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Hollowed Out, Hallowed In

Leading during a time of personal trauma
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Two things help me to do my job, my leading, in ministry on the days when I’d rather bargain with God, my husband, Children’s Aid, and my family until this all gets fixed…right away, my way.

First, I’ve recognized that a kairos moment is upon me.

This bone-deep collision between values, advocacy, and decades-old toxic build-up is too high to get over, too low to get under. And so, at the end of myself, finally I’ve recognized that I’m being hollowed out. In her book Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Ruth Haley Barton calls this shedding, a willingness to let even great values die to give God room to start something new. “What will you lay aside so that you will be open to new gifts of grace?” she asks. “People involved in the process of shedding may need to humble themselves or give up values they usually cherish in pursuit of the greater good.” Sure. But most days I feel as if I have to lay that toddler aside, surrender my core value of justice…for what? What gift will ever make that OK?

“Will the gift of spiritual transformation do? Will I do?” Jesus asked me one day.

Second, I’ve chosen how to wait.

“Sing, O childless woman…Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will be soon be bursting at the seams.” Isaiah’s words burned my lips one Friday morning as I woke up out of a half-dreamed prayer in which I’d asked God why he wanted to stretch my husband and I so in the very areas that hurt the most and needed healing. I clung to those words the night Children’s Aid told us we hadn’t been approved to take the toddler. I cling harder as legal doors remain shut, Children’s Aid continues to lay challenge after challenge before my recovering family member, weeks have turned into months, and that toddler remains in foster care.

And I choose to believe Paul’s declaration in Philippians 4:6-7 that peace will come as I tell God what I need and thank him for what he’s done. My days of I-think-this-is-what you want-to-hear-God prayers have morphed into specifics: “I need that family member healed. This toddler needs their parent back. I need you to tell me this will work out!”

Our family’s nightly prayer of examen (reflecting on the day and giving thanks for all of it) has also hollowed out. It’s a simpler prayer now, perhaps because we thank God for what is and has been, not for what we want to see him do. There’s now room to see what God has actually done.

April23, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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