"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to go." Unknown
I found this quote today on a graphic as I was doing research for another project I am working on. I tweeted it out, because it really hit home to me.
Before I became a mommy, I was on staff at our church in the Youth Department. I was basically the female Youth Pastor, though I did not have the official title.
I will try to keep my "church history" as brief as possible, because that's not what this post is about. However, I do believe it is important to set up my thought process in all of this.
I was raised in a very legalistic church. My brother and I were both known as the "black sheep" of the church because our parents raised us to make our own decisions, not just follow along.
When I was 14-years-old I was sexually assaulted. As a very naive' 14-year-old, I was totally shocked, not only at what had happened, but that it was even possible. This event sent me on a downward spiral that would last a decade and a half or so.
For two weeks I did not tell anyone what had happened. My parents obviously knew that something was going on with me, because I went from straight A's to D's and F's in 2 weeks! Not a good thing at all!
When it finally came out what had happened, we went through the whole process- calling the police, making the report (though it was too late to prosecute), going to the doctor, getting counseling....
The first "counseling" I received was from my parent's pastor. Notice, I say my parent's pastor, and not my pastor, because a man of God, called to preach the Gospel of Christ, should be much better equipped to handle crisis situations. I do not hold anything against him... in fact, in an odd way, he taught me a lot of what NOT to do in a pastoral position. Again, I am not casting stones. In previous years, I would have been very bitter about this. The bitterness almost destroyed me.
Looking back, I realize that it was at this very moment that God called me. I had already given my life to Christ at this point, but I did not know the exact calling God had on me. I would not fully realize that calling for many, many years.
My mom has always taught me that "everything happens for a reason". I am a FIRM believer in this, and I teach my kids this. It is one of my "sayings", if you will.
I told my parent's pastor that I did not want what had happened to me to be for nothing. I wanted to share my story with the other girls in my youth group, so they would be aware of things that could happen. Of course, I was shut down immediately and told this could never happen. In fact, it was at this moment that I began to feel shame in what had happened to me.
As I got older, I began to run from God. I had a total misconception of Who God Is. It was my understanding that He was this "Big Man" up in the sky, just waiting for me to mess up. I had already "proven" to Him that I could not keep all His rules, and I just "knew" He was angry with me. So I put on my running shoes and I started my many years, very long journey of running away from God. If I could not be "good enough" for Him, what was the point?
Thankfully, this is not Who God Is at all! And more importantly, thankfully, He never left me! Even though I was running away from Him, ALL it took was one step in the other direction and He was there for me, to hold me and love me. And all the while I was running, He was right there with me, protecting me and keeping me safe during my very dangerous run from Him.
I will skip ahead many years, and leave out a lot of the gory details... for now. However, my life is an open book- Gods story, just lived out in my lifetime. So as He leads me to do so, I will fill in the blanks of space and time.
I married at 20-years-old, and we were married 8 1/2 years. Until death did we part. My entire life as I knew it shattered into a million pieces one horrible, fateful night in 2001 when he pulled out a gun, put it in his mouth, and shot himself. I tried to get to him, to stop him. In my mind's eye I am there... just barely missing his hands as he raises the gun to his mouth. But that is not how it happened, it is simply my mind trying to fix things. In reality, I was across the room, picking up my keys and purse to leave. We had been arguing. My life, as I knew it, ceased to exist in a single moment in time.
I swore I would never remarry. I had made many mistakes in my first marriage, and this was my first true love. There was no man who could ever come close to him, in my eyes, at this point.
Little did I know God had other plans for me.
A year and a half later I met and married my husband who is without a doubt God's greatest gift in my life next to His salvation on the cross. Again, at a later time, I will fill in the story at a later time.
After we married, we started going to a church in my new hometown. He was born and raised here, and knew the church he said would be perfect for me. I was still very much in mourning, was still going through major post-traumatic stress, and did not, at this point, truly understand God's grace.
If you had told me when I first walked into this church that I would be working with the youth group withing 3 months, I would have told you that you were crazy! If you would have told me by the end of that year I would be on staff I would have told you that not only were you crazy, but I would have told you exactly where you could go, as crazy as you were!
But God's plans are not our plans, and His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When my husband and I felt God leading us to work with the youth group, we met with the Youth Pastor. As we talked, I tried to give him every reason in the world why he would never allow me to work with students. He surprised me when he told me that it was BECAUSE of my past that he thought I would be exactly where I needed to be in working with the students!
Over the next four years God taught me a lot- mainly, a true understating of His love and grace for me.
This Youth Pastor, who became my boss and a dear friend of ours, taught me a lot about love and forgiveness- mainly, loving yourself and forgiving yourself. Just as with love- if you do not truly love yourself, you cannot truly love someone else; the same should be said with forgiveness. If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot truly forgive others.
This Youth Pastor/boss/friend allowed me to find God's grace, fall completely, head over heels in love with my Savior in a way I never could have imagined possible, and more importantly, he allowed me to fulfill the calling that God has on my life. To lead.
My life experiences help me to lead. It has taken me many years to understand this. It is also very frustrating when people call themselves a leader and have no clue what it means to be a leader.
So when I read the quote that I opened with tonight, it struck my heart solidly. I've thought about the quote all afternoon, since first reading it. And I believe tonight is where my life story begins to truly meld in my writings here on my blog.
While this Youth Pastor/former boss/friend of ours is not perfect by any means, he is a great leader because he led me many places I did not want to go at all, but needed to go! My husband was right there beside me, giving me the strength and support and endless, unconditional love throughout this process. He truly is a jewel in my life!
My life's journey has not been an easy one. I have been through a lot of adversity in my life. However, I found that in the midst of these adversities is where I feel the closest to my Savior. No, it has not always been that way. But as the cliche's are endless, so are they true:
If you want to see the rainbow, you have to stand a little rain.
Every rose has its thorn (yes, I know, it's a Guns 'N Roses song! :) )
Every cloud has its silver lining.
While they are cliche, and I could continue listing them for an entire nightly post, the message is still the same. I would not change a single thing about my life- including the most painful things I have been through. If I changed one single thing in my life, I would be a different person and my life would be different. I am very happy and very blessed in my life. I am thankful for all that God has given me, and all that He has taught me. I praise and worship Him for sparing my life in the many dangerous situations I put myself in.
I am thankful that He helped me to realize the true calling He had on my life- to share my life with others. I am no longer ashamed that I was sexually assaulted. I am not ashamed that my first husband committed suicide. There are many other things I am not ashamed of. Oh yes... many things I wish I had done differently, many decisions I wish I had made differently. But I can't go back and undo anything that I've done in the past. So instead of living in regret, I choose to allow God to use my mistakes for His glory.
Lord God, my life is Yours. All that I am, I surrender completely to You.
I pray for Congresswoman Giffords. I pray that You will use the tragedy that happened in her life, the miracle that You have performed in sparing her life and healing her, all for Your glory and honor as well. Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy, but You have saved, revived and replenished. I pray for her husband, Mark Kelly. Keep him safe on his last shuttle mission.
I pray for President Obama. Lord, I pray that You will raise him up to be a true leader. I pray that he will humble himself before You, and bring honor and glory to Your Name, rather than seeking accolades for himself.
As always, I pray for this nation. We, as a nation, and the world itself, is on a collision course with disaster. I pray that many will humble themselves before You, call out to You, repent, and worship You as Lord and Savior.
Protect us and keep us in Your ways, Lord God.
I pray all of these things in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ- Amen.