Victory on the Vine is a weekly column, published every Friday here at The Well Report Media Ministry Blog. “From Resurrection to Renaissance” is a multi-part series, divided into four sections: The Death, The Burial, The Resurrection, and The Renaissance. Below is Part 1 of The Burial. For the three-week discussion of The Death, click here, here, and here.
Dejected and bewildered, I maneuvered myself through the maze of rush hour traffic to pick my daughter up from work. It had been twelve hours since we had walked out of our home for the last time. I thought I would exhale when I closed my front door that rainy morning. Instead, I felt like a car that was hydroplaning, drifting to and fro, waiting to be buried in a watery grave.
Navigating the rain-drenched streets towards downtown, I thought about how my ministerial sojourn began. It began in the fall of 1994. I had been working at an area children’s hospital when the Lord let me know it was time to enter this next phase in my life: full-time ministry. I was eager to obey His command; however, I thought about all my personal debts. What do I do about all my bills? I asked my Co-laborer. As I waited for Him to reply, I worked part time jobs and temp jobs and with each work assignment, I grew increasingly restless.
During that time, He reminded me that this wasn’t the way He intended for me to do it. He intended for me to step away from work completely and depend on Him. I obeyed.
One day an ex coworker called asking if I had gotten a letter from our former employer. I told her I hadn’t. She said the department we worked in had been audited and it was discovered that she and I were owed back pay. I told her that I was certain I wasn’t due money. She insisted that I was the other person they were referring to and since I had worked there longer than she had, I would probably receive more. Sure enough, within a matter of days, I received a letter, confirming.
When the money finally came, it was enough to pay off my car, credit card bills, and the $1,000.00 pledge I made at church. I was even able to take a mini vacation.
I remember the day I went to pay off the car and Visa. The woman at the credit union said that they had tried various ways to contact me, regarding my outstanding debts.
“It was like you were hidden. Every letter we sent came back and we couldn’t reach you by phone. We even sent someone out to look for the car.” she said.
I smiled that day as I realized, God had hidden me as He worked His master plan.
“Wow! You’ve done good,” she continued, looking on as I wrote out a check for my entire debt. She had become quite familiar with me during the time of my credit union membership.
With my debts behind me and my calling in front of me, I needed to focus totally on Him, and my husband was well aware of the time, attention and dedication this would require.
One warm Spring afternoon during our courtship, I asked, “How do you feel about having a wife who is called to full-time ministry?”
“Oh, I don’t have a problem with that. My mother is in ministry,” he replied assuredly.
I should have probed.
There’s a difference between your wife’s ministry and your mother’s. The sacrifices are different, I should have informed him.
This conversation repeatedly played in my head, during our turbulent times.
Six years into our marriage, I went to my husband and told him what I heard the Lord say. He assured me that we would be okay.
“I won’t let you starve,” he promised that day.
I knew my Co-laborer had gone ahead of me and spoke to my husband’s heart concerning this matter. My spouse confirmed this on the day we settled on our house.
“The Lord told me that all this was gonna work out, if I trusted him. I know that,” he said as we discussed me entering full-time ministry and us entering our new home.
However as quickly as he made peace with it, he became disturbed by it. He started making acerbic remarks about my calling and capabilities. And he didn’t stop there. He also seemed to be talking to colleagues and mutual friends. Some of his acquaintances started making snide comments to me. At times I would even hear small details of our home life laced in Sunday morning sermons.
One afternoon as I relaxed in the family room, my husband was standing behind the couch peering down at me.
“Too bad your ministry is going to fail,” he said smugly. “I mean, I feel bad and all and I did what I could to help you, but you are going to fail,” he continued, no longer able to hide his disdain.
I stared back at him like someone had just told a joke, and I was waiting for the punch line to sink in.
Who said anything about failing? I wondered, laughing to myself. I don’t think I responded at all to the comment that day. I didn’t have it all figured out; nobody does when you are living by faith. However, failure never entered my mind.
Now I realize my spouse thought he had the power to control my destiny. It hurt when I discovered that he thought my ministry was something he could talk me out of. When it dawned on him that he couldn’t, he set out to destroy me.
At times I marvel at how, even in this day and time, some people still view women ministers as make shift or second rate. We fight in the same army: we fight the same enemy and should receive the same honor!
One day during my devotional time the Lord spoke. “I’m your source,” was all He said.
I thought I would see miracles similar to the financial one I had experienced when I received the back pay. I thought people would walk up, giving me the saint’s handshake, placing money in the palm of my hand. Maybe bills would be amazingly canceled or speaking engagements would come in abundance.
Instead, there were days I would have to eat dry baked potatoes and quote the 34th Psalms or take pennies to the gas station.
There was even one night we had no lights. I went downstairs and danced before the Lord in the dark. As I danced and sang “As the Deer,” a warm dim light started filling the room. I looked out the window to the backyard and it looked like a spotlight was shining on the grass. Looking up in the sky, I saw the moon, brilliant and powerful. I don’t recall ever seeing it shine that bright. There was a skylight over the landing upstairs. The moon was so luminous, it lit the staircase leading to the bedrooms. I worshipped Him that night through my tears, realizing He had been faithful to me once again. Glory!
There was a satellite dish on the roof. My husband had long discontinued Direct TV. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the television and, aside from receiving the local channels, we still received two cable channels: The Word Network and TBN! My daughter and I would lay on my king sized bed and religiously watch Video Gospel and Gospel Grooves, sometimes dancing around the room, hysterically laughing. At night, I lay there alone, soothed by powerful voices assuring me I’d make it out alright.
Those times were painful and humiliating, to say least, but to feel His presence beside my bed as I cried myself to sleep some nights, to feel the warmth of His smile over me when I praised Him, to experience His overall sustaining power and peace that no man can provide, I would go through it again! I understand now what the Apostle Paul meant when he said he would rather glory in his infirmities so that the power of God may rest on him.
There is much gain in losing!
When I reached my daughter’s work place, I told her I was going to the Holiday Inn. I suggested she go to a family member’s house. “Nope, I’m staying with you,” she said.
Deep down, I was glad she chose to stay with me. Or was I? I still needed to sort through the garbage bag of emotions that was bunched up in my head. I wasn’t sure if I wanted someone with me during that process.
The hotel lobby was filled with weekend travelers and business opportunists. A church was having a Friday night service in one of the conference rooms. Usually when I would see the saints, my face would light up and I would happily go over and strike up a conversation, like a child on a school playground. That evening, I was afraid to look over at their candle-lit faces, lest I recognize someone or they recognize me. I was certain that would happen. I stood somberly at the desk while the clerk found a room for us, wondering if my face still glowed like theirs.
The clerk finally found us a room in the back of the hotel. I didn’t request this; perhaps God did.
Once inside the room, my daughter and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was glad to be able to provide something for her that night: a peaceful place to lay her head. One of the hardest things during that time was not being able to provide answers for her. I felt like a woman, trying to breastfeed her child, long after her milk had dried up.
As I prepared for bed that evening, I looked over at my daughter, who had already fallen asleep in the full-size bed beside me. Her facial expression and breathing seemed more placid than the day she was born. But she wasn’t a baby anymore; she was a full grown woman I had grown to admire.
When my husband and I were still together, my daughter once overheard a dispute we were having over money. Usually, she didn’t interfere but that day, as she prepared to leave the house, she paused on the landing between our bedrooms and said, “Mom, take my ATM card and pin number; go get whatever you need,” diffusing the situation.
She had always seen me strong and independent. Seeing me so vulnerable was hard for her—and for me. One thing I think she and I both gleaned from this is that when you love someone, it’s easy to support them. One day during one of our many heartfelt conversations, I expressed my concern about her helping me. I still wanted her to go on and live her life. She said that day, “Mom, you have taken care of me all my life. I can do this for you.”
She knew the hardships I had faced as a single parent, the shame and ridicule, circumstances very similar to what I was currently facing.
Over the years, I had discovered the many parallels between birthing vision and natural birthing.
As I lay there, trying to grasp a good night’s sleep, I thought about my other child: the ministry.
Why had I lost custody of her? Did I give her enough care? When will I see her again? I lamented.
Staring blankly in the dark at the ceiling, I searched for my feelings. In that hour, I wasn’t sure what I should be feeling or who I was. The more I writhed over this, the more vexed I became. As I grappled in the dark, I felt my Co-laborer hand me a weapon, to help me slay the dragon of misery.
He handed me Psalms 127:2: It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.