I had all of these ideas and plans about the way things should be in my life (as if it were, truly, MY life.)
For a while, I had things my way. I was singing every week, or every other week on our praise team at church. I was teaching women's Bible study. I was leading the youth and helping out with children's and women's and every other ministry that I felt compelled to be a part of. If there was an event at church, I was there. If there was an opportunity for me to get involved, I was first on the sign up list.
Like I said, I'm a control freak.
I thought that I was becoming more "righteous" by helping out, but in reality, I was becoming more self-righteous. I had everything I wanted. In fact, because of my need for man's approval, and for control, I would pile on task, after task, after task just so that I could hear what an awesome job I was doing. (Just being real here, folks- don't judge.)
So obviously I didn't know that's what I was doing. My children, my marriage, and my relationship with God all took a back seat to my participation in ministry. In fact, ministry became my idol, and essentially my love. I turned every bit of my spare attention to ministry and to pursuing a career in ministry and, ironically, I left God completely out of the equation.
When my whole world seemed to crumble, I looked back and realized that I had been having an affair. As a friend once put it "my affair was with ministry." It was never with a person, but always with ministry- and honestly, I'm not sure which is worse. If my affair had been with a person, I would have been able to break it off and hopefully reconcile with my husband and with God. Instead, I was so blinded by "good deeds" and "serving" that I couldn't even begin to see where I was wrong.
I love that last part- verse 7 where he says "Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord."
When I had things my way, when I was in control, I was wise in my own eyes and
I found every bit of my value in affirmation and attention, thus my "value" was based on performance and the ability to attain perfection. That could be another reason why He said not to lean on our own understanding... just a thought.
But after a while of doing things my way, God humbled me.
Through some very necessary changes at our church, I wasn't able to participate and perform at the level I once had. So naturally, my self-worth, my value completely diminished. Unknowingly, I had been living out entire parts of my life according to my own selfish ambition and vain conceit and when the opportunities simply were not available to me any longer, my wants, my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my plans all seemed to decrease while my need for God gradually increased.
He showed me my need wasn't for status, or fulfillment in ministry, the perfect family, or the perfect job. My need all along, was for Him.
So I get it when James says
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1:2-4
You see, I needed God, but I didn't know I needed Him. My heart longed for intimacy with Him, and unknowingly, I looked in all of the wrong places to try to find what I thought I was looking for. During this time, I flirted with bitterness, but thankfully God revealed His desires for me to focus on my family and on Him rather than on what I thought I should be doing and He broke down the half-built walls of bitterness. Once I was finally able to recognize my need for Him, my prayers became more real, my dependence on Him grew, and my independence shrank. I started looking to Him to meet all of my needs and I noticed that I wasn't so "thirsty", so desperate for status, for ministry opportunities, for attention and the approval of man.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm thankful for these trials and for a forgiving family. I'm thankful that God used the past couple of years to radically transform who I was for His glory, and I praise Him for the opportunity to have endured this and to have come out on the other side closer to my husband and children than ever before.
Not that I'd opt to go through all of this again... because either it was more difficult than it had to be, or I'm just a really slow (stubborn) learner... or both.
Always learning, for His glory.
No longer I,
The Real Life Mom