Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.- Mark 8:28 (NRSV)
I realize that I haven’t been completely transparent in my updates with all of you, and for that I am sorry. So much has happened in the past few months. We moved from our beloved town of Durham, North Carolina to the big big city of Chicago, Illinois. I’ve transitioned from doing part-time music ministry at CityWell, 6 1/2 year old United Methodist church that we helped to build, to working full-time as the Creative Director of the Chicago campus of Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek, founded by Bill Hybels, is one of the largest and most historic nondenominational evangelical churches in the world.
As you can imagine, the changes and transitions have been numerous and mostly trying. Moving is incredibly stressful, and I think that moving with young kids to such a different city is insanely stressful. The personal experiences could constitute a whole blog entry by itself (or a book at this point!), but I wanted to talk specifically about the changes in my work as a worship leader and blogger exploring identity, worship, and reconciliation.
I went on numerous job interviews in Chicago, but I felt God calling me to this particular job for many reasons that I knew I wouldn’t understand until later. Right now it seems that God wants me to grow into my gifts of worship planning, arts in worship, and collaborating with people. This all means, “Go be a liturgical nerd.”
Just to give you an idea of how vastly different this job is from my last one….
- I went from a staff of three to a staff of 15.
- I went from a small multiethnic church to a large multiethnic church.
- I went from doing music every week, which I miss so much, to creative directing. This basically means that I plan the entire Sunday service, pulling in elements from all the arts and selecting the people to fill in the pastoral, teaching, and arts roles.
- I went from a small, 100-member church where it’s common to have students and aspiring theologians from Duke Divinity, to an 800-member church (I’m counting just our campus, the larger Willow is about 25,000) where there are working professionals, artists, and people coming out of homelessness.
- The guests at my older church consisted of theologians and authors, and now they are famous rappers and world-renown psychologists.
- I went from a church with mostly Christians that wanted to go deeper and act in faith, to a mixed bag with non-Christians exploring the concept of faith.
- I went from a church that invited members big and small to deliver sermons in different styles, to a church delivering polished sermons by vetted professionals via video screen.
- I went from doing ministry in a small building where the renovation was done by volunteers (none of which were architects, builders, and contractors) to doing ministry in a large historic theater that was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first project.
- I now have entire conversations about lights. I even draw diagrams. Before, it was just “can someone turn the lights on?”
- I went from an organic and fluid way of working in ministry to a structured and strategic way of working in ministry.
I could go on and on, and the list will surely grow as I continue along in this new position. What I can tell you is that I’m learning so much, and I’m growing in ways that I never imagined. Because of this, I also find myself feeling extremely uncomfortable most of the time because it is all so new. I often struggle with contributing ideas out of fear that I am saying the wrong things. I often wonder if I’m good enough to do this job, and I fear the pain of failure almost every day. At this point, six months in, I’ve done a little bit of everything during service – announcements to singing to giving a sermonette, and although I’m grateful for the opportunity I wonder if it’s also because people just don’t know where to put me on a Sunday morning. I feel like I don’t fit in, which is hard for a lady who values connectedness.
I hate feeling out of control like this.
In these times, I find myself living from day to day by faith. Faith that I’ll finally get the hang of it, faith that I’m in the right season of life and work, and faith that God is looking out for me. These are things that I know in my head, even if it seems that every moment is filled with missteps, miscalculations, and misunderstandings. It takes faith to move a mountain. Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame of people who had faith. The faith of a mustard seed is really all you need to survive.
But a friend of mine was explaining that this time of solely working in faith can come with little hope. With hope, we can walk more fully into the reality the Kingdom, where Jesus sits on the throne and everything is as it should be. With hope, we can live and flourish in the time of the “now” but “not yet.” With hope, it is possible to happily plant gardens and build houses even when we’re in exile. But without hope, dreams and creativity wither away and die. We don’t dare put our minds together to organize to find solutions in the midst of struggle. All efforts to make things better and “make it work” are human-driven and exhausting. I’ve been exhausted. The little mustard seed of faith that we survive on slowly disintegrates into despair, and we go from grateful to grieving. I’ve been doing a lot of grieving. It makes sense that I’m struggling to keep my music and writing alive because I’ve just been living out of faith, but desperately yearning and longing for hope.
As time passes on and I accept reality with gratitude, I want to say that I am finally starting to see little crumbs of hope, even if they’re leftovers fallen from the children’s table. These tiny crusty crumbs are all I need to feed my soul and come back for more. Even if it’s all I get, I will humbly take these crumbs. And I will happily share what I learn with you.
Thanks for staying faithful in reading this blog, and here’s to a hopeful 2017!
If reading more books is a 2017 resolution for you, join my Facebook group. The rewards are great, but the loss is the true motivation for you to stick with it!
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