The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (Ps 23:1 NLT)
At nearly 45 years of age, I find myself reflective quite often. My husband and I tease one another, finding it almost impossible to believe we've arrived to the Land of Middle Age. I hear from those a decade or two beyond me--this doesn't change. If you're doing things right, you will never "feel" as old as you are. If I'm being honest (and let's agree: honesty is a great thing when you're following Jesus and leading others to do the same), turning forty was like a coming of age experience for me. It seemed that I had finally arrived at the magical decade where others don't dismiss what you have to say because you're "too young to know any better". Finally, someone might think I know a little something.
What I've really discovered is that each decade brings a fresh set of lessons. My teen years brought a measure of self-discovery. The twenties were loaded with fresh experiences: college, marriage, itinerant ministry, motherhood. In Year Seven of marriage I discovered what that phrase "Seven-Year Itch" really meant. My husband and I both reference that as being one of our toughest years of marriage. God was stretching us in ministry, in addition to becoming first-time parents. So our marriage took a hit. And the D-word was tossed around far more often than we'd like to admit.
In Year Seven of marriage I discovered what that phrase "Seven-Year Itch" really meant.
Decade Three brought another round of self-discovery and some mega transition. I'd spent my 20s learning how to be one half of a marriage and ministry partnership. But the year our oldest daughter began kindergarten, I had to un-learn much of that. No, I didn't toss the commitment I had made to and developed in our marriage or the ministry. But I had to adjust to a new way of adapting those principles as my husband continued on in the traveling ministry God had helped us to build and I now needed to stay at home. Part-time single mom. Completely removed from the ministry.
Oh, we talked about it often, neither of us wanting to embrace the obvious truths: his life continued on, fulfilling the call God had placed on the two of us as a team, and my life seemed to screech to a halt, so quickly I felt the whiplash for the next several years. I became engulfed in the work of our home church. The people there became like family and were immeasurable support to me and our children. And like most busy bodies, I over-committed myself, serving in a wide variety of capacities to blur the loss I felt inside. It got to where I was so tied up there that I was no longer available for the occasional opportunity for me to travel in ministry with my husband. And, well, that created some conflict for the two of us.
Vulnerability establishes trust.
Why, Bridgette? Why share all of this history? Because vulnerability establishes trust. And I need you to trust me when I say that somewhere in the midst of that third decade of my life I underwent some significant soul surgery. In fact, I might suggest there were multiple experiences on that operation table. Don't get me wrong: I was treasuring the thrills and spills that came with mothering two young girls. I was indeed on mission. And I was in full support of my husband and "our" ministry. But I kept thinking inside, "Why did God call me? Why did I feel that so strongly? Did I need to feel that He had a mission or purpose for me only to raise my children and support my husband's work?"
One day in the midst of all of that "why-ing" (again), I heard the Holy Spirit prompt me to let go of all of the responsibilities I had taken on at our home church.
"All of them?", I leaned in.
"Yes. All of them."
And then I took a deep breath and began to imagine how that was going to go over and then how it was going to go down. I wasn't concerned, necessarily, about how things would function at this church without my efforts. I learned a long time ago: no one is indispensable. No--my primary concern was how I was going to move forward and feel the slightest motivation toward life without "what I had left". It felt like I was on that surgeon's table and He was ready to carve out one more piece of the shrapnel from the war I had spiritually been waging.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
Did I have all that I wanted? Nope. But I had all that I needed. And it was up to the Shepherd to guide me through the hills and valleys that seemed impassable to me at the moment.
I reluctantly obeyed. I surrendered it all and graciously submitted my resignation to our pastor with only the few pieces of information I had before "going under the knife". "The Holy Spirit wants me to let this go for now so I can be available for my family."
Soul surgery. Sometimes it's necessary for us to undergo His cutting away of things we hold so dear before He can truly heal us.
Seasonal Surgery is Entry TWO in Sanctuary's blog series for March, Soul Surgery. Share with us about a season where you struggled to see God's hand at work.
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, is a wife, mother of two girls, and 'minister of the et cetera' alongside her husband, Chresten from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loves a great cup of steaming hot tea, the blessing of quiet spaces where she can think now and again, and the art of a handwritten note. While she's a vocalist, speaker, writer, and administrator, Bridgette's heart is fully engaged in connecting every woman to their God-given call and gifts with authentic candor. You can follow her blog from their ministry site.