A year ago today, I celebrated my own Independence Day.
I had quit the job I loved after a whirlwind journey of four years. I was 27 years old and leaving the industry I was so sure God had designed me for.
The grass is not greener where I am going, I told my bosses in my resignation letter. I cannot see, from where I am, how I will find greater happiness or creative fulfilment or love. But I have never been more certain that I can trust the One who holds the next step.
On July 4, 2016 – Independence Day – I walked into the newly-renovated Thir.st office, a fraction of the size of my old office and bearing no resemblance to the comforting creative space I was used to. This wasn’t my dream job, at least not how I dreamt it. I wasn’t exactly the most qualified person for the role either. I’d just shown up.
Not what you had in mind, He kept saying. But I know you’re going to love this.
Perhaps “celebratory” isn’t the best word to describe how I was feeling that day. But I definitely felt independent – I’d left the nest I had been so carefully protected and nurtured in since I’d graduated. I had a brand new set of wings. I was terrified.
I’d asked Him in prayer just before my first day at Thir.st: “Why did you call me, of all people, to do this work? I’m not even professionally trained for the job. How do You know I have what it takes?”
His answer was so clear the seas of my heart were immediately stilled: Because I put it in you.
With that assurance and courage burning in me, I showed up and got on the rollercoaster of full-time ministry. And as I’ve now come to witness for myself, God fulfilled His end of the bargain, just like He’d done in the Beginning. From the formless and empty sprang forth our website and a trickle of stories.
One story turned to two. Then ten. Then too many and too fast; almost 330 at last count.
Within six months of going live, our site had meandered its humble way into thousands of newsfeeds across the nation, bringing living water to thirsty travellers along life’s busy highway. In the public space, we’d achieved a reasonable feat for a small faith-based newsroom. We even produced a viral video.
I have never been more certain that I can trust the One who holds the next step.
But away from the crowd, the storms were raging.
Those who’d spent years in full-time ministry had warned me of great difficulties. It’ll still be worth it, they said, but nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead. The battles fought at the front sometimes left me broken, battered and bleeding. On some days, it all felt too much to bear.
But that’s not what I’m feeling as I stand at the summit of my first year in Thir.st. Like hikers who finally reach the peak and look back in bittersweet awe at the epic journey they’ve just been on, I recount the days gone by with a certain lightness in my heart.
Oh, that part of the trail was a real challenge, I might say dryly, the memory already too far down the mountain and out of sight. Or, upon spotting the craggy rocks in the distance, now barely a sliver of path from where I stand: I seriously considered giving up there, I was exhausted and in so much pain, but I’m glad I kept going.
There are stories for every lesson carved into me on the way up. But this one’s specifically about the three spiritual milestones that got me to the Fourth of July 2017 and into my second year of full-time ministry. I call them my lessons of in-dependence: living in constant dependence upon God.
3 LESSONS OF IN-DEPENDENCE
1. To scale that mountain, you first have to be trained
You’ve seen the giants of the faith tell their tales from the mountaintop, and you want the experience for yourself. You’ve told God, yes I’m all in, take me up that mountain! And He’ll be more than happy to. But any seasoned climber will tell you that isn’t going to happen without a lot of training.
The mountain of full-time ministry is daunting and the climb is arduous on the mind, soul and spirit. There might be strains on resources, relationships and responsibilities that threaten to cripple you along the steep slopes. As your loving and wise Coach, God has to strengthen your faith to endure the journey – even if training comes in the form of trials and obstacles.
2. To be refined, everything must first be revealed
The main responsibility of full-time ministers is simply to stay close to the Son and reflect His light to the watching world; think of how the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. But being positioned under such strong light also means that every flaw and dark place in our lives cannot remain hidden.
Don’t be surprised to find God bringing to light areas of your life that you were quite comfortable not dealing with for a long time. Nobody might even know about them. The process of overcoming these weaknesses may be painful, but this refinement is an act of His mercy. We cannot effectively reflect the light of God if we are marred mirrors – and what mars us eventually hurts us.
3. To serve others, first recognise that the jug of oil never runs dry
Constantly pouring yourself out as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17) to minister to the hearts and minds of others is as draining as it sounds. And when you’re facing trials of all kinds, undergoing your own spiritual upheaval and trying to produce life-giving content every day, these words tend to surface: I’ll soon have nothing left in me to give.
It was a worry that plagued me when my season of adversity lengthened like evening shadows. I felt like the widow of Zarephath, left with only enough oil and flour to make one last loaf before she lay down to die. But one day God spoke into my heart from John 15:7, the way Elijah assured the woman: If you abide in Me, you will always have something to give. The jug of oil will never be empty.
I thought the act of quitting my job would make this day my Independence Day. I was wrong – I now see it was meant to be my In-Dependence Day. I’ve never been in greater dependence on the One who held my hand from Day 1 of my Thir.st adventure.
I couldn’t see then how I could possibly find greater happiness or creative fulfilment in this role – but now, with fresh air filling my lungs after a grievous but glorious ascent, now I can.
He was right. It wasn’t what I had in mind. It wasn’t my dream job. But it was.
I wasn’t the most qualified person for the job. But I was.
God’s hiring process is a lot simpler: If you step out in faith and take the job, I’ll show you what to do, how to do it and everything you need to get it done.
When God calls you up with an assignment, He’s not a boss who doesn’t know the full extent of your capabilities or character. He’s the One who created you for the work – with all your passions and struggles and life experiences good and bad – and He’s prepared the work for you (Ephesians 2:10).
You don’t need a tried-and-tested game plan or award-winning skills. God’s hiring process is a lot simpler: If you step out in faith and take the job, I’ll show you what to do, how to do it and everything you need to get it done.
Article by article. Project by project. Over and over and over again. One story at a time.
I don’t know what my next year at Thir.st holds. But once more, here I am Lord. I’ve shown up.
Take me to the next step.