Has anyone ever told you that it looks like you have “bit off more than you can chew”?
Over 2 years ago, I became a foster parent, and thank God, the girls who were my first placement surprised me by becoming my daughters. And now I’m a single mom. I imagine that several people observed my situation and thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew.
But do you know what I’ve decided? I’m blaming my decision-making process on my parents because they’ve been biting off more than they can chew for as long as I can remember. My dad has always been a risk-taker, and my mom has always joined him 100%. In 2016, my dad left the church where he had been pastoring for over 30 years to start what will likely become the nation’s largest aftercare facility for victims of human trafficking (hopecenterindy.org).
He and my mom could have finished out their years serving at the church and retiring comfortably. But instead, at 60 years old, Dad took on the challenge of starting something completely new, exerting his energy to cast the vision and be the executive director of Hope Center Indy. He and his team secured a 25-acre campus to be the location of the Hope Center, and over 5,000 people have toured the facility to support this ministry. The Hope Center received its first residents in August 2017.
When my girls and I were at the Hope Center’s open house on June 25, 2017, I looked around and saw that over one thousand people had come that day to tour the facility. My dad was speaking to everyone, and I told Gabby and Anna, “Sometimes I can’t believe that my dad is the one behind all this.”
But then again, I can believe it—because he’s one of only a few people I know who has the faith and the guts to launch a huge endeavor like this.
The question isn’t… “Is this more than he can handle?”
The question is… “What does God want to do here?”
Seasons with Difficult Assignments
I believe that God gives us seasons of rest and seasons of renewal. But I believe that God also gives us seasons with difficult assignments that will always be more than we can carry.
It’s almost Good Friday, and I think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, so overwhelmed that he was sweating blood. He knew the task in front of him, and he begged God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup [of suffering] from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Then in 1 John 3:16, we read, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Based on Jesus’ example, I’m thinking…since when are God’s assignments meant to fit within our comfort zone? Since when is sharing Jesus’ love with others not met with intense spiritual attack? Shouldn’t we be more concerned if we’re always content to bite off less than we can chew?
I’m not endorsing the idea of doing a million different things at once. If you know me well, then you know that I try to live very simply—I simplify my schedule, simplify my wardrobe, simplify my responsibilities (that’s why we don’t have a dog right now because I’m not ready to take that on as another responsibility lol). I almost always take naps on my days off, and I don’t feel guilty about it because NAPS ARE FREE!
But when God gives us one big challenge, then I believe we need to SAY YES. And the odds are that once we get into the thick of it, it’s going to look and feel like we have bitten off more than we can chew.
At one point last year, I asked God, Who do you think I am? Do you think I’m wonder woman or something? Do you really think I have the ability to navigate all of this? I’m barely hanging on!
During a conversation with my friend Molly last summer, I put my face in my hands and sighed, “Oh my gosh, I’ve done a million things wrong.” I felt so stupid and discouraged.
Molly looked at me for a moment, then said, “Yeah, but, Mary, I’m sure that you’ve also done a million things right.”
I still tear up when I think of her saying that.
Because that’s the truth.
This is what I would have said to myself about this time last year, and it’s what I want to say to you now:
If you’re in the middle of a difficult assignment, don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. Ask God to defend you and to carry you. Ask Him to lead the way and to show His power.
If you’re in the middle of a difficult assignment, don’t feel guilty for not knowing the answers. Don’t feel stupid when you’ve tried everyone’s advice, and that advice doesn’t work. Just hang on and do your best to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Don’t feel weak just because others look at you with doubt. Don’t blame yourself when others want to blame you. You were the one—maybe the only one!—who had the guts to say yes to this mission. Maybe you’ve done a million things wrong, but I bet you’ve also done a million things right. You’re doing the most important thing right: you’re not giving up; you’re persevering in love.
Don’t feel alone when you’re crying in your bed or crying in your car, when your head is pounding, pounding, pounding from your problems and your tears—because God sees you. He hasn’t forgotten you, He still has good plans, you’re still here, and you’re going to feel strong again soon. The chaos and pain are going to last for awhile, but keep trusting and Jesus will soon speak peace to calm your storm.
Peace is coming. It came for my situation, and I would have never believed that was possible. God is good.
Here’s to all of us who took on the big mission. “May God equip us with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)
P.S. Our school’s boys basketball team is playing in the state championship game this Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Jackets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I turned 30 years old last fall. As I think back over the year of 2017, I see that the biggest life lesson I learned is how to steady my heart even when it’s breaking. This was not a quick or easy lesson. For about 18 months, I prayed that God would help me not to walk around feeling like a martyr when my circumstances were painful. I wanted to see past my pain to still be a blessing to others, but I knew that I was often falling short of that goal. It’s one thing to dominate my conversations with friends about my hardships for a season, but when that continues over a year, enough is enough. It’s one thing to be heartbroken and exhausted for a season, but at some point, I had to say, “This is my life, and I have to exude the joy of the Lord instead of the pain of Mary.”
Recently I saw this quote by author Lysa TerKeurst: “Just because we’ve been hurt, doesn’t mean we have to live hurt.”
I paid attention to Lysa’s quote because I knew some of what she had been through in the past few years: her husband’s unfaithfulness and substance abuse, her diagnosis of breast cancer and a double mastectomy. Still in the midst of all that, she had the faith and resolve to say, “Just because we’ve been hurt, doesn’t mean we have to live hurt.”
I wrote down her words because this was exactly what I had been trying to grasp over the last year and a half.
In October, I spent an evening by myself at home, determined to get the house clean. As I did the dishes and swept the floors, I reflected over the past month. I sat down on the stool at my kitchen counter and sighed. So much had happened in that month, and as hard as I was trying to be strong, I was still hurting and knew I needed to help myself process the events of the past few weeks. I grabbed my laptop and started typing it all out. I knew that I could send this to one of my friends as a way to vent. I typed 14 pages single-spaced. Fourteen pages of personal attacks, losses, heavy decisions, etc. Yes, that month had had more than its fair share of challenges.
Yet my spirit was not shattered in the way it had been before. God had built up my emotional pain tolerance.
A few weeks later, I went to my childhood friend Amy’s bridal shower. I had forgotten to get her a gift, but I promised to get her one soon and joked with her that my presence was her gift. Amy hugged me and said that it was a gift enough that I came. I was smiling that whole day because I was so happy for her. My friends and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours talking after the shower ended, and I could feel the shift taking place in my heart. I wasn’t focused on my own pain; I was just cherishing my friends.
Life’s challenges have the potential to make me bitter and depressed. But these days I thank God that life’s challenges are making me cherish the people who love me and to take full advantage of the moments I have to love them too. It’s a mystery, it’s a miracle, it’s something I’m over-the-top grateful for: God is making my heart bigger. Because I’ve been hurt and know that others walk around with similar pains and aches of everyday life, I’m more determined than ever to love others well.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.