By Amber Ginter, Crosswalk.com
I've been praying a lot lately. For the Lord to help me in this season while longing for the next one. But I never knew sorting my thoughts from His own could be so confusing.
In 1 Corinthians 14:33, Paul writes that "God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people" (NIV). He goes on to explain that when one hears from God, they should weigh carefully what is said. The KJV even calls God our Author, that is, the source of our peace and direction.
A Firm Calling
Since age 14, I've felt the immense calling to write full-time. I went into education because my parents said it was a safe career. They didn't believe I could make it as a writer and called it a "starving art." It wasn't that they didn't believe in me, but they didn't want to see me struggle. Education seemed like a decent fit because I knew I could use my gift of writing in combination with my social skills.
And yet, as the years of teaching have gone by, I've still desired to write. And not just as a hobby, but full-time. Live, breathe, eat, and sleep something with a pen and a notebook. Something that cries out from within.
It wasn't until I joined the Author Conservatory nearly two years ago that I began to have hope in this future.
And it wasn't until I lived through a decade of physical and mental health struggles that I realized He would call me to write just that. Talk about a daunting task.
A Daunting Task
These days, very few people want to write about the intersection between faith and mental health. Or if they do, they've most likely got it all wrong. They try to separate what's sacred from what's practical. But God gave us both His Word and things like medication and therapy for a reason.
Those who are most effective in writing about and reaching their audiences on this topic are those who've lived, breathed, and wrestled with these demons. Not because they've magically or wholly overcome them, but because they're still desperately and wholeheartedly clinging to Jesus amid them. And it's my prayer to be one of those people. Even as I'm still living, breathing, experiencing, and walking through circumstances and scenarios I'd rather not be.
Because honestly, I know God is giving me stories, but I often don't want to walk through them.
In other words, God will bring me through it, but what if I don't want to go through it?
The Reality of Experience
Friday at work, I watched two students cheat for another class in front of my face. Later that day, I received an email that a student's friend had committed suicide. Before lunch, I realized a student's parent had committed suicide earlier that week. That afternoon, our school had a lockdown because a student brought edibles to school, distributed them, and caused numerous students to overdose. Our systems are in chaos. This world is certainly not in order.
And yet, I wrestle with my calling. The guilt that I know God is using me where I am and doing wonderful things, and yet I feel empty inside. Teachers around me are also struggling, but their enthusiasm and cheer aren't something I can always relate to. I give 110% every day in my job because I work as if I'm working for the Lord. I take that calling extremely seriously and want my kids to know that I genuinely love and care about them. But I can't describe the feeling one feels when you pour it all out and come home dead inside unless you, too, have been there.
You know you're doing the Lord's work and He's doing work in you where you're at, yet something within you longs for more. The fire within burns with a passion for work you're not completing full-time. For you, it might be a long-lost dream. A hobby you wish could be more. A wellspring in your life that never seems to run dry. For me, that desire, passion, and calling is writing and everything that a career in that entails. And how do I know?
After a day of teaching, there may be a reward of student smiles, or helping one achieve a difficult concept, but after a day of writing, I'm still longing and thirsting for more. I can never learn enough about the intersection between faith and mental health because it resonates so deeply with me. It encapsulates the life I've lived and am still healing from as I put together all the broken pieces.
After a day of teaching, there may be the desire to do more work or get ahead, but after a day of writing, I'm thinking of new ideas, bustling to the brim with possibilities, and smiling ear to ear because of the words God's given me to proclaim.
After a day of teaching, criticisms will make me better, but I often grow weary. After a day of writing, criticisms used to wound my pride, but now they humble my spirit. If I want to truly embrace this calling that Christ has called me to, I want to do it the right and best way. And that means being clear, concise, compelling, truthful, and honorable. Why would one try to be so any other way?
Maybe some of you out there know exactly what I'm talking about. It might not be teaching, but maybe you're in a place where you know God is using you, and yet you know He's calling you to do something different. As my wise counselor told me, I want you to know that the guilt you feel to stay where you are isn't from God; it's from yourself. And if it's from yourself, it's probably rooted in perfectionism, fear, or anxiety. Remember my opening line? God brings peace in speaking to us. Guilt, fear, and shame are far from His character.
Hope for the Future
Friend, I want you to know that it's okay to acknowledge that God can and will use you where you are. Of course, He will. He's God! But it's also okay to embrace and pursue the greater callings and ambitions He's placed within your beating heart. And if you're uncertain, take a look at what sets you on fire. What keeps your flame burning? What do you desire to achieve and work towards even when it's challenging?
There are days when writing is hard. I often feel discouraged, burnt out, confused, and frustrated. Yet something within me always wants and desires more. It's like the well within me never runs dry. And that's what I believe a true calling from God looks like. One that aligns with your passions and desires, but also His will and mission for your life.
It's okay to want change.
It's okay to not want to stay where you are.
It's okay to be scared.
It's okay to face uncertainty and fear.
But it's never okay to stay where you are when you feel in your heart that you were created to do something different. And when the Lord says it's time to move on, you'll know. I pray I, too, can know and discern the difference.
As my writing coach once told me, risking disruption and uncertainty is okay. Risking disaster isn’t. Beginning my fifth year of teaching hasn't looked like I envisioned. It's been much more difficult than in previous years. But am I confident the Lord has a plan amid the chaos? Absolutely. And I'm leaning on His trust for the future beyond it as well.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/BartekSzewczyk
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.