Re-assessing "success"

While we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to read a book called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.  I picked it up off my sister-in-law's bookshelf (and took it home, sorry Trish!  I'll send it back.) and devoured it.  The wisdom in it is so TRUE.  Basically it reminds Christians that what the world considers success is not usually lined up with what God considers success.

For example, a pastor with a charismatic quality and a congregation of 2500 would be considered successful by most people's standards...but if he is living an adultrous life or stealing from the tithes, he is an abysmal failure to God.

Stated that simply, it seems perfectly obvious that that is true, but God has pointed out to me this last few months that the "Success Syndrome" is something satan uses to permeate our thinking and cripple us.  He has shown me this with different events at our church that have been small, but completely successful because of the unity and love involved. 

Most prevalently, He has revealed this to me through the class I've been teaching-Childbirth & Beyond.  At first I had 2 moms registered and then another showed up.  I was happy and hopeful that we would get the full 10 I had been praying for since He planted the vision in my mind's eye.  Then, slowly, I watched 2 drop away and though we gained one more, only graduating 2 seemed like a failure.  I was grateful for the 6 lives I was touching, (mom, dad and baby x 2) but I was curious why God would let me "fail" though He had given me the inspiration, the material and the date to start.

After reading the book, I had a new outlook on success, but it's hard to realize how deeply a lie penetrates until you start to unearth it.  It takes a while to dig it all up and to see exactly how stuck there it was, though the sprout seemed so small. 

I started thinking of my girls in a different light.  I always loved and appreciated them and was happy to be serving them, but now I started to think of new ways I could serve them.  Instead of nervously teaching the material that God gave me, that I was not necessarily comfortable with, I would say things more boldly and pray more fervently.  I would make the material personalized to the moms I was speaking with and I would ask personal questions about their lives.  I don't pretend that I am even good at this, but I would say that I have a pretty good relationship with those 2 mommies.

Now I need to back up a little.  Let me tell you the story of Nina, who found my class quite by chance:
Shanna (from Arlington-over an hour away from me) contacted me about my class in the very early planning stages.  She was intrigued and wanted to help.  I involved her in all of the planning process and she donated many items that the class needed.  She wanted to advertise, but she wasn't sure anyone would want to drive from Arlington to us.

Pregnant Nina was in the Arlington mall when she saw Shanna nursing her baby at a bench.  She walked up to Shanna and asked her a couple of questions about nursing.  After Shanna answered her questions, she turned back around to wait on her husband and older son.  Then she had a thought and turned back to Nina.  She said, "you know...you should check out this class being offered called Childbirth & Beyond."  Nina went home and registered right away. 

She lives 30 minutes from our town, herself, so her being there was all a very obvious "God thing" to me.

She was due at the end of October, so toward the end we started corresponding via the internet, since she could not make it to class for the last few sessions.  I talked to her every day the week of her scheduled induction.  She had desired a natural birth, but the date for the induction approached.  Thursday night, knowing she would have to go in on Friday morning, I asked her how she was feeling and if she was ready.  We talked a bit and then I said, "I sure wish I could be there to help you."  And then she confessed that she had really wished I would be there, but didn't want to "overstep her bounds."  I told her that was silly and I would do anything in my power to be there.

So Allan went to work for just a few hours Friday morning, I packed a bag and prepared myself for having to leave her once I had to go to my scheduled shift at Denny's.  After talking it through with Allan and our pastor, I decided that if she was in "hard labor" that I would call in and not leave her.  After all, surely God would not prefer me to be at Denny's waiting tables on a night they never actually need me (they overschedule on Fridays) to being with a laboring woman who needed support.

On the way to the hospital I was a nervous wreck.  I called everyone I usually call for moral support and no one answered the phone.  I finally decided to call my doula from Corbin's birth and she answered and gave me lots of tips and encouragement.  I love how God gave me exactly what I needed-but not until after I had prayed!

When I got to the hospital at 12:30pm, Nina was hooked up to pitocin and had just had her water broken.  Nina was doing alright, so I wondered if she had had an epidural already.  She had not, she was laboring on her own, just like she wanted to.  She then introduced me to her husband and her mother-in-law.  Her MIL looked at me and said, "yes, I know you." and I stood there with a panicked feeling rising in my chest, because I had absolutely no idea who this woman was.  She said, "my good friend, Jennifer...you are in the homeschool co-op with her, right?"  I said, "yes..." wondering how on earth Jennifer (the president of the co-op group!) would have associated me with this woman's daughter-in-law.  She said, "She told me about your childbirth class so I could have Nina attend, but when I told Nina about it, she was already enrolled."

Color me FLOORED at this point.  Because, what some people might call a strange coincidence, I see God written all over!  He knew she would need me and I would need her and He made sure to put more than one messenger in her path to get her there.  What if Shanna hadn't turned around and told her about the class?  Then Jennifer would have passed on the message.  What if Jennifer had failed to find value in the class and pass the info on?  Then Shanna would have delivered the message.  Maybe there were even more messengers that I have no idea about.  The very most amazing things about this are 1. She doesn't even live in my town!  Whoda thunk?  And 2. That God allowed me to see that He had carefully planned things this way.  WOW!! 

So I had the express privilege of attending Nina's birth of baby Joshua and helping her and her husband and both sets of grandparents.  I have never, outside of birthing my own children, been a part of something so amazing and awe-inspiring in my entire life.  I finally got home at 3am and was a physical and emotional wreck all Saturday.  After getting some rest on Sat night, I had a God-perspective on the whole situation and was ready to celebrate the graduation of these 2 women from the Childbirth & Beyond class with much gusto.

I cannot explain the feeling I have other than to say that I feel like I now have a grandchild.  I feel as if my very own daughter gave birth and gave me the amazing opportunity to be there.  And after exploring that feeling and being slightly alarmed by it and praying on it, I came to the realization that it says several times in the bible that when we lead someone, we become their spiritual parent.  Hence the feeling!  I really, truly, deeply love Nina and Josh and little Joshua.  I am so grateful for each of their lives and that I am a part of them.

And I had to run up there after church yesterday and get my baby fix.  And I want desperately to go up there again today, but the car broke down again and I have to take the kids Trick-or-Treating tonight (I am honored to do this, as well!  I love making memories with my earthly, physical babies!) so I will just look for any opportunity to get up there sometime this week and I will gladly "overstep my bounds" until they tell me not to anymore ;)  Because God knit us together and made a beautiful tapestry that will always hang on the wall of my heart.

So 2 things...
First, God is so good and His measure of success is so much better than ours.  I could have had 10 girls in that class and never really gotten to know any of them very well.  But instead I had 2 and I know them both intimately and have been invited to one birth and told I would be called at the onset of labor for the next one.  Anyone can see this is a much greater success-to be involved in the changing of a family tree!

And Second, helping a mom bring a new baby into the world is MUCH more fulfilling than any day at Denny's, but hey...not everday can be a birth-day, right? ;P

Love and miss you all!

1 comment:

Mary said...

You are so amazing, my friend! And, I guess; to be honest, it's the Jesus in YOU that is really amazing. I love that you and your family give of your talents and gifts the way you do. We pray for you guys and want to support/encourage you guys to keep on! Love you lots!