July 17, 2014

Rocking the Identity Crisis

Today was another awesome day for me. I completed one of my last interviews for my Church in Crisis project. I have to say that I am enjoying the interview process. I blogged about my insecurity a couple weeks ago, and I wrote about how apprehensive I was feeling at the thought of sitting down to talk with people about their experiences during the crises at our church. I was hesitant about asking personal questions, and I didn't know what to expect from the interviewees. Would I get a range of emotions or would I get reflective analysis? I was hoping for the latter because it would be easier for me to process and then interpret for my research study.

Over the past three weeks, I have interviewed about 11 individuals -- a range of people -- from staff to members -- spanning all ages. I have been so blessed during the interviews, and I have come away with fresh insight into each person's own experience and perception of the crisis. I have learned a lot of information as well -- some of it pertinent -- and some of it not. I have heard stories that now have been confirmed by more than one individual, and in many ways, my heart is broken at what I learned from them. I have seen hurt, a lot of hurt, and some deep wounds that will need healing. Overall, though, I am impressed with the integrity of the members, their willingness to share these experiences, and I feel that I have a good handle on the research outcomes. I am blessed. I am so very blessed.

Case in Point

Today was extra special for me. I spent the morning and early afternoon talking with someone I love so much. I had the blessing to interview Bobbi Jo, our interim worship leader, and I came away from our time enriched and empowered to embrace my missions calling. Bobbi Jo has a deep and sincere heart for Africa. She has been to Kenya twice, visiting our church's sponsored missionaries, and she has brought back with her a desire to help a local Luau tribe build a church. The village she visited has recently become Christian, and for their village to be recognized by the government as having a church, the building must be a permanent structure (with walls and roof).

Last December our church raised money for this village, but somehow that money was never used for this missions project. The issue is that now this village, so desperately in need of money for their building, is waiting on our church to deliver the needed materials. It is such a heart-wrenching situation, and it is one of the many scenarios I uncovered during my research study. I don't mean to point fingers or to lay blame, but something needs to be done to right this wrong. These kinds of "issues" often occur when organizations are in the midst of a crisis. My prayer, of course, is for the truth to be brought to the surface, and for wrongs to be redressed.

As I sit here today, I am reminded that throughout a crisis, whether personal or professional, there is always the possibility for change to occur. God uses crises as a way to get our attention, to get us to stop what we are doing and to focus on what He wants us to do. Most of the time, it is His way to get us to stop trying to control the situation. We want to be in control, we want to direct the program, and we want to avoid pain whenever possible. This avoidance of pain is a good example of the Pleasure/Pain Principal -- the phenomenon that states humans avoid whatever brings them pain, and embrace whatever brings them pleasure.

I was thinking about my own life and how often I will make choices that are comfortable for me. I prefer to live within the parameters of my box (as my son likes to joke). My box is perfectly suited to my lifestyle, and it accommodates me well. I am happy in my box. Everything is in order within my box. I don't need to step outside my box because I have everything I need right inside of it. The problem with living in a box is simple -- your view or perspective is limited by the confines of the box itself. Four walls, a ceiling, and a floor do not always make for the most accurate view of reality.

God calls us to step outside our box, to open our eyes, and to consider a wider experience. In doing so, we are able to minister to others, in our families, our homes, our churches, and our communities. If we refuse to look outside our small window, then we will miss out on opportunity for God to use us in far greater and more meaningful ways.

This "box" analogy stuck with me today when I was speaking with Bobbi Jo. I was sharing my story of the Masai in Africa (actually my Professor's story -- one that he shared with us this past June). After I had finished my story, she shared her story (of her travels there). I mentioned that in many other cultures people learn through oral storytelling. I then went on to say that my dissertation will be on faith stories or narratives and digital storytelling. I still don't have the details fleshed out, but I feel that this is something the Lord wants me to pursue. I also feel that my work with crisis communication and my focus previously on relationship building is central to His calling on my life.

Point on Perspective

My box was fairly limited a few years ago. Back in 2010, I was settled in my life, working towards a graduate degree in English, and I was planning how I would manage in my newly singled person life. I wasn't divorced yet, but I was waiting on the Lord for His provision and His plans. I was working toward becoming an English teacher, and I was thinking that I would remain single my entire life. I never anticipated that my life plan would change or that I would be where I am today, studying for a PhD. I am now moving on a completely different path than before. While I am still pursuing teaching, I am now learning as much as I can about crisis communication and response strategies because I believe I am to use this knowledge specifically for the church and for ministry. I don't know where the Lord intends for me to live or where I will work once I graduate from Regent -- but I can say that my life will continue to be shaped and moved by His hands until I am right where He wants me to be.

My life is blessed, abundantly blessed, and I am ready to step outside my box and begin to see all the opportunities the Lord has in mind for me. As an introvert, embracing change, meeting new people, standing out in public, and speaking my mind freely are scary endeavors. I would rather sit behind the computer screen and chat then to engage people in real face-to-face dialog. Yet, the Lord seems determined to put me into positions whereby I have to be recognized. I know that with experience, I will be more comfortable with the process. I may even come to enjoy it. It is just like interviewing. I was panicked initially, and after several good interviews, I feel so confident, so comfortable with this aspect of people-building. In fact, I am tempted to say that I am excited about doing it again, and again, and again. Yes, the Lord has asked me to step outside my box, and to consider His World from His Grand Perspective. My life is open to experience this change -- within me -- so that I can be used in greater ways for His Kingdom work and to bring Him Glory.

Thank you, Lord -- for these experiences, these shaping experiences that are changing my views on so many things. You have opened doors for me, introduced me to new friends, and shown me how exciting life can be when it is surrendered for your purpose. I trust you now to bring to me the people, the purposes, and the plans you have for me so that I can be fully immersed in your work. May your Name be praised today and forever more!

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