It’s Messy

Daniel and Jenica Van EssenStoriesLeave a Comment

A sun sets behind a roller coaster, making the roller coaster a silhoutte

As an IW on home assignment, this year is all about having an opportunity to share stories in local churches, during Sunday gatherings, small groups, and over coffee. Whether or not it is actually the case, I feel this gnawing pressure to offer Instagram-perfect soundbites. Let’s be honest, conversion stories like the Apostle Paul’s are pretty flashy and amazing, definitely much more appealing than the Apostle Peter’s fumbling forward in his walk with Jesus, one minute declaring that Jesus is the Messiah and the next being rebuked for not having the concerns of God in mind.

The stories I have seem much more like Peter’s roller coaster. It feels inauthentic to only share the Instagram-perfect moments, like stuffing all the mess in the closet when guests come over for dinner; however, the alternative feels vulnerable and scary, like inching uncomfortably close to feelings of failure.

As I was wrestling with this in prayer I felt God assuring me that the lows do not negate the highs because the story is not finished yet. We cannot let the lows steal the joy and praise of the highs because that just reeks of Satan’s destructive plans to steal God’s glory. I also felt the Father gently pointing out those familiar identity lies that He is graciously and persistently rooting out in my life: my worth is not in what I can produce or prove.

So, in defiance of social media culture and as an active step away from my identity lies and in the direction of the truth, let me tell you a story.

Laura, came into our church gathering because she had a friend who had invited her. That friend had been praying for and inviting her for two years! Laura was scared as she came into the gathering, but as the worship started Laura felt something she had never felt before. She began to cry and felt compelled to take off all the bracelets she had relied on for peace and protection. That day Laura began to take steps toward Jesus and leave witchcraft behind, pushing into vulnerability, confessional living, and learning to rely on God as her only source of power, peace, and protection. Over the months, Laura grew in her desire to be baptized and on the Sunday of her baptism her mom, who had said she would never set foot in an evangelical church, came to watch. I had the immense privilege, as her primary discipler, to baptize her!

Then, Laura’s mom, who had been battling cancer, ran out of treatment options and the months of suffering toward death began. Laura was her mom’s primary care giver and during that time she was practically unable to work which created great financial stress. Laura was only able to make it to our church gatherings sporadically. I sat with her in her heartache and stress and prayed with her, bringing her food hampers when I could. Her mom passed away two days before we left for Canada and I was unable to be there for her velorio (Mexican version of a visitation/funeral).

Right now, Laura is distant from her church family. I fear that in her pain she is shutting herself off from God and turning to her old sources of identity. It breaks my heart. But I have to believe that God is pursuing her heart, that this is not the end of the story, and that this current state does not negate God’s glory in the other parts.

Will you pray with me for Laura?

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