It was kind of funny…and one of those ironic-God-is-chuckling-at-me moments. At the close of last year’s ladies luncheon at my home church of Kennesaw First Baptist, a friend asked me an interesting question. She was curious how it felt for me, sitting in the audience, knowing that I could be up there speaking. While I was honored that she thought me capable of it, without thinking very long at all, I said, “They’ll never ask.”
First of all, I didn’t think anyone at church really knew who I was, my gifting, or what I do. I didn’t feel very “seen” or “known”. While I am blessed to occasionally travel to teach to college ministries, to other women’s groups, and in Europe, and while I love, love, love the college students I get to work with every week in Sunday school, I sometimes feel like I haven’t really found my place at my home church just yet. It’s that weird loneliness-in-a-crowd feeling we all have experienced at some point. In fact, my last few years have involved a lot of soul-searching about my identity (Who exactly am I?), about God’s calling on my life (What exactly am I doing here?), and about how to get my heart and my body in the same place…because, while I live in Kennesaw…to be honest, most of the time, my heart has been somewhere else.
And second, while I am not exactly sure what a “ladies luncheon” speaker is, I am pretty sure I am not that. I’m a Bible teacher. A messy one too. I talk about matters of the heart, and our inner world – the complicated, deeply broken places inside each of us that only we and God see – and how God wants to meet us there. I focus on those seasons of life when things get really dark, of what it looks like to walk with Jesus in pain, and how it can cause the ground to disappear underneath us. I wrestle with deep existential questions of the faith that defy black and white answers. And while the goal is to let the struggle lead us to intimacy with Jesus and the joy available to us as we let Him do His work in our hearts…such joy is often seasoned with a lot of tears along the way. Hardly the stuff of polite conversation over chicken salad and fruit.
So, imagine my shock when the leaders in our church’s women’s ministry asked me to be the speaker at this year’s event. I was incredibly honored. And humbled. And more than a little terrified. Because getting in front of people and vulnerably pouring your heart out, opening yourself up to criticism and risking epic fails in public…it is one thing to do it in another city or on another continent…it is very different to do it in front of people you see every week and who teach your kids’ Sunday school class.
But I gave it a go. Because deep down, even with the fear of failure, even with my concern over whether or not I would be what the ladies expected or wanted…I really do want to be known. I really do want to be at home where I am. I really do want to learn to be fully present where I live, and to also be fully who I am among those I do life with on a regular basis. And somehow I knew that offering my story and gifting to the women in my church and community would be an important step on my journey to all of those things.
And a funny thing happened that day. As I walked onto the platform…at the same time… it felt like I finally arrived home. It has been a long time coming, with many other “homecoming” events along the way, but this was a big one. Somehow, my heart and my body…long in a bit of an adversarial relationship, finally made peace with each other. The experience wasn’t as much about what I do, as being who I am, where I am. I wish I could explain it more fully than that, but…I’m pretty sure I got much more out of that day than anyone sitting in the audience.