In the meeting fellowship, there are two callings for your life: Saint or servant. Or, another way of putting it; Worker or friend. (Being a friend is another word for being a layman) I was 46 when I left the Work. By the time most of the friends reach their middle years, they have been married for years. So leaving the work and being a part of the “saint” world is really difficult to become a part of because you have very little in common with them because you have never been married, had children, owned a home, had bills, or worked among “outsiders” (their terminology). I have struggled at times with feeling a failure as a woman, not as a person, because I have never been a wife, mother or a grandmother. Just evidence of more cruel messages from Satan.
Sometimes ex-workers marry another ex-worker and they attract quite a bit of attention for a while mostly because folks aren’t used to seeing them in that role, but after a while, people get used to seeing them together and life goes on. But ex-workers who don’t marry are often misunderstood and it’s not an easy place to be. For whatever reason, some just don’t get married and people jump to all kinds of unfair conclusions. Yes, ex-workers have “issues” but come on, everyone has issues no matter where you are living and hiding!
So another adjustment upon leaving the Work was to finding my new calling in life and discovering my God given gifts and then figuring out ways to use them. I wrote in the previous paragraphs there are basically two acknowledged callings for a person’s life but scripturally there are many more along with gifting that are never discussed or acknowledged in any meaningful way.
Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, 14:1, 1 Peter 4:10-11 in the NIV translation. I love 2 Timothy 1:9
“He has called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” Verse 6 “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” We DO have a God given gift! Paul goes on to tell them to tell of his gifting and calling in verse 11: “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.”
Romans 12:4-9 tell us that first of all, we have to openly acknowledge that we all have different gifts.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is in serving, let him serve; if it is in teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.’ (Emphasis mine)
The key phrases bolded in this section point out the meeting fellowship’s failure to acknowledge that we have God-given gifts. There are many with various gifts that don’t necessarily include preaching but could be used and encouraged with the backing of the ministry in really beneficial ways elsewhere in the group. I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t when these gifts are all really good things and used for a good purpose.
I remember one time when this subject of gifts actually came up at a morning Bible study at preps. An middle aged brother was acknowledging that he had a gift of writing but sadly, he had very limited time and opportunity to use that gift because his worker life was filled with so many other things he had to do and be which were not his gifting. Again, the fact that gifting is not acknowledged is a travesty, and this brother’s situation was just one case of this. He could write the most beautiful and eloquent letters, and had things been different for him in that group (he has since passed), he could have written a book that would have been rich and full of God’s grace and majesty. He truly saw the Lord high and lifted up.
We all know that many workers do not have the gift of teaching or evangelizing yet in that system, all are forced to try. It’s very hard for some workers to do this and it makes it difficult for the listener as well. Some excel at being a good listener instead. Some have the gift of wisdom. Some are encouragers. Some excel at serving. Whatever their giftings are, you can recognize them by how and when the worker was the most peaceful, the happiest, most energized and the most content. Whatever part of their day (week or year) found them this way, was when they were operating according to their personal gifts.
When were they the most stressed, uncomfortable? This was when they are being forced to act outside of their gifting, and trust me, no one benefits. It doesn’t mean you never get outside of your comfort zone; but getting outside of your comfort zone in the area of your gifting is where you grow and stretch. Yet the workers are forced to perform in areas that are just not suited to them and so….it leads to stress, “nerves”, depression, frustration, and health issues. What a waste of talents. I have seen countless workers have to rest or leave the Work because of these very issues; issues that could have been avoided if the meeting system operated differently.
When I was young, I felt I had a calling into the Work. I question that now but there is no point dwelling on that. Then, I felt I had a calling to care for my mother her last years. I knew I was right when I should be those years. Since her passing, I have struggled to find my calling again. I have seen it in glimpses now and again but not in complete clarity. This blog has been part of that answer to God’s call which is to write and encourage. What I have thus far failed to mention as far as being an adjustment outside of the Work and then for me, ultimately outside of the meeting group entirely, is replacing all the misinterpretation of Scripture I had been taught and taught myself with what is Truth. Getting the Pharisee-ism out of me like Paul the Apostle had to do for his first 3 years upon meeting Jesus. I think that is why it has taken me such a long time to find my way again. There are still un-scriptural messages running around in my head that are keeping areas in my life stuck. I continually have to pray for wisdom, understanding and clarity. But at least I have the freedom now to do that and the air to breath to do it in. Thank you Jesus.