How do you determine if someone is an expert in a given field? I’ve always thought that an expert has personal or professional experiential knowledge of a subject and has successfully navigated through it, grown beyond it, or found some way to grow from it. (“It” being whatever I happen to be researching at the time- parenting tips, creating a capsule wardrobe, or easy sheet pan recipes, for example.) When it comes to things of a biblical nature, I used to believe that pastors and ministers had to have it all together. Perfect people with perfect lives tied up in perfect bows were the best candidates for serving God.
What I Lacked
When God called me into ministry, I was convinced He had the wrong number. I wasn’t refined – I was rough around the edges. Nor had I figured out things like parenting and prayer. I was in the trenches, trying to raise four littles to know the Lord. All the while attempting to master nap training, potty training, and all those important things. And most certainly, I did not (and do not) have it all together. But what I might lack in theological accolades, I more than make up for in passion found deep in the trenches.
That passion led my husband and me to jump off a cliff (with kiddos) and start a prayer ministry focused on at-risk kids and families- Ignite Hope. I don’t believe we were the most qualified, but I do believe we were probably some of the first to just say “Yes.” I have learned that when you lead a prayer ministry, especially one that has a family-focus, people kind of expect that you have it all together. Newsflash – we do not sit around singing Kumbaya and quietly walk upstairs for private hour-long prayer sessions. We do not wake up singing old hymns. Or floating joyfully down the stairs a la Sleeping Beauty with birds singing around us.
Life is Messy
Our tribe is more spicy than sweet. We can be loud, and we can be silly. This past year’s months-long Facebook Live church included coloring books, dancing to worship music in our pajamas, and more than one time out. The crisis-schooling usually took its toll by Thursday afternoon, so Friday became home-school horticulture day. Instead of trying to follow the teacher’s well-planned assignments, our kiddos were more likely to be seen in mismatched Christmas jammies with muddy tennis shoes shooting through the neighborhood on scooters, or trikes or bikes. Putting on clothes that fit, are clean, and match would be a total coup at this point.
And sometimes – life is messy. Like a hard, ugly, big, scary mess that no sane person would document on social media. Sometimes there are harsh words and floods of tears. Other times there are big feelings in little bodies. Sometimes the spirit of defeat and depression lingers until one of us has the sense to call heaven down to earth and battle on our knees for our kids, for our spouse, and for ourselves. There are times – the bigs screw up, and the littles bear the brunt of it. Sometimes the littles fight for independence, autonomy, or even just the remote, and after a long day, week, or season it all just feels weighty, and we feel unworthy.
Twice this week, I have had dear friends comment that when my faith looks shaky or my prayer life appears listless, they feel concerned and surprised. I was scared to ask them if this was because they hurt for me when I hurt? Or if it is because people in PROFESSIONAL MINISTRY shouldn’t be Hot Messes? Or maybe it was a little of both.
When I walk through the valley, or more recently, when our whole family is crawling through the valley of the shadow of death in various and significant ways, I fear that my humanity, my hurt, and my honesty will somehow derail my testimony. I’ve spent more time apologizing for being a human being in the last two months than I have in the last two years. Finally, a dear mentor and colleague stopped me in my tracks, saying, “Jacqui, quit apologizing for being where you are; doing what you have to do. God knows what’s going on.” I am rarely rendered speechless – but speechless I was.
Suddenly it hit me my authenticity, my openness, and my “REAL” is what makes me relatable. My messy moments make others feel comfortable sharing their hidden messes. Maybe ministry isn’t about not being a mess – but allowing God to make the mess the message.
Amid the Mess
For all of you mommas and dads who are just hanging on by a string in this season. Every parent who feels like you goofed up one too many times. For everyone in ministry who knows that your backstory isn’t a story you’d want as frontpage news, you are not alone. I get you. And, I’m guessing, you probably get me too. And isn’t that fabulous – truly.
When we give up the facade and the filters, and the perfectly scripted posts, we welcome back intimacy with our mate, with our family, with ourselves, and with our Maker. God sees the mess and moves into it with us. He isn’t afraid, so we shouldn’t be either.
One of my favorite songs says, “Take my life and let it be. All for you and your glory.” So, amid my mess, I asked God to take it all: The good, the bad, and the ugly. The tears and the triumphs. My parenting victories and parenting defeats. When I laid all that down, God gave me the courage to be real – with you, with myself, and with my people. He taught me that sharing the real me is the only way that I can ever be truly known. And that being known is the heart dream of every kid, every parent, and every minister. Being known beats being an expert every time!