“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Cor 4:15)
I always lived as a lone ranger – independent, alone, fighting my own battles, learning from own mistakes, and this was not a deliberate choice. Bitter experiences with leaders I trusted forced me to go into my own shell, fend for myself, protect myself, improve myself, defend myself, prove myself and even cover myself.
I never ever had the joy of being mentored by a loving pastor. I did have leaders I worked with, but never a close relationship with any of them – or at least, not a relationship I could trust. Most of them were more interested in “what I could give” and were very performance-centric and controlling (some, very controlling). I don’t blame them nor do I hold anything against them. And this post is not about them. But it is important to know where I’ve come from so one can appreciate and honor the worth of what I have now.
I believed I am the only one who will ever defend me, protect me and stand up for me, since few of my closest leaders looked like they were heavily disappointed in me, so I became this Lone Ranger wanting to do everything myself. Basically, an orphan (in the spiritual sense).
But … God’s kingdom is all about relationships and partnerships. We are called the body of Christ for a reason – that’s how closely knit we are supposed to be. We are supposed to have good fathers. Right?
I never had one, until I met Pastor Zack.
I will never forget the sitting in his home church, and mentally preparing my new comer’s speech, waiting for my turn to flash my smile and introduce myself … I almost stood up and Zack said, “Joy, sit down,” and I had to flash another smile, this time, to cover my embarrassment. Why would he insult me like this? What went wrong?
And then, after everyone got their new-comer-chance, Ps. Zack said, “Joy stand up. I’d like to introduce our person in India, who is doing amazing things for the Lord …” I lost the chance of introducing myself, but gained the honor of being introduced by my father. What an honor!
But the words that stuck with me were “our person” – why did he say that? When I later asked him, he told me to just get used to my new ZCIM family. He said, “I’m paying for all your gigs from now on. You are mine.”
Why would he pay? It is “my” ministry. What is he going to expect, if he pays? Do I send a “report” every month? Will he ask me what I preached? If I am ZCIM now, what work do I have to do?
A wounded soldier
You see I was still operating under a law mindset, though by now, I was preaching grace radically. And from my past experience, to have someone as your pastor meant a whole lot of work. I worked like crazy for the church, all my life. I served and served and served. And since I was “multi-talented” I was guilt-tripped to use “all” of my talents, all the time. How can I not? You are supposed to serve with all you got.
And my talents happen to be on-stage talents, and so I was in the spot light most of the time. Though it intimidated others, it felt like home for me. Plus, God’s anointing on everything I did made me successful every time. Any department I was made in-charge of would ultimately shine and become the talk of the town (church town). And I was moved. Whenever I shined too much, my leaders would want to downsize the glory out of fear or robbing God’s glory, (which he placed inside all of us, but nobody knew) since we are to give glory to God and not take anything to ourselves. Their way of “cutting my wings” was move me to a new department, or put me on discipline or observation, as if I was a criminal.
If I did something wrong, I was never confronted in love, instead, I was just moved out, without any explanation but with a smile. I was “put on hold” without even my knowledge. I was “being disciplined” without knowing it. But man, I still worked hard and burned the midnight oil. I was almost unstoppable, a wounded soldier who would never give up. I would get back in there, and serve my Lord all over again.
I know what it is like for the church to accept my talents but reject me; to trust my abilities and not my character; to love what I do, but not love me; to control me but not empower me.
So when Pastor Zack came along and took me in, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Trust me, if he had asked me, “Joy, do you want to join us?” I would have thought about it a million times out of fear of being a disappointment. I love that he was just so fatherly to just take me in.
The problem was he became my father, but I never became his son.
The orphan spirit in me was longing to prove myself to my new father. Where is the work dude? If he is my new father, where is my field? Put me to work!
For me, sonship meant work. For Zack, it meant relationship.
And the first Brazen Grace Conference was my answer. I worked like a dog. I was available 24/7. I was eating, sleeping, drinking Brazen. It was a good conference. I did win the approval and appreciation of my father, and I was happy.
Not for long. I was chatting with Zack and he gently revealed that I was very competitive, quite an independent worker, which meant I was not a team player. What? I slaved and slaved and I get this in return? I sobbed till I dropped in my husband’s arms who seemed to agree with Zack, and that made it worse.
I have disappointed my pastor on my first task! Here I was, trying to prove I was recruit-worthy, and it backfired.
What’s wrong with being a solo player? If others don’t it, I will do it. Besides, I always won the praise of my leaders for getting the work done. Somehow, it wasn’t working here. I figured, I need to start shielding myself. Words like these would confuse me:
Joy, where have you been?
You better keep in touch with me.
Joy, I have big dreams for you.
So he wants me to keep in touch with him, always. He is not just happy sharing awesome revelations from God’s word. Now he wants more than I was willing to give. And why would he dream for me? I’ve got my own dreams, my own vision, my own plans, my own ministry, my own everything.
I even had well-wishers tell me that I better stick to being the independent person I was; that I am better off working alone, and because of by bitter past, I better stay solo and independent. That word ‘independent’ was my theme for life. “They (Zack) better know that you have your own thing going on, and when you find the time, you will work for him.”
I was back with my “independent shield” in place.
I found a new home, but I had my own baggage and I am not moving in with these parents (Zack and Pris). I would visit occasionally. I was not ready to open up all my bags and unload in front of them. What if they see something they don’t like? What if my pastor saw my flaws, my weakness, my worst fears? (Truth is he saw right through)
My biggest fear was not unwrapping my bad-side but unfolding the good side too. I hid my treasure chest deep inside where no one can find it. That is where I was exploited the most. Better hidden. How can I open all my talents from my treasure chest and get hurt all over again? I do not want people to “use” them again, for their own selfish benefits.
Funny part was this pastor was not even asking for it. He was so happy I was preaching the good news of grace. He never asked me to send my sermon notes so he can scrutinize it. He seemed to actually trust my leadership too. If I ever asked him what to speak, he would say, “Ask the Holy Spirit.” I mean, this Zack guy did not want to have any control over me. He let me be.
I could not enjoy the beautiful relationship I had with him, because I was such a slave. For the first one year, I was stuck-up, stubborn and defensive.
Apparently, many tried to talk Zack out of taking me in. I know now, that my haters could never throw their stones at me because they had to go through this high and strong wall called Zack, to get to me. I was fully protected and covered and I never knew it or enjoyed it.
Slowly, little by little, the Holy Spirit helped me to open up and settle down in my new family. He does not want me to be an orphan. I understood he wants me covered, and Zack was my new cover and I’d better accept it. I finally shed my outer covering, and accepted this new love that I found.
I will continue to write in detail in other posts, about how I moved from being an orphan to a son, but in this post, I just want to introduce you to my new father.
I was all alone, an orphan trying to find a home. I had many instructors, many teachers, many guardians, but truly, not a single father. Paul makes that distinction very clear – there are instructors, who just want you to attend their churches and hear their sermons. They are good at dispensing their knowledge for free, but it stops there. They want you to sit in the pews, do your duties, pay your tithe, safeguard their reputation, protect their insecurities by right behavior all the time – it is like a school. And school is not family. (No matter how much you love school, would you want to shift your bedroom there?!!!)
Family means unconditional love; love that is not dependent on your works.
Right now, I am in the midst of family. I am loved by a good good father. Zack loves me for me, and not my talents. He is very encouraging and very appreciative and thinks the world of me. But love comes first, everything else later. I am allowed to make mistakes, and I love being rebuked by him. In fact, I have moved to being so secure in this relationship that I look forward to his rebuke, because his rebuke always thrusts me ahead, it is like a giant leap into destiny. I am not scared of being corrected now.
I do not want to be independent. That I should be, was a lie from the devil. I am in a family now. I am inter-dependent. I belong here, in this relationship. I am not here to slave and prove my worth. I love being covered and protected.
My life has changed, because I found my father. And just like my heavenly Father, Zack is my good good father, and I am loved by him.
I am not alone anymore.
I am a son.