I felt like a failure. We were missionaries who did not do any ministry.
Our city and team were new to us. My husband was flat strapped with a start-up business. Homeschooling and getting kids to Chinese school left no margins in my day for ministry.
If they measured ministry like a bank account, we were ready to file bankruptcy. On a thermometer, we were below zero and plummeting. I was terrified.
I blamed my husband. Our marriage groaned under the burden.
What in the world are we doing here?! I wondered.
Looking back, my call seemed to be a twisted mixture of God’s voice and a lie picked up in my youth—that a Christian’s worth is based on the number of souls saved. Unquestioned, this lie, plus the sovereign hand of God, led me to China as a missionary.
For thirteen years I struggled against my introverted nature—and felt very alone—trying to win people to Christ. As anticipated results failed to materialize, a deep shame because of failure wrapped around the lie. That shame leaked its slow poison into me. Driven to “do more,” I felt the weight of China’s salvation on my shoulders, a crushing burden.
We attended a church-planter’s training about a month after changing cities. Now my husband and I not only needed to win people to Christ and plant a church, but we also were to facilitate a church-planting movement in our city of ten million!
The burden was just too much. I could not carry it any longer. The truth is, that was good news, for God was always ready and was just waiting for me to cast my burden onto His shoulders, where it belonged. From that point on, I began to experience His incredibly tender care for me.
Slowly, God pulled out the half-truths that burdened me, exploding them with Scripture and the light of His true character.
My mission-organization supervisor started Skyping with me. The first time, she absolutely floored me by not commenting at all on my detailed ministry plans, but by asking only after my family and personal life. Wiping my tears, I realized that God had given me a sign: He is not primarily interested in results, but in me.
God is not a boss sitting back waiting for me to accomplish the impossible. He is a Dad who lavishes time and attention on me and is proud to hang my crayon scribbles on His fridge—not because they are beautiful art but because He loves me.
He is rewriting my view of my past. It is not a wasteland of failure. That would mean that these last thirteen years God has been wringing His hands, completely stymied by my incompetence and unbelief. How ludicrous! The One who hung the stars and parted the Red Sea is able to bear fruit in me, through me, despite me. Tenderly, He pointed out to me the people He has called to His side over these years of “fruitlessness.”
Jesus spoke directly to me: Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
It is with great relief that I am stepping off the ministry stage and letting God take His rightful place. I am waiting as a child in the wings to see what He will do next. My role is simply walking with Him.
My husband appreciates the change as I release him to be the man God called him to be. I am a nicer person at home too when I am relaxed and not trying to save China single-handedly (and China is getting along okay too!).
House-church leaders came over for lunch the other day, and the conversation about ministry opportunities flowed incredibly easily and naturally. When I am not worrying about how much we need to be doing, there is great peace in waiting to see what God is unfolding.
Though I still sometimes want to leap into action, God has filled my empty hands and waiting heart with good things. He has gently shown me that, just as a woman longs for a child to nurture, so He yearns for people here to become part of His family.
My recovery from drivenness has not been all smooth sailing. A few days of sickness left me unable to perform even the small tasks that keep the household running. All the lies again ran rampant in my tired mind and left me depressed and anxious. Nevertheless, Jesus called me again to come to Him, weary and heavy-laden as I was, to receive rest from His hand.
Jesus is gently, tenderly taking the burden of the lies I have struggled to carry all these years. He is fitting me with His own yoke. It is light and easy as I walk beside Him.
Question to Consider: What burdens are you carrying that Jesus never meant for you to carry?