By Jessica Leep Fick
I was ashamed when I realized what I had been thinking: I know how to do all of this stuff already. Sitting with my husband in a seminar for church leaders, we were listening to a lecture on listening to God. Afterwards, on our drive home we critiqued the seminar and discussed what was helpful or could have been different.
After awhile, there was a lull in our conversation. In the pause, my husband admitted aloud the feeling that had been growing inside of my heart: “I’m feeling convicted that even though we know how to do this stuff, I’m not doing it.”
“Yep,” I agreed, “neither am I.”
On the remainder of the drive home, we talked about what had shifted in our lives over the past few months that had filled our time, making it difficult to stop and listen to Jesus. It was a good conversation and we were able to move forward with identify barriers in our schedules. But we also knew that simply talking about it wasn’t enough. To be shaped by Jesus, we needed to actually spend time with Him.
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I have led seminars and preached sermons on listening to God, but when it came down to it, my personal practice of listening to God had been erratic at best.
As I began to wonder why I had filled my mind with voices other than Jesus’ voice, I reflected on the past few weeks. At work, I faced important and stressful decisions that would have implications for our training programs and volunteers across the country. At home, I was struggling to parent my boys in very different styles and manage their school paperwork and activities.
At night, I scrolled through social media seeing the dazzling things other Christian leaders were doing and the self-selected quotes they were posting to inspire others. There were a lot of voices both inward and outward that made me feel like I wasn’t enough.
And yet amidst these voices I wasn’t turning to listen to Jesus to hear His voice above all others.
Convicted by our time with other leaders at our church to listen to God, the next day the Holy Spirit helped me to stop and spend time with Jesus. Although I long for the ideal situation to hunker down with my Bible, journal, and cup of coffee, I walked through the Lego-strewn floor to clear the clutter off our overstuffed couch decorated with cat hair to spend some time with Jesus. He led me to John 15:1-4:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch in me that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Clean. I don’t have to be ashamed that I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I am forgiven.
Clean. His words bring new life and freshness to the places of disappointment and fear in my life.
Clean. I don’t have to prove myself to Him or to others that I am worthy of His love.
The potential for burnout in evangelistic ministry is high. There are disappointments when programs don’t work, or people don’t come through. We can feel like failures or inadequate, especially when it seems like things are going well for other leaders of ministries.
As we’re holding out the truth of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, we also need to hold it close to our own hearts. Let’s do the very thing that is the precious gift we offer to others–to be known and loved by Jesus as He shapes our lives, ambitions, and relationships.
Jessica Leep Fick (@JessicaLeepFick) is the national director of Evangelism Resources for Stonecroft Ministries which is committed to reaching every woman “where she is + as she is.” She is author of Beautiful Feet: Unleashing Women to Everyday Witness. Jessica is married to Dave and enjoys exploring Kansas City with their two sons.