perseverance


As I have journeyed through life I have had different purposes for different seasons of my life.

When I was a senior in high school I took a psychology course. I was fascinated by the concept that there are reasons why people do what they do and feel what they feel. This course was the beginning of a lifelong desire to understand what makes people tick. I subsequently majored in psychology in college, went to graduate school where I earned a master’s degree in clinical social work, and embarked on a career as a psychotherapist. I also engaged in therapy myself as a client to understand what made me tick.

The desire to understand what makes people tick grew into a passion for helping people live healthy, happy lives emotionally and relationally. When God called me to lead a Celebrate Recovery ministry in August 2003, I was given another avenue through which to help people heal the hurts, habits, and hang-ups which impeded them from living the lives they were created to live.

In July 2014 God narrowed this passion to focus on women. He lit a fire in my heart to help his daughters be set free from the belief systems and practices that tell them they are second-class citizens, and stop them from being who God created them to be. I put form to this passion and calling by writing When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream. In this book I focus on how the Christian Church has contributed to maintaining gender inequality in the United States. I hope that the men and women who read it will be encouraged to swim upstream against gender inequality wherever they either see it happening to others or experience it themselves. I finished this manuscript about one month ago. The publishing process will begin in January.

I don’t know what else God may want me to do. I don’t need to know right now. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that he will let me know what he wants me to do. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

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My name is Mary. I’m a recovering people pleaser and approval seeker.

Growing up I learned that other people’s opinions were very important, that their opinions were the source of my self-worth and of love. I, of course, didn’t realize at the time that I was learning these things, however, I grew into an approval seeker and people pleaser PAR EXCELLANCE!

I lived this way for my first forty years on the planet. I then became a follower of Jesus Christ and my idea of where my self-worth and where love came from slowly began to change. As I walked with Christ he taught me that my source of self-esteem and self-worth does not come from the approval of people. It comes from my relationship with him. I am a child of God and therefore I have worth. He loves me, period. Jesus taught me that I cannot and do not need to earn his love. I cannot make him love me and I cannot make him not love me. He loves me no matter what, and he knew me and loved me before he placed me in my mother’s womb.

Fairly early in my faith walk (mid to late 1990s), I started experiencing a nagging sense that I was supposed to do something for God. It kept gnawing at me inside and wouldn’t go away. Though I had this sense, I didn’t have the faintest idea what God wanted me to do. In an effort to try to understand what it was I was supposed to do, I served in a number of different ministries. Though each of these were good and enjoyable and somewhat fulfilling, not one of them felt like the right fit. Each one felt like putting on a jacket with shoulders that were too tight or sleeves that were too short. I didn’t give up though, and eventually I found the right fit.

In 2003 God let me know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he wanted me to be a Celebrate Recovery leader. As I served in that capacity I knew I had finally found the right fit. I knew I was walking in the will of God for my life. This knowing was accompanied by a profound inner peace and joy that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Soon after this I developed my personal definition of success, i.e. to faithfully fulfill my God-given purpose. That definition has not changed. I am now living my life for an audience of One. I am living to please God, not to please human beings. This extends to all areas of my life, not just the ministry I serve in. My ultimate measure of success, which flows naturally from my definition of success, will be to hear, when I stand before God, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Since I put God in the driver’s seat of my life, I have not always been successful in leaving him there. There have been times when I put myself back in the driver’s seat, doing life my way. When I allowed God to be in the driver’s seat of my life, I experienced an internal peace and joy that surpasses all human understanding. The reason for this is that kind of peace and joy can only come from God. When I put myself back in the driver’s seat of my life, I was looking for that peace and joy to come from human achievements and human relationships. What I received was the peace and joy that the world gives. Having experienced both of these scenarios, I can tell you that the peace and joy that the world gives is hollow compared to the peace and joy that God gives. Nothing can compare to that deep certainty you feel when you know you are right where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you were created to do.

I finished the manuscript I’ve been working on. Will be titled When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream. Excerpt:

Those of us who are called to fight for gender equality in the church need to be careful about how we measure success. We need to remember that we can only control what we do, we cannot control what anyone else does in response to what we do. We also need to remember that this change in the church will only come when hearts change, and we cannot change hearts. Only God can change a heart. He may use us as instruments to change hearts, but He is the one who does the heart changing.

As we swim upstream to advocate or fight for gender equality in the church, conflict and controversy will inevitably follow. We need to face it head on and deal with it in healthy ways. That’s what Jesus and the early apostles did when conflict and controversy erupted in response to their efforts to transition people from the old covenant to the new covenant. However, we cannot be conflict creators. We cannot create conflict for the sake of creating conflict. If we do that we are not operating out of pure motives. On the other hand, we cannot be conflict avoiders. If we are conflict avoiders we are operating out of fear, and “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Introduction to manuscript I’m currently working on which will be titled When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream:

Political and social movements which have changed the course of human history have always been orchestrated by individuals with a clear vision, a consuming passion, the courage to swim upstream against the status quo, the willingness to deal with the consequences of swimming upstream, and the perseverance to keep going no matter what.

As a woman who passionately believes in gender equality and lives in Lancaster County PA, I swim upstream on an almost daily basis. It’s tiring and it’s isolating. In light of this, then, you might be wondering why in the world I continue to do it. I do it because I have a dream. I have a dream that the following words of Robert Kennedy, the Apostle Paul, and Martin Luther King, Jr will finally come true.

o“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Robert Kennedy spoke these words repeatedly as he campaigned for the democratic presidential nomination in 1968.
o“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Galatia in the first century.
o”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed these words to thousands of people on August 28, 1963 @ the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

My dream is that children, as well as adults, will be able to pursue their dreams regardless of their gender, rather than being assigned roles based on their gender. Though I have this dream I do not have any illusions that I will lead a political or social movement which will result in full gender equality. I also have no illusions that gender equality will become a reality in my lifetime. Rather, I am hoping to plant seeds for change in some hearts.

Excerpt from manuscript I’m currently working on:

Though Abraham Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator, there is one who came before him who is the true emancipator. His name is Jesus Christ. When Jesus walked the earth in the flesh he “…traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness” (Matthew 4: 23).

Early in his ministry, Jesus told his family, friends and neighbors very clearly who he was and what he was about to do.

“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.’ He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’” (Luke 4: 16-21”

Soon after this, he told a group of Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 RSV).

When you look at the diseases and illnesses Jesus healed, it becomes clear that he was setting people free from all kinds of physical bondage (paralysis, demonic possession, leprosy, blindness, even death) so they could live a life of abundance. When you look at how he related to women and treated women throughout his earthly ministry, it also becomes clear that he set women free from the bondage of cultural expectations so they too could live abundant lives.

“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were
contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.” (Luke 8: 1-3)

Since Jesus apparently included women in his inner circle, we can surmise he did not demand women fit into the limited, rigid roles their culture expected of them. Rather, he set them free from the bondage of cultural expectations and allowed and/or encouraged them to be who they had been created to be. I find it incredibly sad that the church, his hands, feet and heart in the world, did not follow his example in setting woman free from the bondage of cultural expectations.

Watched Harley and the Davidsons, 3-part series on TV. Reminded me that success is never easy or quick, and that it is definitely a marathon NOT a sprint, with many hills and valleys.

I have been lost in the writing zone for the past two weeks. I have numerous chapters each partially finished. Every time I think I finished a chapter another thought pops into my head and I go back and rework it. In addition, I keep changing the order I want to put the chapters in.

I learned a long time ago that part of the creative process is this chaotic disorder. I know that order will eventually come out of disorder, however, tolerating the disorder and letting the creative juices flow is difficult for someone who likes structure.

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