The week I stepped into my new role as co-lead pastor, I attended a major convention for Christian leaders. I went with an open heart, hoping it would equip me for all that was ahead in my new ministry. It certainly did. But not in the way I expected.
The more workshops I attended and bookstands I perused, the stranger I felt. Suddenly I was an artist at a business convention, an introvert at an extrovert's gathering, a foreigner at an American event, a woman in a man's world. Everything that was going on there was good and godly and helpful to many … but it was not much help to me.
The programs and metrics didn't resonate with me. The assumptions didn't include me (statements like "leaders will be motivated by … " and "your church wants a man who … ") As far as I could tell, no one in this huge gathering of church leaders looked or sounded or thought like me. I hadn't gone with a chip on my shoulder, expecting to be marginalized. In fact, it was my expectation to be welcomed and included. Disillusioned, I fled to my hotel room, where I told God, "This job isn't for me. I have nothing to give. You've made a mistake."
The realization was so disturbing to me—after years of education and prayer and preparation for this role—that for the next 24 hours I couldn't leave that little hotel room. It's a blur to me now, but my memories of it include tears, retching, fitful sleep, and the kind of prayer that scrapes your insides on its way out. In the middle of my despair, God's voice was, as usual, assuring but vague: "A broken and contrite spirit I will not despise … In your weakness I am strong."