Finding Identity through the Tears in the Night
At some time or another, leaders question their calling and effectiveness to those they serve. Many leaders have struggled with depression, loneliness, insecurity, and challenges with unrealistic expectations. What does this say about leadership? It says that leaders are human too!
When I was a teenager and even into my twenties, as a young leader I would wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with questions. I had doubt and trust issues. Coming from a divorced family, I had major trust issues. I thought those who loved me would always leave me, and sometimes this even seeped into my relationship with God. I thought if I was imperfect, and didn’t do everything right God would leave me. Many years later, I am thankful to be able to say, God has never left me.
In some of the most challenging times of my life, I have found God’s ever enduring presence. When I have doubted myself and my calling, God has been with me to help bring strength and encouragement. Doubt and fear are emotions God has given to humans. Emotions aren’t bad or good, they just are. The lesson to learn is that leaders have emotions and they face doubts and fears just like any other human and member in the kingdom of God. It’s normal to have emotions.
One reason why I think younger generations question their calling is because they aren’t sure of who they are. Finding your identity is an enormous life experience. We ultimately spend our entire lives figuring out who we are, and what we are called to do. We sometimes hear the message from our culture that we have to pick one career or one life option. The truth is our life can be comprised of many different callings and careers. You don’t have to pick one purpose, because God has many purposes for your life. You can try a bunch of different options in your life, and see which one fits your personality and style. There isn’t a divine finger point down from the heavens calling you to be and do something out of your zone. Be who God has made you to be. Be you.
Another reason why some might struggle with their calling and identity is because of unrealistic expectations they put onto themselves and their ministry. The only person you have to be is yourself. You cannot be anyone other than yourself. Older generations have done some great things, but to compare one generation to another isn’t realistic. Times have changed, and culture has shifted. I cannot be a Nona Freeman. I don’t want to be a Nona Freeman. I’m Crystal. Plain and simple, good and bad, I am who I am and nothing more. The only person I want to strive to be like is Jesus Christ. There are examples we can learn from, but to say we need to fill someone’s shoes or take their place is unrealistic and too daunting of a task. I have different dreams and visions for the future. I am me, and that is all I can be.
In prayer, there have been many times I have sought the Lord for my calling. I would plead and beg, and ask to be in the divine will of God. I would ask about the future, and want direction. It’s good to bring your requests and feelings to God in prayer, but guess what, they are exactly that: requests and feelings. Sometimes the calling you have is simple: be a Christian, be a leader, be a friend. Sometimes the purpose is simple: do good and do what you know to do. There isn’t a magical formula or prayer for receiving your calling. Sometimes you come to God in prayer, talk about your hopes, and then you leave the prayer room and smile at someone because you are showing God’s love. Normality isn’t bad, and continuity is good. God’s love is tangible and practical. If you want to be a teacher, then go and teach a Bible Study. If you want to be a preacher, then go and preach a sermon (maybe even to yourself first)! God’s call is right in front of you, open your eyes and ears. There are plenty of people around you who need God’s love.
Yes, there might be some tears in the night as you ask God what your life is supposed to be. That’s okay. Tears are okay. Bring your requests to God in prayer (Philippians 4). Realize God is for you and with you. Be realistic, and know identity is a life task. Calling is a life experience, and should take an entire life. You will have to make some decisions and narrow your focus in life at times, but know you are not trapped into one life situation. There is always room for growth and change. Be confident, and know you are exactly who God has made you to be, and you do not have to be anything else. Grow in the grace of God, grow in knowledge and maturity, but understand God calls us to be transformed into the image of God and not a different leader in the church. Comparing and contrasting can lead to hurt and disappointment. Be confident, you can be you. Whether female or male, God is for you and may be calling you to be a leader in the church. Discern your calling by living your calling. Do what you know to do, and walk through the doors which are open today. The future is its own entity, and will worry about itself.
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