Book Review: “The Dream of You” by Jo Saxton

Book Review: The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

"What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told youwho you were allowed to be?" — Jo Saxton, The Dream of You

IsisWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be Isis. From time to time (usually after watching the “Shazam! Isis Power Hour” on Saturday mornings), I would suddenly strike a pose, speak the magical phrase, “Oh, Mighty Isis!” and transform myself—mentally, at least—into a superhero goddess ready to use all my powers to fight against evil!

I loved everything about this nerdy female archaeologist with huge glasses and a secret superhero identity. (I’ve included a video at the bottom of this review for your entertainment.)

Who did you want to be? Do you remember? If so, feel free to share it in the comments below. I’d love to know!

Headshot of Jo Saxton, a Nigerian-Londoner with short natural hair and a beautiful smile.
Jo Saxton

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors, Jo Saxton. As a little girl growing up in London, author and speaker Jo Saxton had a dream: She wanted to be Wonder Woman. And I mean, she WANTED to BE Wonder Woman—red boots and all!

In case you are unfamiliar with this wonder of a woman, Jo is a Nigerian Londoner who currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.

Her book, The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For, traces Jo’s lifelong transition from childhood dreamer to adult achiever.

The Dream (and Struggle) of You

What I find so striking is the similarity between Jo’s struggles and my own—even though we are SO different!!! For example:

  • OppositesWe have completely different cultural backgrounds (immigrant vs. born citizen);
  • We were raised on two different continents (she in the UK; me in the US);
  • We have different personality types (she’s an ENTJ; I’m an INTJ);
  • We have different enneagrams (she’s an 8, and I’m a 1);
  • We have opposite body types (probably because she doesn’t like chocolate and I do!)

We are basically opposite, and yet our struggles were/are very much the same. How is this possible?

On her quest to explore the different things that held her back or kept her from moving forward in her own life, Jo dug deep and discovered that the root causes of her brokenness, although personal, were not unique to her. They were, in fact, quite common to the human experience—especially that of women.

And like any good Bible teacher, she found biblical examples for each struggle!

The Struggle Is Real

Weaving the story of her own life’s journey together with that of Joseph, Esther, David, Naomi, Hagar, Ezekiel, and others, the author reveals thread-by-thread that God is present with us through our most difficult experiences, and how they add color, dimension, and texture to our character.

Jo Saxton Live Video ChatOver the past few months, I’ve been privileged to interact with Jo as she discussed her book and her thoughts behind the various stories she shares in it. Reflecting on the first few chapters, she said,

There are times when we have an earthquake in our souls, habits, the way we live. We don’t simply rise up and get over it…but we also don’t want to be defined by it the rest of our lives.”

The Dream of You was never intended to be  a survival manual. It’s about wholeness and redemption and purpose.

The first part of the book not only prompts us to reflect on what (or whom) we’ve allowed to define us but also challenges us to re-imagine what life could be like moving forward: Mended. WHOLE.

It's Powerful

Jo explains the profound impact negative and destructive comments and experiences have on us—minimizing nothing. These experiences simply underscore the reason she wrote the book: to remind us that there is wholeness to be found in relationship with a redeeming God.

When the grit and guts of your broken identity meet the grace and goodness of God, it will reveal you, but He will transform you. You’re in Him now, with all His resources available to you. You have access to His power, mercy, and grace.” (p. 21, emphasis mine)

Each chapter in the The Dream of You begins with a short, heartfelt letter from the author to the reader. In it she offers words of encouragement while setting the stage for the theme of that particular section.

Jo expounds on each theme by sharing a formative experience from her own life as well as a similar story from the Bible, and you don’t have to be familiar with the Bible to benefit from this! Jo has provided quick summaries and backstories of each character so the reader will not be lost in the explanation.

Then, without the use of a Venn Diagram, the author focuses her attention on the intersection of the stories, exposing the root of the issue. She culls out transformative biblical truths and challenges the reader to face the facts in her (or his) own life. She concludes the chapter with suggested action steps geared towards fostering personal growth and spiritual maturity.

Book Flow & Themes

The chapter titles, though creative, are pretty vague if you haven’t read the book yet; therefore, I complied a list of themes (noted in parentheses) followed by one or more of my favorite quotes from that chapter to provide a more helpful overview of the text:

  • Introduction (Dreams)
    “What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told you who you were allowed to be?” (p. 3)
    .
  • Chapter 1: Don’t Call Me “Pleasant” (Insecurity)
    “Insecurities, if left unaddressed, can grow from momentary emotions to a definitive worldview that determines how we feel, think, and act. Insecurity becomes our identity.” (p. 12)
    .
  • Chapter 2: What’s in a Name? (Compromise/Hiding)
    “Throughout biblical history, God transformed people…God changed the names of people and in doing so changed their stories.” (p. 35)
    .
  • Chapter 3: The Talk (Perfectionism)
    “Many of us know what it feels like to hide our identities in order to survive. We do what it takes to fit into our family, our workplace, our friendship group. We spend our energy trying to fit into our context, into society, into what is demanded of us according to someone else’s terms.” (p. 44)
    .
    “God wants to redeem it all. Rather than your being transformed into a broken identity by the pressures of your world, He wants to transform you to recover who you fully are. Are you ready to be led toward redemptive wholeness, even when you might still fear for your survival?” (p. 56)
    .
  • Chapter 4: The Day I Lost My Voice (Bullying)
    “At times, women apologize for who they are. They minimize their abilities as if they’re expecting someone to tell them they’re arrogant for having talent, ability, and dreams. Some women, particularly those who reach high levels of influence in their field, are plagued by what is known as Imposter Syndrome, or the impostor experience.” (p. 66)
    .
    “When our voice has been taken, we redirect our lives toward ‘more acceptable’ interests. We excuse the damage caused by having been silenced…we make ourselves small.” (p. 68)
    .
  • Chapter 5: God’s Child (Redemption)
    “If we are going to embrace our full identity, know our name, and live out our vocation as we speak with our true voice, if we are going to embrace who we are and what we’re living for, we need to know whose we are.” (p. 82)
    .
    “The things that once defined you don’t have to shape you forever. He [God] transforms your entire life.” (p. 88)

    .
  • Chapter 6: Known and Loved (Vulnerability)
    “You are fully known. He has seen it all and He knows it all. And still you are deeply, deeply loved.” (p. 108)
    .
  • Chapter 7: Slay Your Giants (Courage)
    “It seems that when God redeems a person’s identity and leads her to her purpose, there’s a backdrop of battle and vulnerability.” (p. 112)
    .
    “You will battle the giants that stand in your way, but when you do, don’t even try to fight in someone else’s armor.” (p. 122)
    .
  • Chapter 8: The Wander Years (Refinement)
    “Even with abundant examples in Scripture, when the wilderness experience makes up part of our faith journey, we may not always understand when and why it’s happening.” (p. 132)
    .
    “Wandering in the wilderness exposed the truth that in order to be fully free, the Israelites didn’t just need to get out of Egypt. They needed to get Egypt out of them.” (pp. 136-137)

    .
  • Chapter 9: In the Valley (Doubt and Discouragement)
    “Had I been wrong when I felt called…Or worse, was it just some fantasy idea that I’d decided was a divine calling? Who did I think I was?” (p. 153)
    .
    “We feel too crushed to feel known and loved; we are convinced we have nothing left to offer as a voice or purpose…We’re at the end of ourselves; we are forced to face what life has done to us. It’s tempting to mute our pain rather than face it.” (p. 155)

    .
  • Chapter 10: Breaking up with Perfection (Authenticity)
    “Survival is not the same as being whole.” (p. 168)
    .
    “Are you ready to confront your brokenness, rather than keep hiding it underneath greater efforts to prove yourself to others?” (p. 170)
    .
  • Chapter 11: The Song in My Heart (Community)
    “You’ll need people who see you and know you, people unafraid to remind you of the fullness of who you are. They won’t be threatened by you because they are the kind of women who celebrate who you are. You need people who want to hear your voice and don’t mind how loud it gets. People who get excited about your dreams and your unfolding purpose.” (p. 173)
    .
    “God provides people to help us. Sometimes they’re further along in the journey, and they’ve seen more…They’ll celebrate resurrection of your name over the things that have falsely renamed you, and they’ll keep encouraging you.” (p. 185)

    .
  • Chapter 12: Practices (Disciplines)
    “We don’t adopt practices to prove ourselves or to perform for God’s approval. We already are seen, known, and loved. Instead, the practices make room in our overscheduled lives for God to meet with us. We find that by making time for God’s engagement with us, we are changed, transformed, redeemed.” (p. 192)
    .
  • Chapter 13: Pick up Your Keys (Stepping into Your Purpose)
    “A healthy identity opens our life to abundant purpose…There is less of me—of my self-absorption and self-protection—and there is more room for others. There’s less energy spent striving, proving, and more room for dreaming.” (p. 210)
    .
  • Epilogue (Action)
    “Let’s not allow a sense of inadequacy to tell us we’re not ready or not enough for the task.” (p. 219)
    .
    “Maybe we’ll remember to be tender and nonjudgmental as we remember our own stories.” (p. 220) 

It’s EASY for me to recommend The Dream of You because it is well-written, organized, funny, engaging, well-researched, insightful, empowering, and theologically accurate.

But what I would like to add is this: On every level, the teachings contained herein resonated with me. Jo’s journey mirrors my own—not on the outside, but on the inside. 

And I can testify that what Jo offers you in this book is the same thing I would offer you in my own book: Truth. God is faithful and ready to redeem the years the locusts have eaten (cf. Joel 2:25-27). He can take what was meant for evil and flip it for good. In fact, He does it all the time.

Are You Ready?

The question is, are you ready to recover the The Dream of You? If so, then you have found the right resource with which to start your journey. I highly recommend this to women of all ages, but especially those who have been waiting on God for what feels like a very long time.

🎧 Jo has also recorded an audio version which you will LOVE, if you’re into audio books. 

With no further ado, meet my childhood superhero: Isis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Life Is Like a Box of Puzzle Pieces

Life is like a box of puzzle pieces

Are you someone who enjoys assembling jigsaw puzzles? If so, do you top out at 500 pieces, or are you a glutton for punishment preferring 1000+? I’m not a jigsaw fanatic, but I enjoy working on a good puzzle every now and then. My favorite moment in the puzzling process occurs when I finally locate a piece that has been eluding me, setting off a string of easy matches.

Image result for thomas moran grand canyon with rainbow
Pretty sure this is the one we bought.

My mother-in-law loves “puzzling,” and has framed a couple of the more beautiful puzzles she’s completed over the years. When we were at the Grand Canyon a few years ago, we purchased a stunning 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle for her as a souvenir. The image was an artist’s rendering of a view from the South Rim overlooking the Canyon at sunset. It was gorgeous! If you close your eyes, you can probably imagine what it looked like; however, I seriously doubt that you would attempt this puzzle without the box right in front of you. Most puzzlers refer to the picture on the box repeatedly to make sure they are headed in the right direction.

So, what if I were to tell you that life is more like a box of puzzle pieces than a box of chocolates? It is. Not only do you “never know what you’re gonna get,” but neither will one bite help you figure it out! You just have to live it. One funky-cut piece at a time. 

Click here to continue reading this
devotional reflection on GOD’S PROVISION at
Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

Personal Epiphany: A Soul-Stirring

Embrace the Wait

Do you think it’s possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? I do, but I also know how we approach the wait has everything to do with its fruitfulness in our lives. My wait has been so long, I’d almost given up all hope. But then: Epiphany. 

On December 26, 2015, a few friends and I gathered for our third annual “Mom’s Night Out.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas (technically, post-Christmas) traditions, and I look forward to it every year. The MNO is a little something that we do for ourselves the day after Christmas towards the end of an inevitably chaotic and stress-filled holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving dinner and ends with New Year’s Day. We leave our children at home with their dads and head out to take in a newly released movie followed by a nice dinner and fellowship.

Montage of JOY movie poster and Joy Mangano

Our choice this year was the movie “Joy” starring Jennifer Lawrence (above left). Based on a true story, Joy creatively retells the life story of Joy Mangano (above right), an inventor who created the Miracle Mop® and currently holds more than one hundred patents. The movie spotlights various points in Joy’s life which illustrate her penchant for thinking outside the box, creating practical inventions, and facing challenges head-on. Her journey is rife with obstacles—personal and professional—which must be overcome in order for her to fulfill her destiny. In the end, she develops into a very successful businesswoman whose estimated worth is currently $50 million.1 This movie struck a chord with me on a very deep level, and I didn’t realize it until a couple weeks later.

On January 6, 2016 (Epiphany), I had a “moment” with the Lord during the Communion time of our Wednesday night service, and my heart was stirred in a way that it has not been stirred in a very, very, very long time. I was alone that night (hubby was home sick and son was with the youth group). During the solemn, self-reflective moments which precede taking the Eucharist, I suddenly found myself in tears. The noise of the surrounding environment softened into silence; the activities swirling about me slowed to a crawl; and time seemingly stood still. I remember right where I was sitting, my hunched-over posture, the super-dim lighting, the cup in my left hand, the bread in my right. In the quietness of my heart I despondently cried out to my Heavenly Father, “LORD, I’m going to be forty-nine years old this year. I was called into full-time service when I was nine! Did I imagine it? Was it real? I’ve been waiting for almost forty years!!!”

Communion_Baptist

Then, all of a sudden, there was a sense of His presence. Enveloping. Comforting. Near. Peace-full. Hope-full. Power-full. Real. And I was instantly overwhelmed with the significance of those words: “FORTY YEARS.

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

Forty years…that’s a Biblical number. Who else had to wait 40 years? Noah. Sarai. Abram. Joseph. Moses. 

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

It’s time. 

Time for what?

I slowly came to the realization that the service was moving forward. People were singing again. The pastor would be preaching soon. What just happened? I would spend the next few days processing through it. Really, the next few months. Probably, the rest of my life.

You see, I have been waiting almost forty years for the fulfillment of a calling I received when I was nine years old at church camp. It’s not that I haven’t been actively following the Lord: I have. Volunteering and leading. Living and learning. Faithing and trusting. Serving and teaching. But my calling into full-time service has technically never been fulfilled.
I’ve savored seasons of anticipation, belief, and hope. I’ve despaired through days of doubt, disbelief, and discouragement. I’ve battled depression and struggled with envy of those who were able to live out their calling while I sat at home day after day designing websites and home-educating our son.

So, when God met me where I was on January 6, 2016, I was unprepared. I had come to worship and commune, for sure. But I was not expecting a moment with the Almighty. One in which He stirred my soul. One in which He breathed life into these dry bones. One in which my ministry heart began to beat again.

Talk about scary!!! Yes, I do mean scary. When you’ve waited as long as I have for a dream to come true, you don’t instantly become euphoric about the possibilities: You become cautious. Really cautious. You’re afraid of going down that path again. The path that looks like it leads to an oasis, but turns out to be a mirage. Again. It’s difficult to find hope once it’s been covered by the sands of time.

So, the question that bubbles up is this: Is it possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? My answer is: Yes, actually, it is. (Just let that sink in for a moment.)

There are many men and women all over the world—desperate to live out their calling—who have been left on the bench or sent to the sidelines for a variety of man-made reasons including gender bias, prejudice, denominational politics, and/or marital status (just to name a few). These godly servants are all around us, and they are hurting. They are questioning themselves. Doubting their callings. Feeling frustrated with delay after delay.

These women and men LOVE God, and they yearn for the day they can serve Him in the roles to which He called them. They are serving where they can when they can, but their callings remain unfulfilled. And the longer they wait, the harder it becomes to keep hope alive. No surfacey Christian ‘wisdom’ will soothe the heartache of a minister in long-term waiting. And hope wanes thin.

Well-meaning Believers come alongside with cliché advice such as: “Have faith in God. His timing is perfect!” or “You need to pray harder.” or “They don’t know what they’re missing.” They don’t understand that we already have faith in God. We know His timing is perfect. We are hard-praying people. And whether or not people realize what they are missing by not hiring us, that’s not the point. This is not about losing faith in God or His abilities.

20150822_185714What I’m alluding to is losing hope in your own calling. Becoming discouraged. More than discouraged: disheartened. I’m referring to what happens when you’ve sought the Lord with all your heart, followed where He led, took the required steps of faith, and in His power accomplished great things, BUT, for whatever reason, you continue to not be hired. If you’ve been through anything like this, you know that of which I speak (write).

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this experience. When you journey through something like this—a hot, dry Sahara—it’s not long until you begin to doubt whether you ever heard God in the first place.

  • Was I imagining that tug on my heart? 
  • What was I thinking? 
  • Why would God call someone like me?
  • Who do I think I am? 

If you’ve ever packed up your resources and stored them in the attic, refused to unpack them at a new home, or given them away because you just couldn’t look at them anymore, I want you to know that you are not alone.

If you’ve ever reworked your resumé, updated your Linkedin profile and social media presence, purchased a new outfit or suit for an interview, traveled to scout a new home for your family, given your testimony to a committee, answered their probing questions—ALL because you truly sensed the Lord’s leading—only to be bypassed (maybe multiple times), you need to know: You are not alone.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to just drop off the planet or quit the faith—and stopped yourself, because you KNOW God IS who He says He is—you need to know that you are not alone.

Super-long waits can, and often do, eat away at our ability to trust and obey. Repeated rejections result in diminished hope, tendencies towards self-preservation, and a forcefield of cynicism. The forcefield goes up; emotions are stuffed deep down inside; books are packed; and we become a little less of who we’re called to be. We isolate ourselves, because the hurt is too deep and the questions too unsettling to discuss with people who will never understand what it means to be called only to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the calling to be fulfilled. They don’t get it. They want to be helpful, but there’s only One who can soothe that pain, and that is God alone.

Before we assign the delay to ourselves or “God’s perfect timing,” we must remember that there are many factors that play into the ministerial or academic ministry hiring process, and sometimes, personal agendas and emotional baggage gets in the way. It’s possible that the insecurities or biases of committee members preclude you from consideration, or it could be something as simple as your spouse’s looking at someone the wrong way. It may very well have been God’s will for you to be at that church at that time, but humans got in the way. The truth we must hold onto is this: God is in control. He allowed the decision to go another way—whether it was His will or not—and He will work it out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The worst thing we can do after an experience like this is navel gaze and pout for more than an hour. (I think an hour of pouting and navel gazing after an unexpected rejection is perfectly normal and probably healthier than stuffing the emotions inside.) The fact is God is still on His throne; He still has a plan for our lives; He will continue to work things out for us so that, eventually, we will be living out our life’s call…just as He promised. 

Click here to read about some practical things to do while you’re waiting on the fulfillment of your calling:
EMBRACE THE WAIT


Photo credit:

Lord’s Supper Elements by Alanscottwalker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16842185
Movie Poster “Joy” – fair use from IMDB.com
Joy Magnano photo courtesy of https://joymagnano.com

Embrace the Wait and Find Hope Again

Embrace the Wait

Do you think it’s possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? I do, but I also know how we approach the wait has everything to do with its fruitfulness in our lives. My wait has been so long, I’d almost given up all hope. But then: Epiphany.

>> (TL;DR? Skip to “How to Embrace the Wait”) <<

It all started on December 26, 2015, when a few friends and I gathered for our third annual “Mom’s Night Out.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas (technically, post-Christmas) traditions, and I look forward to it every year. The MNO is a little something that we do for ourselves the day after Christmas towards the end of an inevitably chaotic and stress-filled holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving dinner and ends with New Year’s Day. We leave our children at home with their dads and head out to take in a newly released movie followed by a nice dinner and fellowship.

Montage of JOY movie poster and Joy Mangano

Our choice this year was Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. Based on a true story, Joy creatively retells the life story of Joy Mangano, an inventor who created the Miracle Mop® and currently holds more than one hundred patents. The movie spotlights various points in Joy’s life which illustrate her penchant for thinking outside the box, creating practical inventions, and facing challenges head-on. Her journey is rife with obstacles—personal and professional—which must be overcome in order for her to fulfill her destiny. In the end, she develops into a very successful businesswoman whose estimated worth is currently $50 million.1 This movie struck a chord with me on a very deep level, and I didn’t realize it until a couple weeks later.

A Personal Epiphany and Soul Stirring

On January 6, 2016 (Epiphany), I had a “moment” with the Lord during the Communion time of our Wednesday night service, and my heart was stirred in a way that it has not been stirred in a very, very, very long time. I was alone that night (hubby was home sick and son was with the youth group).

Lord's Supper Elements

During the solemn, self-reflective moments which precede partaking the Eucharist, I suddenly found myself in tears. The noise of the surrounding environment softened into silence; the activities swirling about me slowed to a crawl; and time seemingly stood still. I remember right where I was sitting, my hunched-over posture, the super-dim lighting, the cup in my left hand, the bread in my right. In the quietness of my heart I despondently cried out to my Heavenly Father, “LORD, I’m going to be forty-nine years old this year. I was called into full-time service when I was nine! Did I imagine it? Was it real? I’ve been waiting for almost forty years!!!”

Then, all of a sudden, there was a sense of His presence. Enveloping. Comforting. Near. Peace-full. Hope-full. Power-full. Real. And I was instantly overwhelmed with the significance of those words: “FORTY YEARS.

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

Forty years…that’s a Biblical number. Who else had to wait 40 years? Noah. Sarai. Abram. Joseph. Moses. 

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

It’s time. 

Time for what?

I slowly came to the realization that the service was moving forward. People were singing again. The pastor would be preaching soon. What just happened? I would spend the next few days processing through it. Really, the next few months. Probably, the rest of my life.

You see, I have been waiting almost forty years for the fulfillment of a calling I received when I was nine years old at church camp. It’s not that I haven’t been actively following the Lord: I have. Volunteering and leading. Living and learning. Faithing and trusting. Serving and teaching. But my calling into full-time service has technically never been fulfilled.

I’ve savored seasons of anticipation, belief, and hope. I’ve despaired through days of doubt, disbelief, and discouragement. I’ve battled depression and struggled with envy of those who were able to live out their calling while I sat at home day after day designing websites and home-educating our son.

So, when God met me where I was on January 6, 2016, I was unprepared. I had come to worship and commune, for sure. But I was not expecting a moment with the Almighty. One in which He stirred my soul. One in which He breathed life into these dry bones. One in which my ministry heart began to beat again.

Talk about scary!!! Yes, I do mean scary. When you’ve waited as long as I have for a dream to come true, you don’t instantly become euphoric about the possibilities: You become cautious. Really cautious. You’re afraid of going down that path again. The path that looks like it leads to an oasis, but turns out to be a mirage. Again. It’s difficult to find hope once it’s been covered by the sands of time.

So, the question that bubbles up is this: Is it possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? My answer is: Yes, actually, it is. (Just let that sink in for a moment.)

You Are Not Alone

There are many men and women all over the world—desperate to live out their calling—who have been left on the bench or sent to the sidelines for a variety of man-made reasons including gender bias, prejudice, denominational politics, and/or marital status (just to name a few). These godly servants are all around us, and they are hurting. They are questioning themselves. Doubting their callings. Feeling frustrated with delay after delay.

These women and men LOVE God, and they yearn for the day they can serve Him in the roles to which He called them. They are serving where they can when they can, but their callings remain unfulfilled. And the longer they wait, the harder it becomes to keep hope alive. No surfacey Christian ‘wisdom’ will soothe the heartache of a leader in long-term waiting. And hope wanes thin.

Well-meaning Believers come alongside with advice such as: “Have faith in God. His timing is perfect!” or “You need to pray harder.” or “They don’t know what they’re missing.” It feels cliché. Don’t they realize we already have faith in God? That we know His timing is perfect? That we are hard-praying people? Sure they do, and the wait is making them uncomfortable, too. They don’t know what else to say. And whether or not anyone realizes what they are missing by not hiring us, that’s not the point. This is not about losing faith in God or His abilities.

20150822_185714What I’m alluding to is losing hope in your own calling. Becoming discouraged. More than discouraged: disheartened. I’m referring to what happens when you’ve sought the Lord with all your heart, followed where He led, took the required steps of faith, and in His power accomplished great things, BUT, for whatever reason, you continue to not be hired.

If you’ve been through anything like this, you know that of which I speak (write).

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this experience. When you journey through something like this—a hot, dry Sahara—it’s not long until you begin to doubt whether you ever heard God in the first place.

  • Was I imagining that tug on my heart? 
  • What was I thinking? 
  • Why would God call someone like me?
  • Who do I think I am? 

If you’ve ever packed up your resources and stored them in the attic, refused to unpack them at a new home, or given them away because you just couldn’t look at them anymore, I want you to know that you are not alone.

If you’ve ever reworked your resumé, updated your Linkedin profile and social media presence, purchased a new outfit or suit for an interview, traveled to scout a new home for your family, given your testimony to a committee, answered their probing questions—ALL because you truly sensed the Lord’s leading—only to be bypassed (maybe multiple times)—you need to know: you are not alone.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to just drop off the planet or quit the faith—and stopped yourself, because you KNOW God IS who He says He is—you need to know that you are not alone.

When the Wait Seems Never-Ending

Super-long waits can, and often do, eat away at our ability to trust and obey. Repeated rejections result in diminished hope, tendencies towards self-preservation, and a forcefield of cynicism. The forcefield goes up; emotions are stuffed deep down inside; books are packed; and we become a little less of who we’re called to be. We isolate ourselves, because the hurt is too deep and the questions too unsettling to discuss with people who will never understand what it means to be called only to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the calling to be fulfilled. They don’t get it. They want to be helpful, but there’s only One who can soothe that pain, and that is God alone.

Before we assign the delay to ourselves or “God’s perfect timing,” we must also take into consideration the many factors that play into the hiring process, and sometimes, personal agendas and emotional baggage get in the way. It is entirely possible that the insecurities or biases of committee members preclude you from consideration, or it could be something as simple as your spouse’s looking at someone on the committee the wrong way. It may very well have been God’s will for you to be at that church at that time, but humans got in the way. The truth we must hold onto is this: God is in control. He allowed the decision to go another way—whether it was His will or not—and He will work it out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He promised!

The worst thing we can do after an experience like this is navel gaze and pout for more than an hour. (I think an hour of pouting and navel gazing after an unexpected rejection is perfectly normal and probably healthier than stuffing the emotions inside.) The fact is God is still on His throne; He still has a plan for our lives; He will continue to work things out for us so that, eventually, we will be living out our life’s call…just as He promised.

How to Embrace the Wait

We who have been called should use this time to serve in a variety of areas, deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord through the exercise of spiritual disciplines, sharpen our ministry and leadership skills, and learn as much as we can about ourselves and others.

1. Serve Where You Are

We who have been called are responsible to serve HIM whenever and wherever we are— whether on staff at a church/school/college/non-profit or working a full-time secular job with no prospects for a ministry position anytime soon. This means we volunteer to help where we are needed, regardless of whether or not it fits within our specific calling—even if it’s simply helping children register for Sunday School each week or greeting people at the front door with a smile, handshake, and bulletin. By serving in a variety of positions, we can gain new appreciation for volunteers, a different perspective on kingdom work, and hopefully, new skills we can call on later when the time comes. We must trust that God is utilizing that time to carve us into the servant-leaders He needs us to be. It may be a humbling time for us, but we should never don’t doubt that God will use these experiences to teach us more about Himself than He would if we were stuck in a perpetual pity party or only serving where we felt properly equipped. He will teach us what we need to learn, and then we will be released to do and learn something else somewhere else.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Now, Discover Your Strengths: The revolutionary Gallup program that shows you how to develop your unique talents and strengths Book Cover: Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community Book Cover: Book Cover: Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want Book Cover: The Dream Giver

2. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

In order to deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord, we need to continually practice spiritual disciplines. These include prayer, fasting, solitude, Scripture verse memory, meditation, etc. There are many spiritual disciplines, and the best thing to do is work on one at a time. Some disciplines will resonate with you in such a way that you cannot imagine how you did life without them, others you may try and wonder what the big deal is. Cool. That’s great. You found something that doesn’t work for you. move on to the next one. After a few months, you’ll have a few favorite disciplines you can practice in order to keep your relationship with the Lord healthy, vibrant, and growing. This will also help to ward off the blues which lurk around the “why am I still waiting” corner. Our goal in all this is to increase our ability to draw close to the Lord and discern the His voice form all others.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human Book Cover: Celebration of Discipline: The path to Spiritual Growth Book Cover: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation Book Cover: The Table of Inwardness: Nurturing Our Inner Life in Christ Book Cover: How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

3. Sharpen Ministry Skills

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves during the long waiting period is to work on our ministry and leadership skills. We should spend time studying the Word as though we were already on staff—this is especially important for those who have been called into the pastorate or a teaching ministry. Preparing a sermon or Bible study lesson with all the passion you would if you were on staff somewhere will not only feed  your soul, it will also keep your skills sharp. A methodical approach to Bible study will keep us grounded in the Word, and we may discover new resources and tools of which we were previously unaware. Streamlined lesson preparation is a huge asset. Think about it this way, the more you practice, the less time it will take to get the sermon or lesson prepared (or the time you spend will be more efficiently used)—your family will thank you. (Lesson and sermon preparation are NOT to take the place of spiritual disciplines.)

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal Book Cover: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Book Cover: Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life Book Cover: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands Book Cover: At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor

4. Broaden Leadership Skills

In addition to ministry skills, development of leadership skills is CRITICAL during this waiting time. More and more churches are being destroyed by great preachers with terrible leadership skills. Although we may not hold leadership positions at church (which is a crying shame), there’s no reason why we cannot volunteer as a leader in another organization. The need for excellent leadership is not limited to the walls of the church or faith-based organization. You could volunteer to be on your HOA board or Neighborhood Watch. In addition to being in a leadership position, you could also hone your skills by reading books on leadership, listening to leadership podcasts, and attending leadership seminars. Don’t let satan fool you into thinking that the only place you can lead is in the church. That’s a lie. 

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You Book Cover: Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again Book Cover: Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box Book Cover: More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World ( Book Cover: Leadership, Reinvented: How to Foster Empathy, Servitude, Diversity, and Innovation in the Workplace

5. Learn about Yourself and Others

It’s not narcissistic to try and understand yourself better, it’s necessary. When you learn about your personality type, as well as the personality types of others, you are going to be amazed! This dovetails nicely with developing your leadership skills and enhancing your ministry skills. As our worship minister recently remarked as he peered out over the congregation, “Y’all are weird!” He got a good laugh, and what he said was absolutely true: God’s people are “weird.” We’re an eclectic bunch of sinners saved by grace who enjoy gathering together on a regular basis to learn and help each other grow. No two of us are alike. And the more we, as leaders, understand various personality types and traits, the better able we will be to address  their needs and enforce healthy boundaries as needed. Start with yourself first, then your spouse, and go from there. Take the online quizzes or have the test administered by a professional. We need to know who we are and how people perceive us. We need to use this time to grow, because once God puts us where He needs us, we may not have the time to work on ourselves like we do when we’re in the holding place.

Click here for a brief description and links to a variety of FREE Online Personality Quizzes you can take at no charge to get you started.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type Book Cover: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery Book Cover: Mindset - Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential Book Cover: Reframe Your Life: Transforming Your Pain into Purpose Book Cover: Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken

Conclusion:

When it all comes down, God will use our “delays” for His glory. He will do work in us during this time that will potentially completely transform how we approach ministry and life. The experiences we have along the way will increase our skill sets, nurture empathy, and diversify our sphere of influence. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

Feel free to comment and/or share if this has encouraged you to embrace the wait!


Photo credit: Lord’s Supper Elements by Alanscottwalker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16842185
“Joy” movie release poster – fair use
Joy Mangano courtesy of https://joymangano.com