I knew I wouldn’t soon forget that light in their eyes…
Such tender hearts, full of fear and wonder all at the same time. Gracing our living room had become a familiar routine, most of them driving from the city out to where the crickets and frogs sing to you after supper.
In they’d file, fresh faces and topknots, filling up any quiet crevice of our home with the vivacious roar of young women bright with Jesus.
Somehow, somewhere along the way God had burned a mother’s heart in me for these young worship leader women. The kind where you just want to squeeze them hard enough that the awareness of their beloved-ness might just stick. Maybe if I could take their faces into my hands and speak words of life directly down into their guts, just maybe they would know how much they already belong. But we mother’s know that it doesn’t work that way…at least not without a lot of prayer.
Ultimately, this mother’s heart He offered, it saved me from myself. There I stood at this fork in the road. Am I going to plow ahead on my own path, do my own thing, leave a trail of dust in my wake? Or am I going to turn around and choose to see the generation coming up behind me, look into their eyes and dine with them over potluck dinners from my kitchen? (You should have seen the spread we could come up with!)
I would soon understand that it was actually the difference between choosing the road to relevant in this world or sadly, the lonely road that leads to irrelevant. Not that it was about me… But as it always goes in God’s economy, it’s in the laying down of your life that you truly find it.
Leading people presents this interesting tension of being quite real and raw, yet leaving room for mystery and for God to work sometimes through what we don’t say. Yet, I’ve heard it said, “if you want them to bleed, you have to hemorrhage.” There’s truth to that too. I learned that I had to continually model opening my heart to Jesus in front of them so that they felt safe to do the same. If you just stick to the script, you’ll just get Sunday School answers thrown right back at you.
We’re not there to clip all of our dirty laundry up on the clothesline yet there might be a few pieces, perhaps one that our pride would do just about anything to keep to ourselves. Maybe there’s a really good purpose at just the right moment that that very thing needs to get hung out to dry in front of God and everyone.
When you find yourself there you marvel because you see how God loves to get inside of that humble place and work and move like only He can.
If you keep hiding all of your laundry, they’ll hide theirs too and you’ll find that there’s nothing to hold up to Jesus.
The scariest part was once I opened my heart, there was no going back. Sometimes I wanted to. At least before, there was still possibly the glittery facade. But is that what they really needed? No.
They didn’t need me to pretend or present myself as one more source of unattainability in their lives, they get a healthy dose of that everyday.
What they needed was a place to not have to pretend. A place to say out loud, “I’m struggling.” But even more than that, more than just a place to say, “I’m not okay”, truly leading others well is to teach them to take that “not okayness” to Jesus and see what He does with it.
After a few months of getting to journey alongside them, I’ll never forget one of them coming up to me and saying “Thank you for being real about where you are with Jesus because we can see that what He’s doing in you is not just for you…it’s for us too.”
What an incredible observation about what it looks like to truly lead people. Her words to me that day sort of unlocked a new thought for me…
Our own refinement becomes the language of our discipleship.
What He brings us through, it’s always for the sharing. As I said, He burned this “mother’s heart” in me. It hasn’t come without pain and a laying down of my pride, over and over.
It is an awkward, less shiny and put together style of leading I will say. Honestly, you’ll feel a little more like a bare branch at pruning season. But I’ve come to believe it’s a truly authentic way to “stay closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand” which is the definition of what it means to be relevant.
Jesus lived this. He gathered the few around Him, the ones that He chose to let in on the mystery of what the Father was about to do through His life. And we all know that “shiny and put together” doesn’t really describe what unfolded.
He opened His heart and life to His disciples and even invited them into His work. He was the most real and raw this world would ever know. He gave them an up close and personal view of His crushing…His death on the cross.
In reflecting on my time with those women, I’ve let my mind wonder back to all the plans I had to lead them well…dreams I had to build a strong, organized team of women worshipers. It didn’t all play out how I had planned. That’s when I hear God whisper, “you did fulfill those plans in leading them, it just wasn’t how you thought you’d lead them.” In the end, it was so much less about getting to build something and so much more about being broken in front of them. And that was His plan all along…
Any other way and I might have dead ended down that lonesome road to irrelevant.
I think about all of you beautiful women out there, changing the world right where you are. If there has been a rise of anything, even in just the last 5 years, it has been women stepping into who they truly are in Jesus and with that, surrendering their lives to love and lead like never before.
This I know to be true. God is geographically moving people into the general vicinity of you.
There might be one already right underneath your little wing and you didn’t even know it. If you see her, you don’t necessarily need to stop and take a discipleship course (by all means if you have time that’s awesome, it will only help) but a great place to start is just sharing with her how Jesus is refining you. Through the joys, through the sorrows, through the fire…how are you being purified in the process?
Philippians 2:1-4 basically says…so if you find that you have any kind of encouragement in your life from knowing Jesus and reading His Word.. If you have any kind of comfort in reminding yourself of His love for you day by day… If it seems that you are being led by God’s Spirit and find that affection and sympathy for others is rising up in you because of Jesus… Paul said “complete my joy.”
Paul isn’t as much questioning if you have any of those qualities in your life, he’s more reminding you of the overflow that’s no doubt in your life if you’re authentically following Jesus today.
He’s hinting that you might just have something to give.
He says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose…do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…don’t just think about your own interests, but look into the interests of others.”
I remember the first time I realized down in my bones what Paul meant by “complete my joy”. It was the night that I got to see one of those beautiful young women lead a room full of people in worship and I watched what looked like heaven lowering down on us. What made it most beautiful was that I had walked with her through 10 years of some of the most vulnerable moments of her life, watching her surrender as much of her heart to Jesus as I have ever seen. As she roared out her freedom song, I bawled out loud over in a dark corner of the room. That’s when the words came to my heart, “complete my joy.”
Yes, what joy… I got to be connected to a very important moment in someone else’s life. What joy. Not only had I seen her begin to get free but here she was singing like a true daughter of God for the first time in her life. We roared along with her as she assigned every lyric and every note a direction to go in with meaning, power and authority. Watching from the shadows, I was astounded at the sense of fulfillment that rose up in me. In all my days of singing, writing, leading, and touring, I can honestly say, none of it had offered this much joy.
So, to all of you gorgeous, seasoned women of God out there… If you want to know the secret of truly staying relevant…raise up young women. If we try to stake our ground, we’ll become irrelevant as we’ll miss the beauty of authentically leading and even co-laboring with the next generation. If we hold to our position, we lose the possibility of filling the ginormous need of having a genuine presence in a younger woman’s life.
The beauty that unfolds is that as you walk with those God is bringing near you, you become irreplaceable. Nothing can replace what you bring to the table when you become willing to offer it. Nothing comes close to the shelter that your wing provides. Chances are, her wing has been broken in all the same places. It’s possible you’ve underestimated the unique covering you could provide as she heals.
I leave you with this…
Words (from the dictionary) connected to irrelevant… unconnected, unrelated, peripheral, insignificant, trivial.
Words (from the dictionary) connected to relevant…closely connected, pertinent, applicable, on point (yes!) and get this…it’s from the latin word relevare which means “to raise up”.
Which road are you on? Do you think it’s possible that you might have more to offer than you think?