I have to be honest, this is not how I imagined this month's Woman in Ministry post would look. No one would have guessed that we would be where we are now as a country and world and I am sure this isn't where our April Woman in Ministry thought we would be either. I'd love for you to meet Crystal! She is a young woman involved in the youth ministry, [FUSE], at NewSpring CHS campus and I have been doing life with her for quite some time. We met a number of years back however our journey as friends (and truly sisters) began in January of 2019. The Lord brought us together so I could pour into her and help her with accountability, discipline, and generally equip her with the tools she needed to take ownership of her relationship with the Lord and work it out with fear and trembling. Much like today, she and I had no idea that we would be in that situation in the new year but it was thrust upon us and we had the choice to either surrender to and trust God or not. I am so glad that we decided to just Trust Him, no matter how long it took, and since then, I have gotten to the watch the Lord shape, transform, and really grow her into the woman she is today and it has been such a blessing!
When I went to meet with Crystal, at a 6th social distance, (before the shelter in place order) to discuss how she was doing, I made the 2 minute drive to her apartment building (we live in the same complex, haha) and knocked on the door. I was greeted by one of her roommates, and another dear friend of mine, and we did the "i haven't seen you in forever" friend greeting. You know, the one that sounds like, "Ohhh wooooow, it's Crystaaaallll!!! Oh my goooosh!! I haven't seen you in foreveeeeeer!" (I know you heard it in your head too!) In all honesty, we hadn't seen each other in person in a while, so it was so wonderful to be together, even at a distance, and we started out with just a genuinely much needed catch up conversation between friends. We sat down on her patio and got to chatting!
"Ya know, I'm doing better than I thought I would be. Definitely doing better than the beginning. It is slowly starting to become more real and honestly, the more that happened, the worse it got. I was having trouble having hope and belief. I really think it led to loneliness and ultimately a bit of depression. I had to come to the end of myself, realizing that the Lord is in control."
I could really relate to what she was saying; as someone who purposefully chose to live alone (with my dog of course) in order to be able to do ministry from my home, it felt weird not having anyone sit on my couches for small group or sit at my kitchen island for a meal and a chat. It quickly became just me and it really began to affect me and the way I was seeing/experiencing life. So when she went into depth about her experience at that point, I really connected on a deep and personal level.
She continued, "It just felt like we were so close. So close to thriving and doing well but then it just felt like 2019 all over again. It felt like a punishment, like I did something wrong so getting out of that place was hard. I've been able to see God in a new way slowly but surely. Seeking Him had always looked the same before this. Praying now has begun to look so different and that's honestly for the better! I asked the Lord, 'What was I put here to do?' Like what does that look like? I feel like I'm healthier now, though. I can actually recognize when I'm not doing well and that has taken some time to get to that place."
We went into depth about that, understanding purpose and how that may or may not change when placed in circumstances like this one. It is so easy for us to think that in order to live out our purpose (which is the glorify God in all we do) it has to look a certain way. For her, she was living out her purpose in a very practical way. Being volunteer staff and a soon to be intern at our Church, her main priority was being apart of our youth ministry and learning what that looks like in a vocational context. Aside from that, she also was taking classes at our local technical college and just generally being a wonderful friend to those around her. She was always doing something productive and even when she was resting, you could tell that there was a sense of accomplishment. Never in a prideful way but in a "I've done the task given to me and I've done it as if I'm doing so for the Lord". But now that everything has changed and our surroundings are that of the 4 walls that we live in, it is so easy to feel as if we can no longer do what we have been placed on earth to do.
We shifted gears a bit and I asked her what her experience has been now that she has had some time to adjust. She said:
"Living with roommates during all of this has been interesting...it's been great but also hard. I've always known this but we are so different which is great but can be rough at times. Communication is something that we really have to prioritize and as of late, it's been better than it's ever been! Getting to watch how each of them do life and how they respond to certain things that happen has been cool to see. It helps just inform us on how we need to love each other well. I think even through just having roommates, I am seeing the Lord in a new way all together. The biggest thing has been knowing and truly understanding that I can't get myself out things the Lord allows. That's where my faith has had to grow and I can't just depend on you and not go to the Father first. Sometimes, I will lay on my bedroom floor and do nothing but listen to worship music. Or I will go for a walk, singing loudly as possible. It feels weird to do what I do at church, at home. I've realized I want to be freer in my worship and when I am praying for my people and myself."
I love that! I love the idea of using the time we have been given, even in the midst of a pandemic, to pursue the Lord in a new and deeper way we may not have had the time to do before all of this happened. COVID-19 certainly is not a joyous event but the joy that comes as a result of closeness with the Father is very real and is actually promised to us by God Himself! We should never feel ashamed for experiencing the promise He makes to us, even when we feel as if the world is having a completely different reaction to the same event.
As we continued, I asked her what she was doing to continue personal growth in the Lord and what else she has learned so far.
"I am allowing myself to feel my feelings. Some days I feel great and others I don't; fighting the flesh is hard. And honestly, sometimes it feels like we are resting all the time because we have been home a lot more as of late. But the Lord has been showing me that doing nothing is not rest but taking the time to be intentional with Him is true rest. I have even seen it in my FUSE group; my girls, they are different! They are actually hungry for what the Lord has to offer which is so much. I'm currently reading John and I'm learning that I don't have to feel afraid to offer a different and Biblical perspective to the narrative happening in the world. I trust God. We will learn how to do ministry differently and we can still boast that God is moving. The work He does in private is where growth happens."
Yes and amen, y'all! I feel like I say that at least once every post but I can't help it. We seriously have such an opportunity to grow so deeply in the Lord right now. I know it is scary and unnerving and unsure...BUT GOD!! He is sure, He is steadfast, He is certain. Every time! And we have nothing to fear because we know where our hope lies. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was sufficient and effective, FOREVER! And as a result, we get to move forward completely changed from the inside out, by grace through faith, and know that no matter what happens, our reward is in Heaven and we have a Savior that has gone before us and provided a helper in the Holy Spirit to walk through life with. Now isn't that good news?
As our interview came to an end to make way for more time enjoying each other's company, I asked her if she had any parting wisdom to share with everyone. Crystal had this to say, "Enjoy Him in the deep and expect to go even deeper. I would hate for us all to come out of this completely unchanged. That would be the ultimate loss."
Wow! Such good insight from our sister, Crystal. For more encouraging posts, keep up to date by following out Instagram account where we share daily encouragement and Biblical Truth. Friends, stay safe, stay inside, and most importantly, stay close to God.
Peace and love!