I was the kid pushed out of line in a class softball game. The other kids didn’t want me to make them lose.
The Physical Education department of my local high school didn’t want me either. “She’s a liability,” the department head said. “She’ll get hurt and her parents will sue us.”
College administration wasn’t sure about my degree pursuits. “Why don’t you major in rehabilitation so you can stay with your own kind?” They quickly soft-soaped their words. “After all, you would be such an inspiration.”
Of all places, you’d think I’d find acceptance for my physical limitations in a seminary hall. And I did. While professors expressed concern over my ability to keep up visually and wondered privately why I was even there, they were willing to let and help me try, and let God have the final word.
“You’ll never land a located ministry because of Karen’s eyesight,” he told my husband in front of me.
Part of my response makeup is to say, “Oh yeah?” The comments spurred me on. I’ll show them. I’ll show everyone that I can succeed at a normal lifestyle despite my legal blindness.
Deep inside, the comments reverberated against my sensitive emotions like a tolling bell. “You’re not good enough. You’ll never make it to the big times. You can’t even make it to first base on a Little League team.”
We did serve in several located church ministries, but they weren’t mega-church positions. They were small, family sized congregations tucked into the back forty acres of rural America. And because a preacher’s tenure is often defined by prevailing public sentiment, we were let go from several ministries for vague, unsubstantiated reasons. Each time, I inwardly asked, “Was it because of me? Because I’m not good enough to stand in line with the rest of them?”
Motherhood didn’t help my sagging self-confidence. The first time my child crashed into a doorframe, putting a goose egg sized bump on her head, I blamed myself and my inability to see.
I so wanted to be the perfect mom-combination of Elizabeth Elliot and Mrs. Cleaver. I wanted to do great things for God and make a difference in the world. But I had this eye issue and all the accompanying emotional baggage. I figured I needed to be content with being an outfielder in a Little League existence and do what I could do with what I had. Yet something inside me told me God was bigger than that and while I was weak and insignificant, He was not. I could persevere not because I could make it on my own but because I could do anything He called me to do through His strength.
This week, I appeared on the radio broadcast of the international ministry, Focus on the Family, to share what God has done in my life. (See the video here.)
God works best with ordinary people.
The Lord lifted scrappy little me, damaged and dented according to the world’s standards, gave me a story to tell and the strength to tell it. He took me from the backwoods of Christian ministry, filled my mouth with tales of His wonder, and set me on an international platform.
Perhaps you’ve thought only important, talented, extraordinary people get to do great things like be on Focus on the Family, preach to thousands, or do some other great thing. Maybe you wonder what kind of connections I had to get a book published or do what I do: it’s a who you know and what you know kind of world, right?
God can use any of us.
I’m here to tell you, it’s not. God can use any one of us to proclaim His name. And for reasons that often don’t make sense to the rest of the world, His people of choice often are the weak, ordinary, and obscure rejects. For the greater our weakness, the greater the contrast of God’s strength working within us.
All those people I thought were so great in God’s Kingdom, had it all together, and were where they were because of a cushy life? They’ve had their struggles too. Despite who they are, what they’ve done, and what’s been done to them, they too have persevered and prevailed, and God has used them in mighty ways they could not have done on their own.
Paul said it this way:
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV
He also said,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”2 Cor 4:7
When God chooses to use the transformed lives of weak, insignificant, world-rejected, obscure people, great things can happen for His Kingdom. He only asks that we be willing. Willing to go places we don’t think we can go. Willing to do things we think—and others have told us—we’re not capable of doing. Allowing Him to use us to share His love and goodness with others because we’ve experienced it for ourselves. We know deep down we didn’t deserve it, but He bestowed it anyway.
What God wants most.
Please, my friend, don’t use your past to pigeon-hole what you think God can do with you. Your story may not end up like my story. God may have different marching orders for you. But God can do great things with your life and take you places for His name’s sake that sound utterly impossible.
We need to be available, to say, “Lord what do YOU want me to do?”
We need to be faithful, someone God can depend on to follow through with what He has asked us to do.
And we need to be teachable, humbly admitting that God’s way to do things is truly the better way.
Don’t give up on yourself. You are important to God. And He wants to do great things through you.