- Sonya Leigh Anderson
Entering the Story—For Real!
I suppose if I’m writing about it I’d better expect to live it, too. My thoughts taking shape in blog posts and books, and I’ll be the first to admit it—I tend to live in my head. I love learning, thinking, contemplation. But at some point I ought to expect Jesus will answer my theoretical prayers and put me to work in His Actual Kingdom. True enough.
Just over a month ago I received an email from our senior pastor, asking if I’d like to consider a job. “Community Care Coordinator: A person who oversees our community care fund and meets with people weekly to determine their needs and if or what we can do to help.”
Not since adoption have I been this blindsided by a door God has opened. Many times I’ve looked back on our pre-adoption days, recalling my husband’s prayers for “a God-sized adventure.” He’d prayed while I filled journals with the myriad ways I’d sensed the Spirit leading. Youth revival. A family in ministry. A new building for a Christian school. Seminary. “Wake up the sleeping church.” But not once in all those journal entries was there a hint about adding two more teenaged boys to our family of sons. That was a door God opened abruptly and so OBVIOUSLY we forfeited all luxury of hesitation. (If you’re a newer reader, you might want to check out that story here.)
And now again. Just days after my book release (intentional timing, as I’d find out later) God nudges me out of my heady bliss and says it’s time to get into this story. Because you can’t just keep writing about a Kingdom of compassion and Jesus’ heart for the poor if you’ve got no actual experience to back it up.
Which is how I ended up (once again) rather abruptly filling a position for which I have no training, no preparation, and no actual business. Making full confession to Pastor Bill in an acceptance email in which I detailed every reason I was unqualified for the job he’d offered. But stating also my absolute certainty it was the undeniable answer to my very own prayers.
So now here I am filling my journal again with anything I can construe as Holy Spirit counsel—reminding myself again and again of the very words I repeat most often in lecture and in writing:
God is good and He is faithful.
God, I trust you.
Jesus does for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Yes and amen.
Monday morning, before heading over to New Hope Church for my first staff meeting, I typed these words from Susie Larson’s interview with Danielle Stickland (one of a gazillion “coincidental” podcasts, Bible passages, sermons, and dropped-in-my-lap books the Spirit has used to make sure-and-certain I’m getting the message)—
(Paraphrased) “True humility alongside true dependency are the center of shalom wholeness.”
And I’ve got a host of other quotes, just as good that one.
A week or so ago the Spirit spoke into my thoughts with a book recommendation. A book I’d read with my previous church staff, years ago. Almost immediately I started reading the Kindle download, finding relief in the certainty that God himself will be my teacher…
From When Healing Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert—
“Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”
“Every minute since the fall, each human being is the proverbial ‘square peg in a round hole.’ We don’t fit right because we were shaped for something else.”
“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.”
The last quote is the premise of the book. Our ministry to those who are in tough situations must come from mutual need, and mutual brokenness. I am not better, or smarter, or superior. We are all in this together.
And I will say this, too. There’s nothing fake about humility when you are called to something only God can do.
Tuesday I drove home from my first day of training, not overwhelmed like I’d expected, but excited. I’d spent the day shadowing a pastor, tenderhearted and tuned in to the stories of people. And I can be a steward of stories, too.
I had just finished Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart when I received Pastor Bill’s first email, and I’d written this in my journal, too—
Brown’s 3 skill sets for Cultivating Meaningful Connection:
Developing Grounded Confidence (learning and improving through practicing humility)
Practicing the Courage to Walk Alongside
Practicing Story Stewardship
All this to say…God often teaches me through BOOKS. True enough. But then He also invites me to live the story I tell. He is, after all, the Creator of my inmost being. He wired me to be a bookworm and a thinker…as well as a hands-on participant in the story of His Kingdom.
God, I trust you!!