The Sheltered Life
Parents having become volunteer home missionaries (Biblically described as carpenters, today known as church planters), I was raised much like a preacher's kid ~ among preachers, evangelists, missionaries, summer workers, and such. In fact, dad was a licensed preacher, too. Only, not feeling called to lead a church in the pastorate position, dad chose not to magnify that office, by way of ordination, so as to not lose his position as a church deacon; as would have otherwise been a requirement, within our given denomination.
Additionally, our home was the 'Home away from Home' for countless people in spiritual need and the hangout of teen preference. So, we experienced 'church', every day.
Mother also having the gift of teaching (for which there was always one more lesson to learn) and being the best example I have ever been blessed to witness of someone who truly walked in the Spirit, I was not ignorant of such things. In fact, I was mother's pen. Whenever God would give her a new song, poem, or other words to share ... my job was to run and grab a pen and pad then write, as fast as I could, as the words flowed through her. And, even though I hadn't the first clue as to shorthand, I was the best available; for which we, thereafter, would manage to make out all the scribbles.
But also, while growing up, my service was welcomed in the church. Though it might not have happened that way had we had additional mature laborers, there was no forbidding of literal or spiritual children in serving our Lord ... only a general avoidance of passing on information to the one who gossiped.
At age 12, I became the church pianist of choice. Serving beside mom, we transformed the unwanted nursery duty into a real ministry. On occasion, I taught a children's class and once directed the children's choir, always worked in VBS, and many etceteras. And, I must have had some wisdom even then, as adults would come to me for advise.
Among other things, when an adult suddenly resigned from their elected duties, I revamped the church library and served as church clerk.
Younger sisters being welcomed to serve also, we improvised a bus ministry. Joining forces, we went on visitation, most every Saturday (except when we used the phone), and built our youth into the largest group within the church. Then, with dad's driving assistance, Sunday mornings were busy picking up loads of children and teens in our family station wagon.
Though, however we served, it was often said we did a better job than adults ... not just better but 'way better'. In fact, at one time or another, I've served in most every church elected position except preacher, deacon, music director, and treasurer.
However, even though not elected for such, I once discretely did hubby's job as the church treasurer, too ... mostly because I liked doing it. Though, it was dad who warned me to keep a low profile on that one, due to other's fears regarding the church's money.
So, while we females did let men take occasional bows for our service, for a greater good, we never heard of such a doctrine as people supposing to live balanced lives between church and family. That's about the same as separation of church and state. The church was our family and our life! Thankfully, our service was never belittled, disregarded, disrespected, or under valued; regardless of age or gender. Had that happened as children, we might have thought God to blame.
All this is to say I received 'what now appears to be' a rarely given opportunity to serve (apart from acceptance of the gift of prophesy, which was not then recognized or understood); sheltered from prohibiting doctrines of men.
Only, as one grows up, moves away, finds a new church home, then moves again ... my service became less and less welcomed, my family name further not known (sometimes elected into assistant positions for the purpose of training men for those roles) until, one day, I looked around only to discover I was a nobody. Having been stripped of identity, I was no longer a preacher's kid or any variation thereof. All referenced childhood training was spat upon. I was not the right gender, not thought good enough to serve for whatever legal reason was invented next, and certainly not of qualified substance to teach a man anything.
Even so, I would have met guidelines for the privilege to serve. And though I tried, the ever-changing rules of acceptance never did end.
Though, occasionally, under false pretense, request would be made for credentials or some other form of infallible proof as to my calling. I'm a Christian! That's it! Would anyone like to say, "Duh?" And, since when did anyone have to prove good enough, at anything, to serve God? Can't you see the Spirit compelling me? The Spirit doesn't lie. So what if God didn't give me an eloquent speech. I don't like the limelight, anyway.
All I really wanted was for people to stop running interference, second guessing God's heart when He'd show me people that needed love. Then, if people couldn't do that, to give me a title wherein I wouldn't have to explain every time I breathed in the church building.
Little is always much, when done for our Lord. Psalm 37:16, 1 Cor. 5:6 (And, having been welcomed while only children, we proved it to be true.) Faithful is he who calls you who also will do it. 1 Thes. 5:24
What was the matter with these people? There were holes in their bags! Blind guides, I guess. (But no, I didn't shout ... even though I could provide a good sermon for them, now.)
There was no way I could doubt in my heart but what such doctrines were wrong. After all, I had been an eye witness and testament against such fallacies. But besides that, regardless of their lack of acceptance, God never stopped calling and that was the torment of it all ... to hear the cries of God's wounded, to know the plight of their souls, to see destruction in the making ... without any consideration that God might actually be capable of speaking to me, too; a female, of all things! Only God knows how many times I stood in the gap and sobbed in intercession for His wounded saints.
Having personally declared war on Satan (which is another story), he used the corruption of the church to try and destroy me.
With scripture quoted every which way but up, in order to validate positions of authority and their agenda, I began searching to 'know' the truth. And, having declared this war on Satan, even more so, absolute understanding of God's intent was required (on every given subject matter) ~ so my walk and service would always be under the umbrella of His protection.
Thus, the more they persecuted, the more I ran to God. Then, as I searched and researched, the more I learned, and the stronger I grew ... 'til my faith became my own. Only, through this, God didn't make it any easier, as He kept gifting me for more areas of service thought only men could do.
Then, having once shared of the incredible growth and learning I had discovered with my Heavenly Father, that had been shown to and also rejected by the church, dad said if I had been a male having brought this to church leadership, they would have set me up as some awesome teacher/leader, to say the least, to be highly respected and learned from.
Dad was silent for a moment, then shook his head and said this never would have happened had I been male. And to this day, it brings tears to my eyes to remember my dearly departed daddy for this ... as a reminder, when no one in the whole world did, apart from God, my daddy believed in me.
None-the-less, life became harder, still, mostly because legalists don't stop until 'til they destroy the body; which turned out to be a good thing because death finally puts an end to the curse of the law.
So, yes, I, too, know the mourning of being separated from one's mother's womb, rejected by church and family (all I had ever known, loved, or placed any additional faith in) in order to follow a higher call. And though most are not visible except to the spiritual eye, my body bears the marks of having given God all.
The signs of the times are in God's children. Isaiah 8:18 But if your wounds were not to that degree or you thought such as a wheel chair had separated you from your church, thank God you were so spared!
The righteous perisheth,
and no man layeth it to heart:
and merciful men are taken away,
none considering that the righteous
is taken away from the evil to come.
Like most of you who are reading this, I am among the Persecuted Church, longing to be 'welcomed' home ... also knowing that, once truly welcomed, captives will finally be free; including you and me.
However, I would not change the fellowship that came in knowing the sufferings of Christ. I would not change having discovered God to such a degree He is my life. I would not change having overcome battles that were intended to keep me from knowing whose I am, who I am, and the purpose of my creation. And, I would not have changed my time here with you, all my fellow brethren (wounded and, if there be any, whole); my church and my family.
We built websites. We planted church communities. We developed, grew, and sometimes transformed ministries. We reached out to the world. We valued our aged. We welcomed the handicapped into service, again. We embraced people from around the world and welcomed whatever each had to offer; the only requirement being having a heart for it. We opened doors; providing opportunity, skills, tools, and labor.
We proved Christians can serve in unity, regardless of doctrine, for a greater good. We lifted the fallen. We mended wounds. We offered unconditional love. We shared truths to help others overcome, too. But mostly importantly, we learned to listen from our heart instead of our eyes or ears. In such, we became heavenly cheerleaders; the universal church ... sheltering each other from the rudiments of the world.
Having way surpassed the structural church, we did sooo good! And now, in the end times, we are the ones most trained for Kingdom building. Matthew 5:10
It is the structural church our lost sheep; the ones with no shelter or sure foundation. And for all the true sob stories we can share (enough to make us all cry were the details known), Jesus still thought the structural church was worth saving, worth dying for.
We are exhausted beyond reason, for a reason; pulling us away from our universal shelter because our calling isn't finished yet. It is time to rest in God until we're rejuvenated and ready to go again. Only then, we have a new assignment, the one we were created for ... to bring God's children home.
If that means returning to the hurtful church of our past or learning to love a new one, follow God's leading. And no matter what you see or hear, if it isn't love, it isn't true and you are the one most qualified to know the difference. 1 Cor. 6:4
It's your turn to be a shelter. Don't accept, receive, or give anything less than love ~ as love is God. Then, when persecution comes, shake the dust off your feet and keep going. Only, this time, it won't hurt so much ... because it was your choice.