livid

I’m so angry right now that I feel like adamantium claws are about to burst forth from between my knuckles.

that's right- vein popping mad.

It typically takes a lot for me to get angry- usually I just go from confused to depressed, but in this case I am pillow-punching, uncensored journal writing, doing-lots-of-heavy-breathing-through-the-mouth mad. I won’t go into the specific details of the incident that sparked my rage, but I will say that it unleashed a lot of other things inside of me that I’ve been dealing with for awhile.

The incident revolves around my worth as a minister. As you may know, I am a regional evangelism consultant with InterVarsity, a campus ministry. For whatever reason nine years ago, God called me to serve students and the campus rather than going to law school and being a big-baller, shot-caller lawyer.  I have never regretted this choice. I have however, doubted my worth or validation as a campus minister especially when comments like this come up:

“so, do you think you ever want to do this for real?” Someone asked me after I preached at a church. I kindly responded, “well, I do this for real. I have for nine years.” And I walk away from this person wondering if everyone else in the church thinks that the souls of college students and the mission field of the college campus is worth less than those of people sitting in church pews? I wonder why they think, that though I have more preaching experience than the seminary intern who takes the pulpit once a month, they’re viewed as valid ministers while I am not.

since you and your husband work as a team and for the same organization, we’re just going to support one of you.” A board member says to me after we’ve made a presentation for partnership with their church.  I walk away wondering, that though we have two entirely separate jobs with InterVarsity, similar to a teacher and a school board member (and I’m actually in a senior management position!)- am I not worth funding because I’m the woman and the “helper” in our team?

we don’t believe in paying people while they’re on study leave. You’re not actually doing ministry during this year so we don’t think we should support you.” I sit stunned with my husband, reeling that though the organization I work for views my sabbatical as part of my job, and has made the choice that it is important enough for me and my organization to grant me the gift of a focused time of study, prayer and reflection- others view it no differently than if I have decided to stop helping students know Jesus and get a degree in architecture, art history or  turf-grass management (yes, that is a major, and one in fact that I had while I was at Michigan State University!)

“so, you guys are like missionaries or something?” We don’t work in China. We don’t work in Haiti. We don’t work in Ukraine. Our job is misunderstood and unglamorous.  We don’t have the benefit of reporting to our ministry partners wearing native garb from our mission field to fascinate them with stories from far-off places that they’ve never been to, or will likely go to. The native garb I wear to minister to the indigenous people in the bustling unions of Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and Morgantown are skinny jeans, slouchy boots and and a sweatshirt.

these are my people, whom I dearly love.

I go to the dark, spiritually empty places of residence halls, cafeterias and student unions to minister the freeing love of Jesus in a place that says students are only valued as much as they can achieve, how good they look or how prestigious an internship they can secure. And Jesus sets people free, transforms them and the campus to a place of love, beauty, truth and justice.

I know I am called to minister to students and to reach the college campus with the unchanging, unsurpassed love of Jesus. However, recently I spent 20 minutes sobbing into my husbands chest hurt and frustrated that so often people don’t see our work as valid, important or strategic. Angry that people, Christians who support ministry, only value me as much as I can produce- that they are more focused on results than the spiritual formation of me as a person, and the formation of the students and staff I serve.

In the midst of this, Dave and I have been praying that God would be the only one whose opinion we value. That he’s able to provide for us even when people decide to pull their support. That our worth is found in the sovereign God of the universe and not in what we can produce, our savvy words or the degrees we have. Hard stuff to internalize, but Jesus is reminding us of his love and the truth of scripture that is more real than even the painful feelings that we have.

o.k. rant done. pray for me. pray for people who don’t get it. pray for college students who are broken and need the healing love of Jesus. Pray for a world that needs college-educated leaders to serve with compassion, justice and wisdom wherever God sends them. Pray that I’ll stop punching my pillow and that no one will find my R-rated journal.

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14 thoughts on “livid

  1. Wow! I am so glad that you got that off your chest. Lack of understanding and pigeon-holing “valid” forms of ministry have always been a challenge. I think of a dear pastor who ministered to the down and out of society, sharing Jesus one soul at a time. He was not an administrator, he was not that great of a preacher, but my oh my could he evangelize. That matters to God, a lot. Wherever God has placed each of us, with the gifts we have, it is only our duty to prayerfully respond in obedience, no matter what others think or say. Praise God that you are an obedient, wonderful, intelligent, gifted woman of God. That will only get more and more true as you become who you are created to be. Cindy

  2. God has called you, and no man can put that asunder.

    But it SUCKS that people don’t get it. You ARE a minister (despite having boobs). And your congregation is comprised of huge campuses. Just because you don’t preach to them on Sunday mornings does not mean that it doesn’t count.

    And I bet you’re not the only sabbatical person who has dealt with dropped funding because of it. So don’t take it personally. Because you ARE AWESOME at what you do.

    • April- It’s true. I do have boobs. You’ve got me there. Let’s not forget about my hips and booty which comprise a sizable portion of my body 🙂

  3. 😦 i know those same thoughts. the negative words of people who say those things never go away for me either. press on, jessica. moments like these i feel real fellowship from other staff.

  4. Jess, ditto on the responses above. Stand tall, because God does value what you do immensely and has gifted you and hand picked you to be a minister with IV. The truth is not always clear to people, and so we have grace on their ignorance (even when it’s laced with malice). We wholly affirm you in this sabbatical year, to learn, to rest, and to grow deeper in your love and knowledge of Jesus. Praying for you, sister. Look forward to seeing you again in person (we are back in Feb). Bacio, bella!

  5. Thanks for the encouraging comments everyone! I’m feeling better & will probably post a blog soon about healthy ways I attempt do deal with feelings like this. That is- besides and in addition to eating haribo gummy candies and watching Wes Anderson movies.

  6. Oh my goodness! My life changed due to ministers in the university who cared about my soul. I can’t believe that people have made such blunt and ignorant remarks about your ministry. And I totally think you should be paid for your sabbatical; even more so because you come out of it enriched, rejuvenated, and solid. You don’t want to be thinking of the financial stresses while you should be actually focused and in the spirit of learning.

  7. Those are a lot of the same feelings/frustrations that I get (where they overlap with being an Asian-American male); but the calling is from God, and its a good one. (And you’re fantastic at it!)

  8. Jessica,

    Sometimes Satan even works through Christians to try to tear us down. That usually means that you must be doing something right. Remember that we live in Gods love and guidance its just very easy to listen to the world and the lies Satan sends through them. It is a shame that others especially Christians try to tear others down instead of building them up. You are meant to save souls, we are all meant to save souls but you as a pastor have a special calling so cry out to Jesus and have him heal your broken heart so that you can hold your head high and your heart open once again to preach the word to those you were called to. God will give you perseverance to move on.

  9. People have trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that Kristin should be paid for the work she does at Albion, many of the “elders” think that she assists me ( who it’s widely known cook for a living) in campus work. I think think there are a large number of american Christians who view young adult ministry as something that is more like childrens ministry and not missionary work.

    Turf Management… I’ll keep that in mind when i buy a golf course

  10. Pingback: Hope. - gabbing with grace

  11. Jess, I’m a friend of Grace Biskie’s–I found your blog through hers. You have an amazing calling and ministry! I’m finishing up my M.Div. here at WTS, and something stirred within me as I read this. Does IV have positions like yours that need to be filled? I’ll go anywhere, and I don’t mind raising my own support. Some advice would be greatly appreciated! My email is jvzdutch@yahoo.com.

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