I felt so insignificant as I made my way up to the speaker in the front of the room. She was surrounded by women of all ages. Some just wanted to give her a tearful hug. Others held her book in their hands looking for a note of encouragement and an autograph. I just wanted to ask her how? How do I take a broken life and allow God to use it for His glory? Is it possible that a girl rejected by her earthly father could actually be chosen and set apart for a divine calling? How did I get past the place of not even being able to make it through the day to proclaiming God's love from the podium?
I waited in line until it was my turn. Then as I opened my mouth to speak, my throat tightened, my eyes filled with tears, and all I could squeak out was an emotional, how. I wanted her to take me home with her and teach me. I wanted her to pack me in her suitcase and whisk me away from my life and into the life of one making a difference. I wanted her to share some quick-and-easy answer, a "step one-two-three and then you'll have the life you dream of, all for the low price of attending my seminar," type answer. But she wasn't a magician, or a slick salesman, or a woman looking for a new houseguest. She was a woman who'd experienced deep hurts and bitter disappointments, chosen to surrender her life to God and was now being used by Him.
She did not give me the quick, easy answer I was looking for. She didn't give me any profound wisdom or direction. A simple answer of how she got started was all my time in line allowed and then I found myself making my way back to my seat. But I wasn't heading back empty and without hope. What this speaker lacked in words she more than made up for in example. I had seen Jesus in her. I had seen living proof of God's redemption. I thought to myself, If God could do that with her, there's hope for me after all. The birth of something new, big and God-directed was revealed to me and confirmed in my heart in an undeniable way that day.
Things did not happen magically and immediately. There was a waiting period, a time of growth, development and perseverance that I had to go through for God to get me ready. There were lessons on patience, trust, surrender, letting go, and learning to take hold, that had to go before I stepped out. But even in this seemingly ineffective time of pruning and trials, God was preparing me for a season to come. This was not a waste of time. This "getting ready" period was an important part of fulfilling my calling. Though I couldn't see much fruit, God was getting my vine ready and healthy enough to be able to hold all He knew was coming.
I left the conference that day excited, only to be hit with Satan's attack. Who do you think you are? Do you really think God could use a woman like you to help others? Satan's whispers were relentless. At the conference, I had felt such assurance of God's calling but back in the midst of everyday life, I doubted. I got down on my knees and cried out to the Lord for His assurance and He met me at my point of need. God assured me that He doesn't call the qualified but He qualifies those He calls.
I always thought to be in ministry meant painting the facade that I was perfect, then I would be a qualified servant of God. I quickly learned that people aren't impressed with fake perfection, they're turned off and intimidated by it! God wanted me to be honest and real. He wanted to shine His grace, mercy, love, and redemption through my faults, failures, and frailties. He wanted to make me strong with His strength. He wanted to take credit for any and all good that would come from my ministry efforts.
As my ministry and speaking opportunities grew, I eventually got the bright idea to write a book. I typed out my speaking outlines in chapter form, thought of some catchy chapter titles, slapped a cover sheet on the rag-tag collection and called it a book proposal. A friend of mine and I naively headed to the Christian Booksellers Association convention fully expecting to find publishers. After all the hardest part to getting a book published was getting it written, right? Well, I quickly learned that couldn't be further from the truth. The wave of rejection letters that littered my desk in the months that followed the conference dashed my great hopes and big dreams.
God did have a plan for me and opened other doors to write smaller articles for newsletters and magazines. The first time I saw my name as the author of a published article, I knew. God might as well have opened the doors to the library and told me to count them if I could, for that's the number of books that would eventually come from my ministry to women. Not that I'd write them all but that women throughout the world would catch a vision for writing their messages and that I could have a part in giving them the courage to do so. I believed that God would one day give me the chance to write a book and I committed to wait on him. I would no longer go chasing after publishers, I would wait until God brought one to me. I took my book proposals, placed them in a file, closed the drawer and thanked God in advance for what would one day come to pass. I believed.
Three years later, I wrote an article for a financial publication. To be completely honest, I thought it was one of the worst articles I'd ever written. But the article made its way into a publisher's hands. He read it, loved it, and offered me a book contract. Only God could do such a thing! I think God wanted to make sure I knew that my getting a book contract had a lot less to do with me and a lot more to do with Him working through me-in His timing.
I was doing the happy dance everywhere I went. God did it! God really did it! I don't think my feet hit the ground for days. I was going to be a published author. I was thrilled beyond belief until a stark reality hit me: it's one thing to get a book contract but it's a whole different thing to actually write the book . . . all fifty thousand words of it. Was I nuts? Why did I want this, could someone please remind me? Do I know 50,000 words? Do I even know 1,000 words that I could somehow tangle together fifty different ways?
Though I was scared and unsure, I started gathering quotes and stories. I assumed a most authoritative writing voice and mechanically typed out my first 10,000 words. I sat back in sheer delight realizing I would make my editor's first deadline. I was to send this first section of the book off to her for approval before continuing on. Like a proud mama of a newborn baby, I nervously let someone else hold my little darling. I couldn't wait to hear her glowing report of how beautiful and full of promise my words were. Instead, I got back a two-page corrections sheet that could basically be summed up with two earth-shattering words, "Start over!"
I got down on my floor beside my computer, buried my face into the carpet, and wept out loud. I cried out to God. On the day I stood before the altar holding my dying dream, I realized I had two choices. I could demand to keep the dream for myself and smother it to certain death in my closed fist or I could hand it to the Resurrector. I placed my book in God's hands and only then did I understand. I did not have to sacrifice my entire book, I only had to lay it on the altar and leave it in God's hands.
God did require a sacrifice, but it was not the entire book project. My sacrifice was my first 10,000 words. The reward was a book re-worked where I found my place as my reader's friend rather than an official sounding expert.
Because I was willing to leave my plans behind, God let me participate in His. Looking back, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I still remember holding that first published book in my hands. Seeing my name on the cover, leafing through the pages, and seeing God's fingerprints all over this project brought tears to my eyes. Once again, I was reminded that the book was not really about getting a book published. That was just an aside, a fringe benefit. The real treasure was walking with God through the project. Being reminded first-hand that God does indeed have a plan. Not just a good plan. Not even a really good plan. God has the perfect plan.
Taken in part from Lysa TerKeurst's book "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith," copyright 2005, Harvest House Publishers.
Lysa TerKeurst is a wife, mother of five blessings named Jackson, Mark, Hope, Ashley and Brooke, and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is the co-host of the ministry's national radio program which airs daily across the nation and abroad. Lysa is the award-winning author of several books, including Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed, Leading Women to the Heart of God, Who Holds the Key to Your Heart?, Capture His Heart, Capture Her Heart, Living Life on Purpose, The Sweetest Story Ever Told and co-author of A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life with Sharon Jaynes. She is a featured writer for the P31 Woman monthly publication and has had her work published in other publications such as Focus on the Family Magazine and Larry Burkett's Money Matters newsletter.
Lysa has been featured numerous times on Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family radio broadcast, as well as many other radio and television programs such as the "700 Club" and Moody's "Midday Connection." She was also the keynote speaker for Focus on the Family's "Renewing the Heart" women's leadership conference and is one of the featured Extraordinary Women speakers. She is a certified CLASS speaker and speaks from coast to coast at women's conferences, banquets and retreats. She and her husband Art also conduct marriage seminars for both men and women. Lysa and her family live just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.