Bonnie Gray | June 18, 2014
I didn't want to be known for my anxiety, or my stress, and I certainly didn't want to be known for my brokenness. But, at the cusp of a lifelong dream coming true – writing my first book – I was launched into a debilitating season of panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety.
Writing triggered memories to come alive. I began reliving them. Unexpected, painful memories.
I’ve done much harder things in my life, free of panic attacks. I grew up the oldest in a single parent family, put myself through college and launched ministries and communities of faith, while working on technology in the high-tech world. I’ve even traveled halfway around the world as an overseas missionary. But, overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, I was no longer able to cope the ways I always have: by problem solving, taking care of others, planning and doing.
God was allowing my exhausted, weary self to surface, so I could make God known in 3 unexpected ways.
1) Make God Known By Presence, Not Project
When we come into contact with stress, our natural response is to push through. We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.
But, God offers us a different response: Rest. Kindness. Comfort.
Instead of being harder on us, Jesus whispers – “Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
We often hold ourselves back from God, when we're most weary. Ironically, those are the times we need God's comforting presence the most. When we make space to confide in God, we can offer that space in return to others -- instead of trying to fix them or their problems. We give them what God offers us: space to be real and rest.
We stop making ministry project focused. We become ministry by making God known by our presence.
2) Make God Known By Nurturing Your Heart Rather Than Ignoring It
When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scriptures tell us – “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16
Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do.
Putting our hearts first—letting Jesus love us— leads us on the journey of becoming known by Him.
As leaders, we need to take time to feed our souls. We need spiritual whitespace. Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.
Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's poeima -- poetry translated as "workmanship" -- created in Christ Jesus to do good works."
Is our leadership more like art or cluttered advertisement?
It’s easier to perform—to improve ourselves—rather than rest when it comes to our own lives. Nurturing our souls is a dare to believe the outrageous: we were created for beauty. What if our brokenness revealed more about God’s love for us than our efforts to cover it up?
3. Make God Known By Your Ambition to Rest
Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God. (Rom.15:20, 2 Cor.5:9)
"We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life." 1 Thess. 4:10–11
Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest—is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.
I've always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But God suddenly put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.
We were never made to only do ministry as maintenance. God makes Himself known through us when we are fully alive with rest: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.
As people of faith in a stressed-crazed world, where everyone is trying to be known, we make God radically known by our ambition to rest. As leaders in ministry, we serve at the front lines in the battlefield of everyday life.
The weapons God places in our hands are our stories. Your story. One of the most painful wounds is becoming invisible in ministry.
It turns out, we all long to be known. Let's make room for each other. To be known and beloved by God. As is.