I am so excited to have my friend, Casey Graves, guest blogging today. I met Casey when we were Youth Pastors in Oklahoma years ago, way before kids, stretch marks, and all the growing pains that come when you live in the fishbowl of ministry. If I’m honest, we are walking targets and what we do is the furthest thing from easy. But, it’s worth it. I love that Casey is willing to show you her struggles and still be an incredible leader. You can read more about her personal journey in her book, Perfectly Weak.
I knew God was with me. I talked to Him every day, but I was angry with Him and didn’t understand why He allowed the hurtful things to happen to me. I knew He was sovereign. I knew He was in control of everything. But rather than bringing a sense of peace and reassurance, the thought of His power and authority only made me mad, mostly because I knew life didn’t have to happen to us the way it did. He could have made things turn out different. But He didn’t. I cringed when well-meaning people would say things like, “God has a reason for everything, or God uses all things for good in our lives.” I knew those sentiments were true, but I was years away from being ready to digest them. I was terribly disappointed at where we were in life after almost ten years of marriage.
So, one day I began to tell God that I was angry, which was nothing new. I’d been telling him that same thing every day for quite a while. This time, however, I began to tell Him that not only did we not have things we needed, but that I couldn’t see any way we could ever have anything we wanted or see any of our dreams come true. They were dreams God had given us, but I had given up—for real this time. I was done. It all seemed impossible and every day I let Him know how I felt.
But even after saying all of that to Him, God kept whispering to me, “If you will just be willing, I will do the rest.” So I got up every day and said the words, “I am willing.” I said it, but I didn’t feel it. I so desperately wanted those feelings to come as we planted this church. I wanted to feel the joy and excitement about this journey that my husband felt—it was difficult to watch Justin and see his excitement about what we were doing while I was so angry. But day after day, in spite of my prayers, nothing changed. So, I kept going, and just took one step at a time.
When God asked me to obey and plant our church, I’d said I was willing. So, when we began holding worship services, that meant I had to show up for church every Sunday to set up, run the preschool ministry, and tear it all down afterward. I got pretty good at that because I am a do-er and not a dreamer. And because it gave me a place to hide. I had a vested interest in making the preschool ministry good because I had two preschoolers of my own who were part of the program. I was worried they might hate having to attend church in a high school band room as much as I did. And I was concerned they would have no friends to join them in their children’s church. I shouldn’t have been afraid. God did not disappoint. People showed up and the children’s ministry began to grow, as I continued to hide. Afraid of being hurt. Afraid to step into the role He had for me. I was so wounded, and I responded by focusing the wounds– and not the Healer—which meant I was disabling myself from stepping into the leadership He was calling me towards. I had to learn you can’t recognize the God of the impossible inside of you while dwelling on the negative circumstances around you.
As God continued to work in my heart, and I began to dream again, I realized my dreams were the same as all those years in ministry before, yet different. I began to forgive those who hurt me and embrace the journey that we had been on, even though I never agreed to all the heartache and always thought God could’ve prevented some of the pain. The last ten years in ministry could’ve been easier. Those years didn’t have to go the way they did. But now I realized I had to be broken. There were many things in my life that had to be swept away so that God could transform me into the person He wanted me to be and those painful experiences, as excruciating as they might have been, were the only way to clear from my life the things that were holding me back—things which, at the time, I was not even aware of.
In the first few years of ministry, I was full of confidence and dreams of what the future would be like, but somewhere along the way I began to think they were my dreams and plans and God owed me the fulfillment of them. I wanted things to happen my way and when things didn’t go the way I thought they should, I viewed it as God disappointing me. My perspective was “off,” and it was wrong. To deal with that wrong attitude and perspective, God had to take me to the point where all my dreams were crushed—and they were—so He could give me His dreams. God never owed me anything. I owed Him my life.
The crushing of my dreams eventually led to my renewed realization and focus on how He saved my life in so many ways and how He was my source of all things. I had unintentionally gotten to a place where my purpose was backward and had the subtle wrong thinking that He is here for us, instead of we are here for Him. I had to get back to the place where God could create in me a clean heart and restore in me the dreams in which He created me for. Instead of praying and believing that He was supposed to answer my prayers, and do what I wanted, I would now ask God what He wanted and do my best to please Him and not please myself. I had come to a place of being willing to answer His call with no expectation of receiving anything.
That was painful and it took a while for me to see that all the things we encountered—those hurtful experiences were actually God hard at work in our lives to give us—to give me—the desires of our heart. Not even the desires I could articulate in prayers. What God wanted to give me were the dreams that lay deep down inside. Dreams for which He had created me. Dreams I hardly recognized were there.
With each risk I have taken, God has changed me. I am different now than when we planted our church, or even when we began in ministry. God has changed me from fearful to confident, from jealous to loving, from thinking and speaking words of death to words of life. God has fulfilled promises in my life that I have only seen because I jumped out into the deep end for Him. He does this when we obey Him, step out of our comfort zones, and risk for Him.
Casey Graves is a wife, momma, women’s ministry director, and pastor in Tulsa, OK. Casey is married to a crazy dreamer and God chaser and is the mother of two precious girls. Casey recently published a book, Perfectly Weak, about her journey through brokenness, weakness, and fear. You can follow her blog at www.weareperfectlyweak.com.