religious mentality – climbing a social/spiritual ladder in an effort to please God … and others. Are you with me?! Have you been there?! (Maybe you’re “there” right now.)
As ministry wives, this is so easy to do. But the Lord keeps gently bringing me back to John chapter 15 where Jesus says, “I am the true vine … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me … for apart from me you can do nothing.”
As I sit and meditate on this VERY familiar passage, the Holy Spirit is opening my eyes to something in it that I had never seen before. When Jesus says, “I am the TRUE vine,” He is indicating that there are false or fake vines out there that we may be tempted to attach ourselves to. So, I’m asking God to search my heart. “Lord, do exploratory surgery. Reveal to me the vines that I’m trying to suck life from, yet coming up empty.”
In all transparency, here are some of the vines God is bringing to light in my life:
My HUSBAND – At times, I find myself seeking strength and comfort from him instead of the Lord.
My KIDS – As I see it, this is a problem EVERYWHERE! So many of us moms have made idols out of our children. Their schedules, desires, sports, etc., dictate our lives and can run us ragged!
POPULARITY with others (in the CHURCH) – Do you find yourself constantly comparing your giftings, looks, marriages, etc. with other women in the church? WHY DO WE DO THIS? Do any of these sound familiar?: “Why can’t I sing/speak like her?” “Why can’t I be as skinny as her?” “Why can’t my marriage be like her marriage?” I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Ladies, this has to STOP (picture me dropping a BIG hammer for dramatic effect, yet scaring myself because I don’t usually carry around hammers to drop them while yelling at my girlfriends)! Yet again, I share this because it’s what God is continually working on in my life. So, how do we get out of this vicious cycle? We must ABIDE.
So simple. Yet what HUGE, beautiful, life-giving, joy-inducing, family-changing, ministry-building benefits abiding in Him springs forth. Perhaps you see the act of abiding as another thing “to do.” But it’s not supposed to be like that. Abiding is simply resting in who God says you are and His promises over you.
I love Psalm 91 and the picture it gives us …
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Don’t fly by this verse too quickly. In order to find rest, it requires me to dwell in His shelter. That’s it. He only asks me to stay, inhabit, settle, live, abide in His shelter. It sounds so easy, and yet, I’m like the fat smoker. I know what I SHOULD do, but I often make it so hard. But then the Lord reminds me of this. He longs to spend time with me. Stop and think about that. It makes my heart go pitter-pat! The God of the universe desires to spend time with YOU!!!! One of the most intimate and beautiful scriptures to me is Psalm 27:8. It practically takes my breath away!
“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’
And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”
Often times, I sluggishly approach the Lord, but I pray that, when He speaks to my heart, I’d get up and RUN AFTER HIM and cry, “Lord, I am coming!” Sisters, let this be our immediate response when we hear Him whisper to our hearts. He’s so worth it! I close with the following verses, but I’m citing them from The Message translation so you might hear them differently; afresh and anew. Now … breathe deep, read it slow, and soak it in.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Holly Snell has been in full-time ministry since 1996 with her first husband who passed away tragically. "We were college sweethearts, began a Christian adventure camp for inner-city teens, and in our first summer, after three years of founding Pathway Ministries, my husband, along with my brother-in-law, fell into some rapids where their bodies were found a day later. Out of that pain and loss, my sister and I wrote the book Dancing on My Ashes where we tell our story and share what we've learned about the One who gives and takes away." Holly and her sister, Heather, now travel and speak at women's events across the country. Her husband now, "truly the most amazing man in the world", is also a pastor. Holly and her husband, Aaron, have now been married 15 years! They have three children: Emma (19), Malachi (14), Ava (10).
Holly credits her personal experiences for shaping and continuing to shape her ministry philosophy. While free time is hard to find sometimes, her favorite thing is simply spending time with her family. Holly's greatest passion in ministry is sharing how others can encounter and experience the nearness of God "like I never dreamed possible in my (own) life. I just want everyone to know that He is REAL and worth it all ... EVERYTHING!" To learn more about Holly and Heather's ministry and book and to read their blog, stop by www.dancingonmyashes.com