This picture makes me laugh. I can envision the man saying “You’re a dog, I asked you to fetch. You refuse to fetch, maybe you’d rather fly?” And I envision the dog screaming back “Ok, Ok, Ok! I get it, I’m a dog. I’ll fetch, PLEASE don’t make me fly!”
Perhaps I envision this dialogue because I can relate. At least to the dog…
For several years, the Lord has been prompting me to take a step of faith in ministry. Quite frankly, it’s a step that I find terrifying. Like the children of Israel wandering in the desert, I don’t want to face the giants and conquer the Promised Land.
Think about it, the children of Israel are miserable. They lead a life of slavery that we can barely even fathom. Their lives are bitter and harsh. These are God’s chosen people, and they’ve been completely oppressed for years. When God is ready to deliver the Israelites, He sends plague after plague upon the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally releases them. Later when Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them, God intervened on the Israelites’ behalf by parting the Red Sea. God leads them with a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, and the Israelites experience miracle after miracle; favor upon favor; blessing upon blessing.
Moses has spoken the Word of the Lord to the Israelites, saying: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ (Exodus 6:6a-8)
God has been true to His Word. They’ve been set free, they’ve been rescued, they’ve experienced God’s unconditional love, they’ve seen His hand of favor upon them, and they’ve encountered God through numerous signs and wonders. They’re ready to enter the Promised Land. That is, until they hear of the giants in the land. Fear, intimidation, anxiety, and disbelief sets in and they stop. Instead of pressing onward and believing God can and will see them through, they stop.
They begin to doubt His Sovereignty, they doubt His love, they doubt His ability, and they doubt their own calling. Think about it, He’s called them to a land of milk and honey. To a place they could have previously only silently dreamt about. It’s right there in front of them and He’s called them to take it, to conquer it, to enter it, to possess it. Yet they let their fears grow bigger than their faith… and they stop. And sadly, the majority of them are never allowed to actually enter into the promises of God (i.e. the Promised Land).
Ah, my life! For forty years (how ironic), I have lived a life of slavery and wandering. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been set free. I’ve been rescued. I’ve experienced God’s unconditional love. I’ve seen God’s hand of favor upon me and I’ve encountered God through signs and wonders. I’m ready, I’m committed, and I make a vow to obey the Lord’s calling.
Yet when He says “Go…and take possession”, I reply “I can’t! Don’t you know what kinds of giants stand at the door waiting to attack me?! Don’t you know who I am? I can’t do this.” And I stop. And I become enslaved. And I wander. And I’m confused. And I’m an emotional wreck, a mental basket case. And worse than any of that, I’m completely miserable inside. I complain. I murmur and grumble. Like the Israelites (God’s chosen people), I begin to doubt His ability. I doubt His Sovereignty. I doubt His love. I doubt my own calling. The fears grow…and the faith shrinks. And wandering I go. Around and around and around. Directionless, passionless, powerless.
The internal misery finally gets the best of me, and I repent. I pray. I seek. I commit.
I see the Promised Land before me, God says again “Go…and take possession”.
I take a step or two, and then stop. And the cycle continues…
This last year has been a turning point on this spiritually self-destructive journey. Perhaps it has something to do with entering my 40th year of life. Right after my 39th birthday, I was taking a group of ladies to a Women’s Retreat, and let me tell you I did NOT want to go! Honestly, I didn’t like the rural/rustic location and that’s where I put the emphasis of my grumbling. But that wasn’t really the issue. I had begun to encounter a very familiar and very massive giant in my life, and I knew the timing of it wasn’t a coincidence.
The Lord had recently asked me to step into a role of ministry that I am not necessarily gifted in; and one that I knew wasn’t going to be well received by many around me. I stepped in faith and took on the role of Praise & Worship leader at our church. I encountered major attacks from within and from without, and that’s all of the details I’ll share. However, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt He had called me to take this ministry for this season, and I obeyed. In spite of my natural inability to do so, I did it. And I never doubted.
Yet as the Women’s Retreat approached, the Lord began to once again place in my heart the calling I’ve continually ran from. He used many friends and many circumstances to confirm this, yet I ignored. One night at this retreat, the Lord used a mighty prayer warrior to speak into my life. She spoke directly into my heart to confirm the calling the Lord was placing upon me, yet I ignored.
At the end of service, I responded to an altar call and waited for the speaker to also confirm this calling. After all, she was obviously VERY anointed of God and if she confirmed this calling it couldn’t be wrong. Yet she spoke nothing over me except regarding the calling and direction for my husband’s life. I returned to my seat and said within myself, “See, it’s obviously something I’m fabricating in my own mind. If it were really a calling of God, this anointed woman of God would’ve seen it and confirmed it.” God immediately interrupted my thoughts and spoke into my spirit loudly and clearly… “Michele. I have called you. I have spoken to you. I have sent confirmation to you over and over again for many years. I sent confirmation to you just tonight. But I am not sending /the speaker/ to confirm it to you. She doesn’t need to confirm it to you. I have called you myself, and you don’t need any further confirmation.”
I came home and requested a ministry license application. I completed it. And…I put it in a drawer.
As I’ve approached this 40th birthday, the Lord has drawn me over and over to the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years… and to that completed ministry application sitting in my drawer. Yet I’ve argued with the Lord once again. “Don’t You know who I am? Don’t You understand where I come from? I’m just a Pastor’s wife. That’s enough. I can do this, I can be a Pastor’s wife. You’ve called him and You’ve placed Your anointing upon him, I’m sure of it. This thing you’re asking of me is bigger than me, I can’t do it. I CAN support him. Just let me stay in the shadow and support him in his calling.”Very recently, the Lord sent a friend…a mighty man of God, to speak at our church.
Sunday morning, “Seize the moment” (ouch). Sunday night “Know your identity in Christ” (double ouch). He even spoke about somebody needing Prozac. He couldn’t have known that 4 days earlier, I had angrily left a doctor’s appointment because they refused to write me a prescription for an anti-depressant to deal with anxiety. The doctor (who also happens to be a licensed Assembly of God minister) left me with only these words, “I don’t think you need it. I think there’s something else going on here.” Yet she also couldn’t have known…
Monday morning, I took the ministry application out of the drawer. Still apprehensive. Still full of anxiety. Still somewhat embracing fear instead of fully stepping out in faith. But I took it out and turned it in.
Ps 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
This week, the Lord asked me to sing a solo. I don’t like to sing, especially not a solo, especially in front of 100 people. It’s not my gifting, it’s not my calling. I didn’t want to do it and I argued (which is so uncharacteristic of me – not!). We had 3 visitors Sunday morning which made me want to say no even more. But He asked, so I did it.
As the 2nd verse began, the words of the song came out of my mouth while these words were coming out of my spirit, “God, why do I have to do this? I don’t want to do this; it’s not what you’ve called me or equipped me to do. I’m willing, I’m obeying, but I don’t understand!” He answered, “Why are you willing to obey me here, in an area that you know I have not gifted you, equipped you, or called you, yet you’re unwilling to obey me by stepping into what I HAVE called you to do?” I unintentionally and audibly uttered the words “Oh God, I can’t do this”. Yet the music played on, so I stumbled, stuttered, and held back a flood of tears through the end of the song.
Which brings me back to this picture…
I have no desire to ever again be asked to fly simply because I refuse to fetch. I’m not called to fly. I look stupid trying to fly. God can ask me to do either one, and I’ll obey either one. But I’m pretty sure as long as I’m willing to fetch, I’ll not be asked again to fly (hallelujah!) I have to wonder if the look on my face and the terror in my eyes this past Sunday morning resembled that of the dog in this photo! …at least until the look on my face became one of sorrowful repentance and the terror in my eyes gave way to overflowing tears.
Many of us have so much in common with the children of Israel! A chosen generation, a chosen people, yet refusing to move into the Promised Land and take possession. Don’t wait for the Lord to ask you to fly when He’s calling you to fetch. He’ll equip you when you obediently respond to His calling, and He’ll also humble you when you’re not.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”