Facing Our Hot Mess
Andi Andrew | Co-Pastor of Liberty Church | New York City, New York
I’m just going to get straight to it.
I was a hot mess. A divided hot mess, who wanted to quit “the ministry” with a daydream to purchase a farm to start making cheese, grow my own veggies, and never talk to another soul again besides my own children and my hubs – if he wanted to come along. Look, I’m not always a hot mess – but this was one of those times when I really was.
It had been a rough season, bringing with it churning confusion, anxiety, and pain. Our church had gone through some massive changes and transitions over the previous year and a half and I personally felt like a failure on every front. Disappointment was never far from the door of my heart. With Paul and I as the Captain and Executive Officer (respectively) of our figurative ship, it felt like we were navigating an endless storm with no view of the horizon in sight. When people emailed their criticisms, advice, or suggestions – negative or positive, it brought up deep feelings of hopelessness for me personally. My emotions felt like a field of landmines and I wanted to quit at least once a week. After one particular day of being simultaneously sad and then angry with everyone in sight, I came to a realization: I had counted the cost of planting a church and following Jesus, I’d even kept choosing to pay the price, but when I was really sincere about the state of my heart, I was beginning to resent the cost.
In the middle of this particular season, I was about to embark on a two-week journey to New Zealand to speak at a friend’s church with multiple campuses on both the north and south island. In saying yes to this invitation, I knew I’d be away from my children and husband for the longest amount of time that I had ever been away from them. I’d love to tell you that I was sad to go because that’s what a good mother should say, but I couldn’t wait to get away – not from my husband and kids, but from all of the “stuff” that was swirling around us personally in NYC. I needed to fall in love again with the city that God had written on our hearts and her people – even the critics and knife-throwers amongst them. I needed the space and I needed to heal.
I had a two-and-a-half-day break from speaking, so the church that was hosting me scheduled in a writing retreat in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life: Queenstown, New Zealand. On the first morning of writing, as I lay in my cozy bed nestled next to the fireplace, staring at the vibrant fiery red, orange, and purple sunrise over the mountains nestled next to Lake Wakatipu, I began to silently weep. A mess of emotions and revelation swirled together in a beautiful (yes, beautiful) symphony that brought rest and clarity to my soul. I was alone – alone in solitude, but not lonely. The majesty of those mountains reminded me that when I can’t feel God, or hear and know what to do with my problems or pain, He is there with me nonetheless – and that truly is enough for me. I had a knowing and peace that this too will pass, coupled with a resolve to not ignore the reality of what I was feeling or facing, and how hard that season really was. I partnered with perseverance while love and hope began to take hold.
I read Romans 11:33-36 (AMP) while the sun continued to rise over the mountains that my Father had created with His very words – “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it would be paid back to Him? For from Him [all things originate] and through Him [all things live and exist] and to Him are all things [directed]. To Him be glory and honor forever! Amen.” AMP
I saw myself clearly in that moment – the pride and the pain – and I saw who God was with me in the middle of it all – big, majestic even, yet present and oh so personal. He is vast and unsearchable, yet He chooses to reveal Himself to you and to me, cultivating maturity and bringing about healing. He is always there, replacing my pride and pain with His love and faultless point of view.
Too many times destruction comes to our marriages and ministries because we’re not honest with God, ourselves or someone we trust – if we even have someone that we’ve let close enough. We don’t slow down and instead, shove pain down, allowing the enemy to whisper in our ears, taking the bait, as we spiral down into negative thought patterns that sink into our hearts and eventually come out as viable ways of thinking and living.
We all need purposeful solitude to think, feel, reflect, pray, and become mindful of God’s love, goodness, words, and character, all of which cause us to see and live with clarity when it all feels like it’s falling apart. We begin faking it when we allow people or things to fulfill a need that only God can. Our emotions can be indicators, pointing us to take a look at the state of our hearts, but if we ignore our emotions and visceral reactions for too long, we’ll become career fakers, avoiding landmines, living from the outside in, instead of from the inside out. We have to find space to heal, connect, listen, contemplate, and rest in our ever-present help in time of need. If Jesus didn’t fake it, and He needed time alone with the Father, we are invited to do the same.
Making It Practical
- Do you like being alone to your own detriment – “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV) – or are you a chronic extrovert, avoiding being alone with your thoughts and God to process because you’re afraid of what you may discover in purposeful solitude? What are you escaping? Write a list and choose to go there. After you do, ask Father God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit what they have to say about the things you’ve been sidestepping. Is there anything to pray into? Any conversations that need to be had? Is there a piece of scripture you need to be reminded of? Maybe it’s time to replace a lie with the truth once and for all? Write down all of the goodness that comes to you from the Father’s heart.
- How can you be more intentional with your days so as to prepare to have totally unobstructed and undistracted time with God for even as little as five minutes a day, consistently? Also, maybe it’s time for a “mountain top” getaway. What can you do to make plans for this?
- Consider making a worship playlist of some sort. Compile your favorite songs that speak to you and cause you to run to the throne room instead of your fears. Play that song list as often as desired, even when you may not have time to read your Bible and journal. Maybe it’s while washing the dishes and praying, driving and praying, on the subway (okay, this might only be me) and praying, or folding laundry and praying as worship washes over your soul.
- Is it time to see a counselor either for the first time or for a tune up if you’ve been before? It could be on your own or with your spouse. Sometimes scraping the bottom of the barrel is the very thing that saves us from a path of destruction, because Jesus is right there at the bottom with us. You’re not alone.