My Loss is My Gain
Nearly ten months ago God invited me into an adventure: Don't return to secular work. Step into full-time ministry.
At the time, I had just returned from a mission trip to Germany, I'd published my first non-fiction Christian living book, Victim to Victorious: A Journey of Overcoming, I'd started my master's program in Divinity and I was spending about twenty hours a week serving in an equine ministry I'd been involved with for nearly three years.
None of those things was bringing in any predictable or sustainable income.
I was renting a humble mobile home, had a car payment and the typical bills of daily life. How was I going to live? I'll take care of you. I'll provide for you.
Scripture is packed full of stories of people who walked away from businesses and steady incomes to follow Jesus. This was not an unusual invitation from Him. It is, however, unusual to hear about in modern western culture. I don't know anyone who's done it who didn't have a paying ministry job to step into - like at a church.
But I knew my God. If He was calling me to it - He'd make a way. So I leaped.
Within three months I was given an opportunity to have a roommate who needed a place to start her life over. She'd been through significant trauma and was in need of a safe place to get going. I said yes.
What was left of my GI Bill provided a modest housing stipend that paid my rent. I took on odd short-term jobs such as house-sitting and I was hired to build a website for a small similar ministry in Nebraska. I was scraping by, but my needs were met.
Meanwhile, I continued pursuing my graduate degree in Divinity. I continued serving in the equine ministry I loved. I started weekly Bible studies at a youth drug inpatient rehabilitation facility an hour away, I served in my church's youth group, I partnered with a ministry helping people discover their God-given design and wrote the workbook for their program, I built and managed a website for a Christian counselor, and I started a business with a friend that does team building with horses for businesses and organizations in the community. I started writing the Victim to Victorious Devotional that accompanies the original book.
Then COVID 19 swept across the world. Everything shut down. I questioned whether I was to remain in ministry or not. I decided to persevere and wait with God.
As life started to get rolling again, my roommate decided she was ready to move out. My GI Bill ran out. In May, I found myself staring at a rapidly depleting bank account, less than 10% of my needed income trickling in, and the businesses and ministries that had the potential of making money were still months away from seeing any return.
I had a decision to make: Return to secular work and keep my home, or continue with ministry and trust God to provide what I needed.
I spent a day fasting and praying.
God asked me four questions:
What did I promise you?
What did I ask of you?
How are you doing that?
What's the problem?
He reminded me that in promising to take care of me and provide for me He never said I'd get to remain in the house I had, or that I'd get to keep my possessions and independence. All of which are things that Scripture says hinders - more than it helps - our dependence on Him.
So I decided to continue with ministry, and trust the Lord would take care of me. Within hours I was reminded of a housing opportunity that came up six months earlier. Back then it wasn't the right time, but perhaps it was the right time now.
That opportunity involved moving in with a woman in her 80s in need of a roommate with enough healthcare training to be able to keep an eye on her. In exchange for cooking her a meal once a day, reminding her to do the daily activities she needed to do, and ensuring the house remained safe for her to live in, I would be provided with a rent-free room, shared bathroom, and some board.
It was fifteen minutes from where I did the majority of my ministry. It was on a stretch of property with beautiful mountain views. It was quiet. My dog was welcome. And while the circumstances will be more humble than my current residence, God provided. I love that He provided what I needed in a way that fulfills my call to live a life of ministry.
Could I have done ministry in a full-time secular job? Absolutely. Ministry is a lifestyle, not an occupation. In this season God has shown me that this particular road is not as much about what I'm doing for others as it is about what God is doing in me and in our relationship.
Would I trust Him to take care of me when I couldn't see how? Would I tell people of his goodness even when I was losing what I wanted to keep? What was my heart condition, truly, in the face of going "all in" and betting my entire livelihood on Him and His word? Would I continue to tithe 10% of every ounce of my income even when it wasn't enough to pay my bills without tithing? Would I let him meet me in those insecure and fearful places?
These are the deep waters this adventure has taken me into. But why do this at all?
Because He asked me to. I said yes because I knew in the midst of this adventure, however long it would last, I would get to know God in a more intimate way than I'd ever experienced before. That, to me, made it worth it.
Knowing Him, loving Him and experiencing His love in tangible ways surpassed anything else I wanted in this life. Nothing else would do. I just wanted Him.
I'm beginning to understand Paul's words a little better when he wrote, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." - Philippians 3:8, ESV.
This adventure continues, and I move in with this lady at the end of the month. I trust God will provide what I need to pay the other essentials.
He's never failed me before.
You may not be in the same position I'm in, but I'm sure the Lord is inviting you to join Him in something you've possibly never done before, some radical movement. Take the leap. Watch Him catch you.