I was thinking back to my days at Multnomah Bible College earlier today. More specifically, I was thinking about the internship I did at a local church while I attended college. This church was a lot smaller than the church I had come from at home. It was also a nondenominational church, so it wasn’t organized the same way as Bethel Church (my home church and current church to this day). I had been a high school student who had been deeply involved with my home church, specially the youth group. I loved being there with my friends, serving alongside them. I took part in anything that offered the chance to grow my leadership. I devoured leadership and spiritual growth books. I was told about how I would do big things for God when I went out in the world. I was primed to change the world when I left home. But… I actually found myself in a smaller church in Vancouver, WA called Grace and Glory Community Church. I loved this church for all the ways that it was different than Bethel. It was small and quaint. I knew the names of almost everyone there, but I still had a hard time connecting. An 18 year old girl from out of town doesn’t easily join in ranks with the families who have been in the community for a long time. I was a bit isolated, but I loved the preaching and the pastors. My first year in attendance, I found myself helping the youth group because youth ministry was the majority of what I knew at that time. This was a stretching experience and ultimately, I was too close in age to the students to be a true leader. I acted like a leader, I showed up and helped, but the kids didn’t look up to me. They didn’t know me, so why should they really look up to me. I don’t hold it against them at all. My second year there was a more formalized internship. I met weekly with the pastors (the lead pastor and youth pastor) at Starbucks to talk about ministry books and church stuff. It was a really neat season to be poured into by these great men. I learned a lot from them and I enjoyed the friendship that I found at that table even though I was so different from them. The main goal of my internship was assimilation. That’s a fun word, huh? They wanted to work on getting people in the doors and keeping them there. I thought a membership program was what they needed. They also wanted to work on a better database system. I did research on database systems and helped to consolidate their information into one more accessible program. Mainly, I just tried to replicate what I knew what working at Bethel.
I look back on that internship now and I realize that I really had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t come in and radically change their church for the better. I offered what I knew and I grew because the situation stretched me beyond my familiar roles. However, this wasn’t a home run for them or for me. This was just a girl simply doing the best she could with the ministry before her. And you know what? That’s okay. I think Jesus was pleased with my small, measly offering at Grace & Glory because it was heartfelt. I wanted to make a difference and I did the best that I could. Sometimes what you we have to offer isn’t glamorous. People aren’t going to interview us and ask what makes us successful. Sometimes success doesn’t even look impressive. But growth and going forward into the unknown is a big win. And it’s mainly, just a simple act of trust. There were times during that season that I was really confused. I didn’t know if I was doing a good job because I wasn’t rocking the world for Jesus. I was making decisions about things I really didn’t understand and I was trying to make the best of the situation in front of me. I left that chapter of my life wondering if I did them any good. I think I did. I know that even through the struggle and the learning curve, I grew and became a better person thanks to the influence of those pastors. I was treated like an adult and given an adult job. It was scary. But God was good.
There is this saying in church circles what says “God doesn’t call the equipped, but he equips the called.” Meaning, God will call you do something you are unprepared for, but don’t worry he’ll prepare you in his way. It’s supposed to reassure you that no matter who you are, you can do what God calls you to do. In a lot of ways, I agree with this statement. I have learned that God doesn’t always “equip” us before heading into the situation. It’s not calling, equipping, and then going. It’s usually goes like this – get the call, go forward, and be equipped as you go. The equipping comes in the doing. And sometimes the equipping process can look like a mess. It’s painful and uncomfortable. It’s walking into unknown territory. I realize now that this is what my years at Grace & Glory were like. I wasn’t equipped, but I was called to be involved in the local church and I did learn a lot from it, even if at times it felt like a mess. I will note, once I started dating the children’s pastor from my home church, they did ask me to teach Sunday School a few times. I really did enjoy my time in that classroom. There was this little guy, Wesley, who was about kindergarten or 1st grade and he could play the violin. He was the cutest thing ever and we hit it off right away. I didn’t know it then, but working with kids soon became a passion of mine. I was just entering the world of children’s ministry and my life was about to set a course with kids being a major focus. Even in those uncertain times, I can see God using my situations to mold me and guide me.
I can see how this calling and equipping principle can play into parenting. I’m walking forward in parenting knowing that God will equip me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m fully equipped in this moment. There are going to be lots of moments (and there are and have been) where I am not equipped. I have no clue what I am doing. But God is in process with me. I’ll never be “there” fully at the mark of perfection, but just the act of going forward and doing your best is all the is necessary. There is no real way to prepare for parenting but to experience.
So to tie this all together, after reflecting on various seasons of my life, I can see how God has called me and equipped me to do very different things. Sometimes (most of the time), I have no clue what I’m doing. But that is okay because God uses my not knowing to make me a better person. I would be too cocky if I just went in like a rock star and did everything right the first time. There is no growth in that.
I’m also learning that being faithful in small things makes a bigger difference than I can see now. Often, I think about how I never really did go out and change the world after high school. Even now, my circle seems to have grown smaller as I make my family and raising Owen a priority. But… the influence I have does matter. If I can make a small positive change in a few lives and then they make small positive change in the lives around them, there is a ripple effect. I might not be preaching to thousands on a weekly basis and becoming a church super hero, but I am investing in the lives of those around me. Hopefully, that influence will spread and the positive change will reach far greater than I can imagine. Maybe even those two years at Grace & Glory will reach a far greater level of influence than I’m even aware of right now. Our lives can touch others for the better and I hope that is what I am doing. I’m living my calling and praying that God equips me as I go. It’s not easy and my execution isn’t perfect, but it’s a lovely mess that I am making. I know God is using it all for his glory.