“I’m mad at God.”

It felt right and true as the words came out, even though I had had no such thought just moments prior.

I was huddled on my comfy couch with 3 women, one of whom I had met a mere hour earlier, to watch the live stream of IF: Gathering. Months before, when the leaders opened up registration and threw out the fee, 1200 women signed up in 42 minutes. The 4 of us were joining 25,000 others from around the world watching in living rooms, church halls, and cafes thanks to a decision to stream it live.

The sheer number of women gathered around a vague “conference” indicates the desire which exists in our generation for something different, authentic and raw. And from the get go, when each and every woman involved in the planning, speaking, and creating of the weekend came to the mic and prayed, authenticity abounded.

This was the atmosphere shaping the discussion time in which I took a question card that read, “What is in between you and peace with God?” I thought I was going to say boredom. It felt safer. But I didn’t. And even as I was speaking words almost too raw for my own soul to bear, I felt exposed and real and hopeful all at once.

I had been harboring a low simmering anger with Jesus. 

IF: Gathering asked one simple question, IF God is real, then what? And I had already given my life to the expression of that answer. IF he is real, then I’ll move to Turkey to share him with Muslims. IF he is real, then I’ll open my home to a youth in need. IF he is real, then I’ll start a ministry and write a book and go to strip clubs and fight sex trafficking and speak and write and live and breathe it all. Because IF he is real, then this burning passion is from him. I’ve found that which I was created to do.

But IF he is real and IF I’m charting the right course, shouldn’t it be easier? One disciple in Turkey would have made it feel worth it or a young person who didn’t flee our home at the first bout of shame. A ministry that doesn’t leave us broke and exhausted, a book that sells, exotic dancers who are open to relationship, recovered victims who want to leave the sex industry, a speaking engagement that pays more than a Starbucks card…

Why is it so hard? IF you’re real and IF you’ve called me to this, why is it all so hard?

How many of us equate ministry, calling or passion with comfort, ease, or delight? We  know in our head that these are not equal, but our heart rebels. We live as if God owes us something, which leads to ingratitude and entitlement. Eventually, it leads to anger.

Jen Hatmaker, closing IF, shared the meaning of the eucharist, “do this in remembrance of me.” She explained it to mean “constantly make this real.” As in, constantly break our  body as he did his. As in, the ministry of mercy is costly. As in, stop expecting it all to be easy and just “do this in remembrance of me.”

And you know when you feel simultaneously spanked and jolted to a new reality? Yes.

Breaking our body, be it through writing, speaking, serving, loving, or crying on behalf of the Body in communion with Jesus is costly. It’s tiring. It’s not lucrative. It’s not comfortable. It’s not always fun and not always fulfilling.

In fact, it sounds an awful lot like Paul who served God “in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger… sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (NIV, 2 Cor. 6: 5, 10).

IF he is real, then we are called to “constantly make this real.” IF he has really invited us to follow him and IF we truly believe “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV, Eph 2:10), then the privilege is ours.

Would I take up the pen, the camera, the microphone, the hurting hearts! May I stop pouting and start rejoicing that Jesus invited me to “open wide my heart” like Paul, like himself.

BETH BRUNO, author of A VOICE BECOMING: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living(Faithwords; January 2018) traded the Blue Ridge for the Rocky Mountains after two decades in mega cities. Upon graduating from Northwestern University in Chicago, she and her husband moved to Istanbul, where they led campus teams with Cru. Ten years later they moved to Seattle where Beth received an MA in International Community Development and launched a nonprofit aimed at preventing domestic minor sex trafficking. Beth regularly speaks and trains around the topics of trafficked youth and knowing your story, and writes for various publications including Relevant, Mudroom Blog, and Red Tent Living.

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  1. “It’s tiring. It’s not lucrative. It’s not comfortable. It’s not always fun and not always fulfilling.”

    These words resonate deep in my heart! The initial calling is exciting, but the details, planning and discipline are the actions that reveal my hearts depth of commitment to follow……gosh it’s all of those things!

  2. Beth, as I read this piece again, I feel better prepared to face the conference to which I am going tomorrow. Looking over one of the prepublished papers of a presenter, chock-full of the jargon of current neurological research and confounded by elements the researcher does not seem to realize have completely undermined his experiment, I wonder how or if my humble message can be received. While I do not promote it as God-led, which most certainly it has been, I do promote it as a simple if profound aspect of basic anatomy. “This learning is about how the ear is constructed and operates. No one has noticed before now what has been made clear to me. Look at my observations and reasoning and your view of behaviour will change just as radically as mine has changed.” A voice crying in the wilderness. Thank you for your strong voice; it prepares me to be strong. Cheerful, too! No one promised this would be easy.

  3. Beth, you always encourage my heart and speak the truth-no matter how hard to hear. I resonate, but today I simmer with anger …..wishing it was different, but I will come full circle again.

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