The above verse is this years theme for our high school youth ministry. I thought it really spoke to the teenage heart. Little did I know what God had in store for me and my own heart.
For the past two years, I was in charge of the kitchen, being guided by the principal that when you feed their bodies, they will listen long enough for God to feed their souls. Our numbers began to increase from 20 teens to now around 50 teens on a weekly basis. Food draws people together and this was a wonderful way to reach many of our teens. I was happy being a part of such a large extended family table. Then J graduated from high school last June and I was at a cross-roads. I was tired and worn out. I did not find as much joy in ministering as I once did, so on advice from my spiritual directer, this past September, I stepped away from Youth Ministry. I thought that God was calling me to serve elsewhere in the church, so I searched for that place.
Nothing felt right. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with my life. How was I to serve Him? If not with the youth then where? who?
"The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent."
While I prayed, meditated and listened for God's direction, He was renewing my spirit. God was fighting my war, the war inside my heart. I kept silent, waiting for Him to reveal his plan to me. I came to realize that during the last several months before leaving youth ministry, my relationship with ministry had become disordered. Instead of giving of myself freely and expecting nothing in return, I looked forward to the compliments and the adulation that service can sometimes bring. I realized that I was eager to be seen and appreciated. It had become about me and not about serving the youth.
Once this truth was brought to my attention, I began to pray in earnest that my heart be changed. If I was to return to ANY ministry, it had to be with a servants heart. One free of pride but filled to the brim with love and humility. Once again I was silent and God fought another war in my soul, all the while preparing the world around me, my husbands heart, my daughters heart and those on the Youth Ministry core team to welcome my service with openness and love.
What happened? Well three weeks ago, I returned to youth ministry with great joy and a renewed appreciation for the silence God calls each of us to. However, I didn't return to kitchen duty. I am now one of the small group leaders. God made known to me during my time away, that I was to be more like my name sake Mary, than Martha. I was being called to serve in a different capacity way outside my comfort zone. It was time for me to walk in faith, that God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called! I realize now that I must rely totally on Him for sufficient grace and knowledge to serve these teens. Needless to say, I feel naked and vulnerable these days, much like a teenager in a new school. Funny, that's just how many of my youth ministry kids feel. God needs me to be this way, in order to bring His message of life and love to the kids.
I have rededicated myself to prayer and fasting specifically for my teens and for all of who bring Christ to them. I have placed central in my heart and mind that they don't want US, they want Christ and we are there to cheer them on, to encourage them in their relationships with Our Creator and King.
I thank God each day that He healed my pride and refocused my service. I now go each Sunday with a smile on my face and a restored sense of purpose to listen and support.
I ask that you keep our team and teens in prayer this week as we prepare for next weekends retreat. God is doing wondrous things these days, opening hearts and minds to Him and His love. It is my hope to not be a hindrance to that, but a safe place to land whenever rest and a listening heart is needed. I thank you in advance for all of your prayers and sacrifices this week.
May God be praised in ALL we do and say! AMEN!