About 12 years ago I was in my early twenties, had strong opinions, and a mouth that got me in trouble repeatedly by voicing those opinions at inappropriate times and in the wrong way. I had just married Mark, began youth ministry as a pastor’s wife, and got the opportunity to work at our Network Office in the youth department.
It was truly a life-altering chance to work with hundreds of youth pastors and oversee conferences and camps that impacted thousands of teenagers. If I wanted leadership training, I was about to be immersed in an experience that would mold and shape every part of me. Honestly, I still don’t know why my boss, Troy, hired me. If I were him, I would have chosen someone else who didn’t always speak their mind in such a harsh manner. God must have whispered in his ear, knowing that I needed what was about to come my way.
Troy’s wife, Jana, also came with the package. Jana is kind, loving, and tactful…a far cry from who I was! She would be written into the story of my life in one of the most clarifying moments I would ever have. That turning point came at a retreat we were on in Leavenworth, Washington with a group of youth pastors. One of those pastors said something that irritated me and I quipped back with an awful and snide comment. That kind, loving, tactful woman shot me a look that I still remember. She lead me to a hallway and set her tactfulness aside. That morning her rebuke cut like a knife. She bluntly let me know that I was not allowed to speak to anybody like that – not just as a leader, but as a Christian. She did not mince her words or coddle me at all. The “love” of Jesus in her looked alot like the love of a mother bear protecting her cubs…and I was the hunter. I was literally crushed under the weight of disappointment both in her eyes and at myself.
Over the years of having to correct other people just like I was corrected that day, I have seen a common reaction…most people attack back when confronted with their own failures. They blame their rebuker for “how they said it” or simply disappear and leave church or ministry. I could have made that choice that day. Trust me, I wanted to. Everything in me wanted to push that disappointment away by making it someone elses fault. But I went a different direction that morning and it made ALL the difference in literally the rest of my life.
I cried. I cried like a little baby in Jana’s arms. Not just a little cry, but the kind that ruins your makeup and makes your skin blotchy. Then, I apologized to her, I took responsibility, and with tear stained cheeks, I went back to that youth pastor and asked for forgiveness. And then I opened up my life for Jana to dive in again and again to correct me EVERY time I failed. And she did. And it was ugly.
Now, over a decade later, I may still hurt people with my words…we all do, but it is definitely a rare exception instead of the norm. And last week Jana texted me to tell me I should write a book because of how well I use my words…oh, the irony. I thought back to that day in Leavenworth and laughed. Thanks, dear friend, for encouraging me to use my words for God’s glory, but more importantly…thanks for calling me on it when I didn’t.