About a year ago, my faith community said yes to a thirty year vision of allowing new expressions of church to be birthed through them. There were a few months of development, prayer, dreaming, talking and listening with leaders before we tested it with everyone else. When big things were shifting, I kept some notes about how it was all feeling.
Then I promptly forgot about those notes until today. Here you go. It’s for anyone whose part of something new and maybe feeling a little stuck. Maybe something here will give a moment of clarity like they did for me. We need you to birth something new in this world: a new community, a song, a piece of art, a story, a business, a child, a relationship, a new dream. Go for it! We’re right behind you.
What do you do when something is being birthed through you? You do less. You’re gentle with yourself. You rest. The vision has energy reserves to grow. Less manipulation and busy work from me. More growth from God.
You expect fear and doubt. You’re not surprised when they surface in unexpected ways.
You expect others to forget. Vision leaks. You hold it closer and deeper than everyone else. It feels lonely at times. You remind people of the new thing emerging.
You feel very emotional. Often. Because the new thing that’s emerging for others first has to go through you. Which means you are changing. Letting go of more and more so you can be filled with something new.
You allow mixed feelings. Excitement, adrenaline, joy, fear, anxiety, doubt. Somehow they all mix together and make your stomach feel like it might implode. But what if the work of God gives you a stomach ache? Do you wish it away? Go back to life as usual?
I am so used to avoiding anything that feels like anxiety. So to walk into it on purpose is far beyond anything I thought I could ever do.
You keep opening your hands, over and over and over. Because apparently you aren’t in charge anyways. And when something significant is birthed through you, you quickly learn what requires your attention and management and everything else fades away. There’s so much I don’t need to know. It’s quite staggering how focused I am on the biggest part of this vision. I don’t need to know details really at all. I’m focused on making sure I can simplify this vision as much as possible and paint a picture of what could be. Details will come.
And I’m focused on caring for our church and walking with them as they encounter a new possibility.
You take a risk and stand up and throw seeds all over the place to prepare your community to birth the vision through them. You find deep delight in knowing why you share what you share when you share it. And trust that people will know more when the time is right. You feel content that moment is not today.
You aren’t surprised when the vision doesn’t feel as exciting as it did at the beginning. You make the time to remember and refresh and reconnect with the importance of the vision. You remember what you saw at the beginning and affirm it’s still true.
You get distracted for moments or days. Evil would love to see me distracted. But then I remember in one glorious second that this thing is going somewhere on purpose and I can breathe deep again. It puts everything else in perspective. No more bursting energy driving us in 15 directions. One image, one story, one vision is calling us in that direction. We won’t get there in a straight line on a direct route. But it’s my job to point us in that direction.
You learn again and again whose vision is really is. I got the honor of seeing it for a moment. But this is God’s idea of what’s possible. Freedom.
You expect it to feel fuzzy to others at first. You resist the desire to clarify everything. Allow them to struggle with the ambiguity too.
You make space to realize again and again this vision could never be controlled. It can never fit into what I fully understand. It will always be bigger than my box, my perspective, my calendar, my sermon series planning. This used to feel stressful and anxious. Now I feel more free than ever before. I don’t have to control this! Someone else holds it all. I merely open a few doors in our community and God gets to work.
You try to make peace with the truth that you’re about to introduce tension into your community. As someone who craves balance and calm and peace, I’m about to upset the fruit basket in the name of Jesus.
A few months after everyone knows about the vision and feels on board, a new team is unleashed and you realize how spiritually tired you are. This is heavy lifting, even though it often felt light. An intentional season of rest and filling up is required. You try to trust the rhythm will be whole on the other side, even when you feel drained and poured out.
Almost a year later…
You realize all of this is still true. Vision leaks. The story must still be told. But I know now that my story telling doesn’t determine God’s activity. My storytelling chases behind God’s incredibly precise movement trying to make sense of what’s unfolding before our eyes. All I can do is pay attention, be astonished and tell people about it. Thank you, Mary Oliver.