Ten years ago, I found myself in a rut. I woke up one morning and realized I was not happy. From the outside looking in, there was nothing wrong with my life. I was healthy. I had a job. I had all of checklist items that are supposed to give us security and make us happy.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert advises, “When the past has passed from you at last, let go. Then climb down and begin the rest of your life with great joy.” I may not agree with Gilbert’s beliefs, but this quote resonated with me.
I am a survivor of sexual assault. Actually, now I live a life in which I thrive. Jesus has loved me in such a profound way that He has taken on my wounds and caused me to be clean, free and healed. Amid my trauma, if you asked me if I thought a Savior would come and take on my hurt and replace it with joy, I would have said, “You’re crazy.” Yet Jesus healed me, and I began to live freely in Him.
Prior to serving in full-time ministry, I worked in radio. I was an on-air personality for a popular station. For all intents and purposes, I had a good life. But life got better when I accepted a full-time position at my local church. I was serving Jesus as my vocation. I was soaked in a community of people who valued Christ. The past had passed from me, but I was not happy. A subtle feeling of emptiness crept inside of me like a wave of gray matter trying to cover all of the bold colors I once felt.
Immediately, I tried to self-diagnose my feelings. I did the only sensible thing a person would do in my position. I Googled. I wanted to find out if I was depressed. According to WebMD, I may have been dying from a number of diseases, but depression was not one of them.
After some self-reflection and journaling, I realized I was not satisfied. I looked in the mirror and did the dangerous thing of judging myself.
“Is this it?” I asked.
“I thought you would have accomplished more by now,” I said to myself.
I felt ashamed. Was not a woman in full-time ministry supposed to be happy?
I cried out to God. I cried out in my prayers. I cried out in worship and in my journal. After a period of surrender, I heard from God.
“Kristy, you have stopped dreaming.”
Had I heard God right? Was it true that I had become comfortable and maybe even a little bit complacent? Was the comfort of my life holding me prisoner from the dreams God had for my life?
Suddenly, Jesus reminded me of His power, that He had rescued me from previous storms in my life. I was reminded of His relentless love through which all things are possible. Jesus reminded me that we are made in the image of the one true Creator, and the power of His imagination lives within our lives. We are God’s greatest masterpiece and, through Him, we can use our gifts to change the world around us. In Christ, we can be filled with so much love that it gives us power to overcome obstacles and love the world around us.
I had stopped dreaming, but God was calling me to dream again.
Prisoners of Comfort
“‘Therefore, I say to the people of Israel: I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and I will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’ So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery” (Exodus 6:6–9 NLT).
How often does an old way of thinking or negative self-talk lock us into a prison of our comfort zones — the prison of doing church the exact same way for years and years? Do we allow our comfort zones to become a barrier between what we are willing to do and who God dreamed for us to become? When we surrender our comforts, fears and complacency to Jesus, we make room for God’s imagination to work in our lives. When we surrender, we begin to become people who help other people.
In that season, God breathed healing, change and growth in me. Stretching is painful, but it helps you get to the next level. Jesus took me back to the place where my heart trusted and took risks whenever He called me to step out onto the water. Christ whispered for me to dream and live for more.
The Call and the Canvas
What is Jesus calling you to do? As followers of Jesus, we are called to disciple, yet how often do we become discouraged? Are we dismayed by what the world has offered, bogged by current events, and broken by the brutality of our own choices and experiences?
We tell ourselves:
My church isn’t growing.
I do not have vision like this or that pastor.
I am too old to dream whatever I have is all I am going to get.
I work so hard, and the church still is not growing.
I am exhausted.
I am stuck.
I do not speak the language.
I do not have the education.
I am a voice crying out to the wilderness, but no one hears me.
Even after God professes His undying love to His people, we — like the Israelites in Exodus 6 — are not brave. We lose courage. Our faith wavers when outside of our comfort zone. Because we cannot see the outcome, we want to remain in safe waters instead of moving forward as Jesus calls.
God is imaginative. We were created from dust yet capable of love. We are impressive! As His servants and leaders of His church, we cannot ever stop dreaming the dream that Jesus had when He told us: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 NLT).
Jesus has promised us a forever commitment — a commitment to love us with an unstoppable love that encourages us to dream, pray, seek, ask, defend the marginalized and mend the broken. Jesus has dreamed a dream for each and every one of us whether you are the church administrative assistant or a volunteer, the pastor of a church of 25 or 2,500. God created us for this time. There is a dream inside of you that only God could have put there, but He needs us to believe that, regardless of our position or situation, we can impact the world through His power. This is the unstoppable, relentless love that will save the world.
Be still. Surrender daily and listen for God. Listen over and over again. Jesus can do so much with a surrendered heart. This is the place where we meet love and are overcome by joy. Happiness is circumstantial, but true joy can be forever.
God is the greatest artist of any lifetime. If you are still breathing, He is still painting.
Your life is a canvas that God is painting.
The Dream Inside
There is something inside of you, a dream. This is the kind of dream that God breathed into Moses as a child although it took a lifetime of Moses dying to self and recognizing that being made in God’s image automatically qualified him as coachable and teachable. When Moses stopped saying no God was able to mold him into a man who would save a generation of people.
How do you recognize your dream? I believe it’s something you already have: a desire or gift — however big or small —you have carried with you.
Moses had His rod. I have my pen. What do you have in your hand that could help change the lives of others?
Recognize that the very thing God wants to use in your life begins with a gift, thought or dream you already have. You will not have to search far.
Next, you have to accept the dream. You must answer the call.
Most of us cannot imagine that God is using ordinary us for something extraordinary. We lead, teach, care for others, do our Sunday thing and go back home to the comfort zone. God wants more.
My church only has 39 parking spaces. Yet a small group of determined people dared to dream. We have planted 20 churches across the United States.
We serve an imaginative God, but we tend to serve Him as if His imagination is reserved for other people’s lives and churches. This stinking thinking must change. We must pray to take God out of the box. We must come alive and encourage life in those around us.
He created land, water, trees bearing fruit, lights in the sky at night, living creatures, and He saw all of that was “good.” But it wasn’t until He made us male and female in His image that He said it was all very good.
According to author Erwin McManus, “He who is the creator God is the creative God, and He created us in His image and likeness. He created us with imagination and curiosity, with the capacity to hope and dream, and He placed within us all the material necessary to live an extraordinarily creative life. The proof is that more than anything else we are a soul, and that soul is the divine material with which we are made to create. The difference between humans and every other species on this planet is humans are artists. This is our uniqueness — we are created to create. Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We have become convinced we were something less. It is time to become more.”
Surrendering what we want and saying yes to what Jesus wants is the first step in answering our call.
How do we live out our dreams? We must be open to love and receiving grace. Sometimes it is hard to break old habits … to do things differently. Changing a service time to fit the needs of your community, changing the order of service to allow for creativity, or canceling a service to serve in the community are a few ways to exit the comfort zone.
Overcoming fear means you need a double portion of grace. God’s grace is all encompassing. His grace allows us the room to stretch in becoming the best versions of ourselves — the versions of ourselves that love others and seek to see the kingdom of heaven on earth. When we are in a loving and devoted relationship with God, you are comforted even when you suffer. When you grieve, you are healed. When opposition strikes you and or the church, Jesus is your loving warrior fighting for you.
How many of us desire to go deeper with God but (often in the business of doing church) forget to be with Jesus?
How many of us have dreams and desires that we have put on hold because we are afraid to step out, or we got halfway and turned around when things felt uncomfortable?
Are we fully tapping into the benefits of being children of the King? God’s love is unending. When we are humble and vulnerable before Him, Jesus is able to do incredible molding within us. Do not be afraid to live out what it means to be created in the image of God. Live out of His love, so that you may love and direct others to Him.
Love conquers fear and doubt. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
Walk in the way God is calling you. Run toward God and allow His love to propel you. Every promise God has ever made has come true. His love endures forever. As Gungor sings (fmchr.ch/gbeautifult), God makes beautiful things out of dust and out of us. Jesus made you and me. We are beautiful.
I have watched God transform my life from tragic circumstances into a life filled with love and dreams.
You are loved by Jesus and covered by His grace. Dream dreams. Live for more.
Kristy Hinds is an associate pastor at Light & Life Christian Fellowship in Long Beach, California, and a member of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California Board of Administration.