Mike and I continued serving the Lord in different churches with varied levels of commitment for the next couple of years. There were good days and struggles. God gave us an open door, but we didn’t see it at the time.
The chasm between Mike and me got wider and wider, and the fear grew bigger and bigger, as my level of commitment to ministry increased. Would he leave me rather than continue the stress of this walk? It was hard to justify God inspiring this mess. We were both stretched to the breaking point.
1993 arrived with little fanfare. On January 14, our pastor had me come over to his house to go over some training ideas.
“The Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about Luke 12:35-36,” he said.
‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.’
“I believe God is telling us that we need to get the Body dressed, ready for service and their lamps burning. Jesus is coming to knock on our door.” Looking up from his Bible, he said, “If we are not ready, we will think He is a thief and not let Him in. Why don’t you go home and research what this passage means and how to apply it? You can help me create training materials. We will use them in the House churches or on Sunday evening.”
I interpreted his request to include the opportunity to teach some of the materials we would create. I was excited.
I went home and spent the next five days nonstop, pouring over scripture and pulling meaning out of my Strong’s concordance. What I found was the dressing we were to be dressed in was total immersion in God’s will and walking with Holy Spirit. How do you teach someone this? I didn’t have a clue. “This is the work of the Holy Spirit,” I reasoned. “Only He can do this.”
Several days later, I went back to the pastor to go over my results. “Getting dressed and ready appears to me to be a Holy Spirit work,” I said, setting down my notes on his desk. “I’m not sure we can teach people how to do it other than to teach them how to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit.” He started looking over the notes, and I continued. “I don’t think I know how to tackle that task,” I said.
“Well, I do agree with you. It does need Holy Spirit leading,” he said glancing again at the notes. “Let me pray about this, and then we can talk more.”
I went downstairs to talk to a friend who was helping the pastor do secretarial tasks. We chatted a bit, and I headed back upstairs with the intent to go home.
The pastor was waiting. “I feel like the Lord wants me to teach and do the training on Sunday mornings,” he said. “Then I will lead a Bible study on Sunday nights to get this job done.” He was smiling, confident of his decision.
What I heard in his words was, “You don’t need to struggle with this anymore. I’ll take it from here. I am more capable than you are.”
There was an immediate war cry from my flesh! “It’s happened again. I got set up with expectations, put in the work, and then dismissed because the decision was made to take another road.” It seemed every week there was a replay of this pattern. I was hot.
“I need to get home. I will leave the notes with you and see you Sunday,” I said and headed out the door.
When I got to the car, I let loose of the volcano within. “Father, what is going on here? Didn’t You tell me that if I left the other church and followed You that You would anoint me to teach? That I’d be able to teach as I’d always dreamed? Wasn’t that part of the deal?”
I tried to keep my attention on the road, but tears were streaming, and my pride was taking a beating.
At the same time, something else appeared to be going on in my spirit. I was getting the witness that God did tell the pastor to make the decision, and it was His will.
I did not understand. “Okay, Father, whatever,” I said.
When I got alone with the Lord later that night, I repented for my prideful attitude and more or less laid it all down. But the words, “If you come out, I will anoint you to teach as you have always dreamed,” rolled as ticker tape in my mind.
“That was four years ago,” I said out loud. “You spoke this to me, and I still haven’t had the freedom to teach.”
I went to bed wrestling. I had a dream, but couldn’t remember anything when I woke up except for a question I heard. “Are you willing to let the dream die?”
I believed He was asking me if I was willing to let my dream die of being an anointed teacher.
After thought and prayer, I told Him, “Yes, whatever You want to do with my life. It is Yours to use as You will, Lord.”
On Friday of that week, I called the pastor to discuss some details about the Sunday service. I told him about the question God asked me.
“What do you think it means?” He asked
Should I tell him the truth? Lord, help me. “Well,” I said. “When you spoke the word to me about coming out of our old church, you said that God was going to anoint me to teach. So far, I don’t feel I’ve been given the opportunity to do so.” My stomach tightened. How is he going to respond?
At first, there was silence, and then he asked, “Do you think it could mean something broader?”.
My heart started pounding. “Well, yes,” I said. What was he suggesting by this question? “It could also mean to let the dream die of Mike and I ever serving together in our fellowship. Or maybe forget our family ever united in the Lord.” I feel that God has asked me those questions before. Every time I’ve told Him, “Yes, Lord.”
There was a long pause on the phone. “Well, I think I know what it means,” said the pastor. “An elder and his wife from our fellowship came to me almost a month ago, with a word for you from the Lord. However, because of the nature of the word, they felt they needed my permission to give it to you. My wife and I have prayed about it, and I believe it is God’s word. I also believe it is time for you to receive it.”
My insides started shaking. “What is the word?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you over the phone. You see, while it is a good word, it is also a hard word. Let’s get together after the service on Sunday?”
“Okay. I’ll see you Sunday.”
My mind flooded with possibilities. “God, are You going to ask me to go back to our old church? Are You going to ask me to give up my life on the prophetic team and to quit going to House Church? Is Mike’s dream of a bigger farm a reality but it is hundreds of miles from here?” On and on the list of questions grew.
If I tell any of this to Mike, I could hear him add more to the list. “See, you were wrong all along. God is going to call you to come back to church with me.” The words echoed as accusation. I was a mess.
On Saturday, I pulled out a book about discovering your gifting. There was a questionnaire to help uncover where you were most gifted.
The book suggested scenarios for each gift. Under teaching were some interesting comments. “If you are motivated by a strong teaching gift, you see things factually and logically and often dogmatically, as opposed to emotionally. Your mind will overrule emotion.” This sounded familiar.
Maybe all three of us could take the test, Sarah, Mike, and I. Maybe it will help us know how to communicate better and understand each other.
We took the test and discovered that both Mike and I scored highest in teaching. Thus, both of our personalities are difficult to sway. Once we believe something to be true, unless God Himself shows us otherwise, we will not budge. No wonder we were frustrated with each other.
As I discussed the results with Mike, another argument ensued. Because I scored higher in teaching than he did, he surmised that I, of course, was more dogmatic. I ran to our bedroom in tears and cried out to God. “How long can this continue? We are only human here. Help us Lord.”
The service on Sunday moved at a snail’s pace. People wanted prayer after the service. It was 12:45 before the crowd cleared.
I sat waiting for the pastor. A friend came up and sat down beside me. “How are you doing?” she asked
I broke into tears. “I don’t know how much longer I can hold onto my sanity,” I said.
She put her arm around me and said, “God gave me a word for you a month ago. I’ve prayed every day since and the Lord continued to confirm the word.” She took my hand and looked into my face. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “God is releasing you from the fellowship.”
A wail erupted from me that I could not contain. All my fears were realized.
She shook me. “The rest of the word is, ‘the marriage is critical.’” she said. “For you both to fulfill the call you have as a couple, you need to be whole as a couple and serving in the same place.”
I choked back the tears and tried to settle the storm within. I looked her square in the face and asked, “Have I been blind? Have I been too stubborn to hear God’s word? Have I not been where God wanted me to be all this time? Did God have to let me get to such a point of desperation before I could hear the truth?”
Another brother who overheard the conversation came forward. “No, you have been faithful. God says you have been faithful.”
My heart broke. All I could do was sob, wadded tissues mounting in my lap. It wouldn’t stop. Then the pastor and his wife walked over and sat down with us.
“We believe this word is from God and He is calling both you and Mike to attend another church. Not your old church or our church but another one you can both agree.”
I knew this would mean that Mike would have to hear from God for this kind of a decision. We’d tried going to a neutral church before and Mike refused to pursue that path further.
I left the church in shock. My flesh felt denied of the victory, the vindication that I was right. (Being right is so important.)
I believed the fellowship was on the brink of huge breakthrough. To leave now was like planning a menu, cooking the food, and then being denied the joy of eating the feast.
How on earth will I be able to minister as a teacher or give prophetic ministry? Most churches don’t allow women teachers and have little grasp of the prophetic. It felt like I’d been thrown out into the cold to search for a home.
While my flesh was reeling, my spirit was in another realm altogether. When I was finally able to dial down and listen, Holy Spirit started by pouring scripture into my head.
John 12:24: I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Then He told me something that shocked me. “Remember the research you just finished about being dressed, ready for service, with your lamps burning?”
“Yes, I do remember.”
“That research was to prepare your heart to open the door to Me today. I came in an hour you didn’t expect, and in a way, you never considered. Are you going to open the door and say, ‘Yes,’ to My instruction or are you going to perceive Me as a thief?”
He was asking me to be yoked with Him. It would mean walking where He walks. Stopping where He stops. Eating where He eats. And doing what He does.
Didn’t Jesus say in John 4:34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work? “
Then in John 5:30, “By Myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please Myself, but Him who sent Me.”
And in John 8:29, Jesus said, “The one who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”
God was asking me to do the same thing He asked Jesus to do. I could say, “Yes,” as long as I knew He was with me.
Monday arrived. It was finally above freezing after weeks of ice. “God answered your prayers,” I said to Mike. “It’s warming up.”
“Yes, He did. He does answer some of my prayers, much to your dismay,” he said.
“Well, are you ready for another answer?” I asked. I poured out every detail. The walls of blocked communication crumbled to dust. For the first time I think, Mike internalized that I’d not been following the pastor but the Lord. He started to see too that I wasn’t trying to torment him, but was only walking where God called me.
He surprised me with his receptiveness. Now he accepted the option of a neutral church with one condition. “I need to hear for myself that God has released me from the church before I consider pursuing another one.” He said.
So, we would wait in prayer for God’s instruction.
~~ How About You? ~~
God’s timing and His ways are often difficult for us to swallow. We want to know all the details, but they must fit in the box of our expectations or they are tossed aside as fantasy.
In Isaiah 55: 8-9 He tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So, are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
He also speaks to us through Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 2:14 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
If He’s told you something that bucks up against your expectations, be willing to stop and ask for understanding or clarification. “Father, what are You wanting to show me that I can’t see? What is it about You that You want to reveal to me if I follow Your instructions? How will this help me progress in Your destiny for my life?”
Our Father God is ALWAYS leading us in triumph. Yet the things He tells us to do, do not always appear to be triumph to us. Let’s be willing to seek His wisdom, even when we are sure we have a better plan. The more you do this, the easier it becomes and you begin to experience the joy of walking free of worry and tension.
Is God giving you an open door? If you can relate to this post, I’d love to hear from you.