No weapon formed against you will prosper … but make no mistake… the weapon will be formed!!!- Isa 54:17 —
I’m not afraid for the Lord my God is with me.
2 Timothy 4: 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
In order to better see where I’m going, I find it helpful to remember where I’ve been. January has been such a month of remembering for me. I’m always in awe at God’s merciful grace during a rather graceless season in my life; a season where I came THIS close to throwing it all in and calling it a day. –
I can remember feeling hopelessly alone and forsaken of God. I felt disillusioned, disgusted, and disappointed in everything – only to find out that my hope had been placed not on the one who tore the curtain (Matthew 27:51), but rather the ones who hide behind them. I had learned far too much, far to quickly and as disheartened as I was by that, I was even more heartbroken to realize that I myself am no better. I looked great on the outside, but inside hid the bones of dead men.
The bones were those of the church. They belonged to the men (pastors) who would not let me join their churches when I was a child. It was in their denial of my requests that I built my walls of protection and sought to prove them wrong. In my anger and hurt, I’d built an altar in my heart to their approval. Every time the bones screamed out for attention and healing, I poured on a salve of sweetness and honey hoping to silence them.
Those bones rattled with a deafening noise that manifested itself in physical shaking and panic attacks. I suffered for years with pastor-phobia – especially if they were dressed all in black. As time went on, rather than face the bones and seek God’s healing hand, I found myself becoming disgusted by the very men I was terrified of and yet I continued on with my painted on smile and false kindness. I erroneously believed that it was these men that held the life blood of my salvation and when discovering that those that had disapproved of me all those years ago, lived no better lives than I, the holes in my heart filled with rage and the bones began to shake.
I had become a liar. You can’t really love or serve people you are afraid of, no matter how hard you try. I wanted to believe I was a nice person, full of mercy, love, kindness and grace but I had grown to hate the very people I felt called to serve. The paradox was killing me. The day finally came when I could not contain my pent-up rage and rather than be honest in it, I blew up on a sweet bystander.
It was then that I knew that I needed help.
Up until that point, I thought my motives to be pure and of God. I was a little off on that perception. It was really heartbreaking for me to discover that I hadn’t jumped into ministry to serve God, I’d gotten into ministry out of my own selfish need. I needed to belong. I needed to prove “them” wrong. To me, the little girl no church would allow to join, being a paid staff member in a church was like winning the lottery. I’m in! — Take that you hypocrites.
Never once did it occur to me that this was an issue of my heart and never theirs. Live as they may, rightfully or wrongfully; full of Grace or full of bones themselves, they are neither my problem nor my cure.
God silenced me for two years after I blew up in that church office. In that silence, he gave me music. In that music he taught me how to pray. In those two years he also gave me new friends, and a new hope in Him. A hope that doesn’t rely on anyones approval but his.
While I am no longer a paid church worker, I am today pursuing His will for my life and his heart in my soul. Once I opened the door to my internal tombs for his healing touch, I’ve found that he’s opened doors I never dreamed possible.
I’ve held several funerals for those bones over the years, and I’m sure there will be more. In the meantime, I’d like to share one of the people and the songs that pulled me through. — While my breakdown occurred in 2004, I actually had discovered The Gaithers back in the 90’s and fell in love with Mark Lowry. I’ve never met him and yet when the time was right – God used his voice (among many others) to speak to my heart.
This particular song was actually written by one of Bill Gaither’s daughter’s. It say’s a lot. Enjoy.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy things done in your name. I know the tricks behind the magic show. I’ve almost thrown the towel in a time or two and walked away from everything I know….”
“I had a receptionist job once. Man was it tough. I got yelled at, had things thrown at me, I was lied to, lied about, hit on and called names — yeah, last time I ever work in a church.”
Do you know that joke get’s high laughs. Not just a polite chuckle, but high sustained laughter. Are people laughing because they are shocked, or because they can relate? Church workers have it rough.
It’s often said that great humor is born from tragedy. And there is truth in that. I poke fun at a lot of things that did not start out as funny becauseI choose to find the funny through the tears. Like my funeral story — pastor has a funeral on Friday, Wedding on Saturday and Sunday service. That’s three services and three sermons. Friday morning pastor gives me his funeral sermon and asks me to put it on the pulpit for him. I start to read it and realize he may have given me the wrong sermon so I go back to his office. I try to tell him it’s the wrong sermon and he tells me it isn’t and to do what he asked. Walking away I mutter “alright, but I don’t think the Browns are going to be happy when you open Mom’s funeral with I see Dead People. Just sayin” — I promptly received the correct sermon for the funeral and no one was the wiser. Funerals might not necessarily be funny — but that story is.
Pastor started his Sunday Sermon with a quote from the movie The 6th Sense. “I see dead people. They just don’t know they are dead yet.” I’m really glad that one didn’t make it to the pulpit for the funeral, that would not have been good. His sermon verse was Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Many of us walk around as part of the living dead. Including ministry workers. We either kill ourselves with overwork or get killed by flying arrows so to speak, either way we keep standing up until we fall down.
I rarely write about that season. I’d rather write about this season. I’d rather write about the fruit I’m living in now than the saddness I lived through then. But maybe that’s not the right approach.
I read and hear so many stories about broken ministry leaders. There are so many people walking around with severed limbs, bleeding profusingly on everthing they come in contact with. The burnout rate for ministry leaders is higher than any other field. We should talk about it.
Are you a ministry leader? Have you ever been burnt out? What did you do?
Written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. February 10,2010
I quit ministry once, did you know that? Well I did. I joined the Christian Writers Guild and went to work in a church to pay for my classes. Within 12 months, I buried ten of my closest friends, lost the only school my kids had ever known (Bankruptcy), and my birth father showed up on my door step – homeless, jobless, and penniless. To call me pressed would be an understatement.
There were also relational conflicts with the people who were still living, and I’d reached my limit. So I packed up my little bag of sorrows, handed my hopes and dreams back to God and essentially told him, he could keep them. I was done.
I didn’t quit God, per se’ , I just quit ministry. It wasn’t worth it, the church wasn’t worth it, people weren’t worth it, and little old me just wanted to curl up in a hole somewhere and die. Not only was I throwing a pity party, I had hats, streamers, favors, and cake. Lots and lots of cake. – which would explain the 50 pounds I gained.
No one warned me about spiritual warfare. I wasn’t equipped. The truth is though, while I may have turned in my resignation to God – He didn’t resign on me. My gracious and wonderful heavenly father, poured out his Spirit into my wounded soul and blessed me with a rather unusual gift.
I had gone to Women of Faith just a few short months before bailing on ministry and while I was there, I had seen Chonda Pierce for the first time. I laughed until I cried. I was so impressed with what I saw that I signed some form of some kind saying “Sure, if Chonda comes to my town, I’d love to help.”
I don’t remember doing that. But lo – a few measly months later, I get an email from Chonda’s best friend Alison asking for help. Ali wanted to know if I would be a Lead Turbo for Tulsa as Chonda and Kenn Kington were coming to the Brady Theater that Spring.
Turbos are men and women who help coordinate volunteers at these comedy concerts as well as work with the promoters to get the word out to area churches about Chonda’s concerts. It’s a lot of work and it is so worth it.
I reminded God that I had quit ministry and He gently reminded me that I had signed up for this and should probably keep this commitment. Just this one then we’ll talk. So I did.
I coordinated volunteers, brought my bible study ladies to the show, worked with Bob at Trinity Communications, met Chonda and Kenn, shook in my boots, and promptly ran away. I was a mess. I couldn’t believe that God would allow me to do something like that. Why was he blessing me in the middle of a temper tantrum? Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
I’ve been volunteering as a Turbo now for almost six years or so. I don’t run away any more and I’ve made the most amazing turbo sister friends in the world. I’ve learned how to love and how to live again. Not because of Chonda, but through her and through God’s grace.
I didn’t know her story when I agreed to do this and now that I do, I wouldn’t stop. She is just too funny, too precious, and loves God in ways I can only imagine.
So… Turbo action here – The picture above is of a few of her national leads, myself included, in Nashville Tennessee in February 2009. We decided among ourselves to surprise Chonda and go to her video taping of This Ain’t Prettyville and help anyway we could. The taping was a pure blast as was finally meeting other turbos face to face.
Here is where you come in – CMT has chosen to pick up Chonda’s new video and air it as a Comedy Special. We need your help.
CHONDA WANTS YOU!!! To Laugh and To Vote
by watching her CMT Special “This Ain’t Prettyville”
America’s funniest female comedienne Chonda Pierce on CMT!!!
We need your TV tuned in to CMT for Chonda Pierce, This Ain’t Prettyville, CMT – September 15th!
8pm Pacific on cable
5pm Pacific on dish
This is your chance to impact network TV. By simply tuning in, you are casting a vote through the ratings system for great family laugh-filled entertainment – which we all need more of. Let’s do it!