It’s been nearly two years since my last post. I’d love to tell you it’s been such a joyous time I’ve been too busy to blog, but that wouldn’t be true. In many ways it has been the hardest couple of years of my life.
About two years ago, God gave me the word He was taking me back to the stump. It’s a pruning reference where a plant is taken down to just above the roots. All the fruit and flourishing branches are removed, but when done properly the plant regrows stronger than before.
Am I flourishing more than I was two years ago? Not even close, but I can see little sprouts of green coming in around the edges and so I’m standing on His promises and am waiting to see how He moves. Little did I know when I posted about growing cold two years ago that I hadn’t really even seen cold yet. The thing I wasn’t thinking about was how much it must hurt to be taken back to the stump.
“Losing” a Promise
For me the catalyst was a miscarriage on top of some serious ministry burnout. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to have a child, though being in my forties had led to some definite pangs of remorse on my life-long stance of not wanting to have children. Couple that with the fact that we’d had more than seven prophetic words that we would have a baby and the fact that it took literally a miracle for us to get pregnant (my husband having had a vasectomy 12 years prior to that point and my weight not creating an environment in my body that was conducive to getting pregnant). The fact that I could pin conception down to the night we renewed our marital vows during Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) only added to my deep-seated belief that despite my age and health concerns, I would go full term and we’d have our baby.
My heart had completely accepted that plan (which for anyone who knows me was a miracle in and of itself given that my grandfather remembers me saying I didn’t want kids as early as like 7 or 8 years old). All that to say my faith was shaken when we lost the baby in a painful miscarriage that took me out of commission physically for months and hormonally wreaked havoc on my system. And when I started to recover months later, I miscarried again throwing me right back into the hormonal chaos I’d just come out of.
There’s a principle here about not thinking we know what a prophetic word means unless God specifically gives an interpretation and if He doesn’t, we need to wait to see how the word plays out… but I’ll have to blog on that later because that’s a pretty meaty topic in itself. (I finally blogged on this – here’s the post.)
Not Trusting Your Own Mind
The hormones did a number on my body during the pregnancy (just ask my hubby – who by the way was amazing – who stood by me as I’d go from laughing to screaming to crying in the span of 10 minutes), but nothing compared to after we lost the baby.
I’ve struggled with depression in the past (in my 20s I was medicated for it, even was on two types at once for a while), but nothing life this. Over the months that followed I literally shut down. It was a perfect storm really because the exhaustion of 60-70 hour ministry weeks coupled with the physical pieces was totally overwhelming. I’m typically the strong one, the one who sucks it up and guts through any situation, but the one God allowed here was literally a blow at the deepest level – I was taken down to the stump and it was barren and fruitless and painful for a long time.
For those who have struggled with any type of mental issue (I don’t like saying mental illness because even now I don’t want to declare that over myself), they know how frustrating it is not to be able to trust your own mind. You think and feel things that if you could step out of yourself you’d realize weren’t based in truth but you FEEL them so strongly. It’s disconcerting to say the least.
The other thing about it is that nothing appears to be wrong with you so it’s hard for other people to understand, which means that you frequently are dealing with criticisms and judgment on top of the internal pain you’re struggling with. And for myself, I was also dealing with shame and self-hatred because I felt like I should be able to just suck it up and deal like I’d always done in the past, but I wasn’t able to and that was extremely frustrating. But as I’d try to engage with people – even the people I’d consider the “safe people” in my life, things would be said or implied that injured or re-injured wounds that were now hovering so close to the surface.
The result of all of this was that I shut down completely. Literally almost never leaving home. Hiding in a virtual corner so I wouldn’t get hurt any worse than I was hurting. In His mercy, God sent a couple words (from people removed enough they didn’t know what was going on) that this was a season of rest and downtime. This minimally reduced the guilt I had about hiding away.
I’d love to tell you this was a rich beautiful time where I spent endless hours settled in God’s arms, but yeah, that didn’t happen. I was angry at Him. Angry at the promise I felt was stolen. Angry at a stack of prophetic words that still hadn’t come to pass (feeling like Abraham probably felt around the time he made Ishmael. Again, think seriously barren place. I thought I’d been in the desert before, but nothing like this.
The thing about God is, He loves and speaks to His children. He never leaves us or forsakes us. In His mercy He was no longer going to allow me to rest on my strength, He wanted me resting on His and He saw the best way to achieve that was to break me so I had no strength. And broken I was (and am).
But even then, He would whisper – using whatever was in front of me to speak through (in my case books, I became an avid reader during this time). Without me even realizing at first, He showed me that He is glorified most when we are at our lowest because we take none of the glory (here’s the post about that). He reminded me that He loves to work through broken people (again, blog coming on this too). Eventually, I started feeling nudges to pray again and He started stirring up some new art work. Gently, He was restoring me, tending to me, and the stump was coming back to life.
Where I Am Now
After years of soaking in amazing ministry and the prayer room, my spiritual vessel of oil was overflowing (literally that was a word I got and had confirmed). When I moved into leadership at our current church, I was pouring out fast than I was being refilled which led to me emptying my vessel to the point of being cracked and dry. If my vessel was 12″ tall, I’d say I have about a half inch of oil at the bottom. In other words, I’m not cracked and dry, but I only have a little oil. So yes I’m starting to pour again because I have something to share, but I (with the help of hubby who NEVER wants to see me back in the place I’ve been) am keeping close watch to be sure I don’t go overdraft again.
For those in ministry, you likely already know this only too well, but let me encourage you that there will ALWAYS be good work to do. We have to do as Jesus did and step away – regardless of who is clamoring for us or in need – to recharge and get our time with God. He is our source. When He is flowing through us as we minister it is easy to forget that we need to pause and sit at His feet until He releases us again to do His work. We have to remember that it is HIS work that we do on His behalf. The people we’re ministering to often see us so they see it as “our” work, but we need to remember it isn’t, it’s His. So we need to do it in His strength and not our own.
I would’ve sworn that’s what I was doing, but I can tell you in retrospect there was a lot more of my personal strength at work than I thought there was. It is too easy for the ministry to become our identity. Too easy to become intent on building it assuming that what God wants. Presumption is NOT a good thing (I have a couple posts on this, one based on a verse in Numbers and another from Deuteronomy).
Fighting Old Patterns
So now I am fighting the urge to fall into old patterns. I’m being intentional about my time with Him. I’m enjoying being back in fellowship with others. I still have pangs of the struggles that will sneak up on me, but on the whole I am doing much better. Feeling more like myself.
No idea what He has in store for me next, but I am walking it out day by day watching my faith be rebuilt – hopefully seeing the stump grow, flourish, and bear fruit.
Sorry this was so long. Hopefully it will be a blessing to someone(s). I don’t like sharing my moments of weakness and pain, but at the same time I want to encourage anyone else in the same struggle that they should hang on and see it through. It’s always nice to know we aren’t alone and that others have been through similar trials and come out the other side. 🙂
So be blessed – and may you hang onto Father’s robe and never let go!