If you follow me on Instagram, you know that last week I posted a video talking about an experience I had years ago, where I was preparing to work in ministry full time.
In 2011, before I graduated college, I had been working with my university’s branch of InterVarsity. Greek InterVarsity, the group that worked specifically with students in fraternities and sororities, was a group I had been working with for a while in school. I had led bible studies with in my sorority, had gone to retreats, and was ultimately recruited into a full time ministry position before I graduated.
Everything seemed to be falling into place, and I couldn’t be more excited. As I’ve chronicled here, in 2009 was when I experienced my first panic attack – so college was full of self exploration and discovering my triggers. There was still a lot I didn’t know. But what I did know was that I was trusting God with my future, and trusted him to help me with any anxiety that came as a result.
I remember applying for Greek InterVarsity, and driving hours away for my interview. I stayed with complete strangers – well, friends of a friend, who opened their home to me and gave me a place to stay before my interview. All of this was way outside of my comfort zone, but I followed God’s call anyway.
I remember leaving the interview, feeling nervous but feeling like I did generally well. I had only been on the road for a few minutes when I got the call back – they were offering me a job! I found out soon after that I was being transferred to Clemson University, in South Carolina. I now needed to fundraise my salary (a mere $40k) and then I would be set.
As I embarked on my fundraising journey, I met with numerous families from my church, as well as the pastor of my church, attended retreats and work shops, and prepared myself for a future in South Carolina.
I remember speaking with my assigned mentor part way through the fundraising journey. He was soft spoken, a man of few words (and lots of awkward pauses). I remember him asking me how my fundraising was going and me updating him on my progress. What I didn’t expect was what he told me next.
“I’m not sure Greek InterVarsity is for you. Your anxiety is holding you back.”
I hung up the phone and let that conversation sink in. I was being let go of my job because of my struggles with anxiety. Even though I struggled, I had not let that keep me from fundraising or from pursuing a future at Clemson. Yet, here I was with no job prospects for the future – feeling completely hopeless.
I was told I wasn’t cut out for ministry, because of my anxiety.
When I tell you that hurt…it really hurt. Somehow, the opinion of one man held the future of my ministry career. As unfair as that sounds, what hurt me most was that he hit me where it really hurt – in an area of my life where I had struggled to trust God for years. And now that I felt like I had finally trusted Him…the door was shut in my face.
It’s taken a lot for me to not let the opinion of one person in the church to represent (in my mind) the opinion of the church as a whole.
This man may have said I wasn’t fit to lead, but that’s not what God said.
God saw me in my anxiety and depression, and He said, “just watch.”
Thanks to you, and so many like you, I’m able to host an online platform of over 25,000 people.
If you had told me this in 2011, after I had just been told I wasn’t fit to lead because of my struggles…I wouldn’t have believed you.
I want to encourage you today in a few ways. One: what one person says about you doesn’t define what God says about you. People mess up, and they say the wrong thing. Don’t let them discourage you and make you feel hopeless – that gives them too much power.
Two: if you’re feeling incapable right now because of the things you’re struggling with – I want to encourage you to keep going. Once you’re out of the fog, you’re going to see just how capable you are.
And lastly: I want to remind you that it’s ok to struggle. I shouldn’t have been told that it wasn’t ok for me to struggle. Of course it’s ok – it’s natural to struggle, and it’s expected. It’s not ok to just give up (because you’re worth more than that), but it’s ok for you to struggle with things and take a step back to recoup. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for trying to collect yourself. You know what you’re doing – and you can take all the time you need. xoxo.