I first met this lovely lady (Rebekah Metteer) on a college missions trip over spring break back in 2011. At that point, I had decided to serve with a church plant in Seattle, Washington following graduation. It was difficult to plan that particular trip because CBC had never connected with a church in that area and also because quite honestly, there aren’t that many churches… let alone ones who want to connect with a bunch of college students. But the Metteers were excited to try something new and to let us in. They were the most wonderful hosts introducing us to all of Seattle’s best spots and what life and ministry looked like there. I have been thankful to stay in touch with Rebekah through the years and was eager to have her share her heart with you on the blog today!
February. A month to focus on love. To be loved and to give love. “Love one another,” Jesus said.
Boom. Done! I love lots of people . . . well, people who first MAKE ME feel loved. After all, it feels amazing to be affirmed. Affirmation is just as wonderful as a satisfied chocolate craving. It feels good to be special. To be known. To be important. It often seems that the month of February becomes the gauge to one’s importance. Did somebody notice me? Was I in the spot light? Did someone affirm me? Our thoughts can turn inward as we try to satiate our craving for love. Often though, all we are left with is an insecure, self-consumed, pity party that no conversation heart can heal. I tell you first hand, as a Pastor’s wife, author, and speaker who is by vocation in the spot light, that along with great self-focus comes crippling anxiety. To be self-consumed is to lack the ability to love freely.
I remember reaching the height of my me-focused-anxiety as I traveled an hour from my home to speak at a women’s event. I always got nervous when I had to preach. I prayed, “God anoint me. Let your power speak through me.” Surely God’s power and anointing had enough gusto to knock the butterflies from hell from my pastors-wife-gut. In that moment, I was fully unaware that I lacked one thing that would be the cure-all to my grave anxiety. I lacked true, honest love—the ability to look beyond me. It seemed an impossible feat to focus on someone else when my mind was so rightfully wrought with worry and tending to my list of thoughts. “I” was enough to manage. After all, having to speak for a full 45 minutes while attempting the role of comedian, motivator, and mentor was all I could handle. So of course, my prayer was centered on . . . well. . . ME. After all, wasn’t it ME who God was about to use? Wasn’t it ME who needed the anointing? Wasn’t it ME who needed peace?
As I conversed with the Lord about my shaky hands and sour stomach over having to deliver a message to a group of strangers, who would be undoubtedly judging me, I begged Him to take the anxiety away. Anxiousness just seemed so unprofessional. In that moment He spoke something to me that forever changed my life; “Quit looking for the head table.” And that’s all He said.
THE HEAD TABLE: reserved for the “important people”. The leaders, the planners, the pastor’s wives, and of course, the speaker. The head table can also be disguised as the front row, the PTA circle, the “in group” of women, or simply just “The Cool Kids”.
So for the Lord to tell me to “quit looking for the head table” meant that He was asking me to give up the pomp. He was asking me to re-focus all my anxious energy on the first person I met (which was usually a sweet, shy gal seated alone in the shadow of the room—the Lady with the bad perm and the Winnie the Pooh jacket.) My assignment from Jesus was to sit with that one and listen. Not half-heartedly humoring her but to get to know who she was and to hear her life struggles. Even if she was the only person I met before I was called up to speak, I was to fully engage—to truly love the one seated in the back. Jesus knew that this assignment was not in fact for her benefit, but mine.
That was the day I found that loving one another was also the beginning of freedom from my own self-focused insecurity and anxiety.
That very evening I met a single mom. She was a “little person” new to the church and felt very uncomfortable at this frilly women’s brunch. She worked hard to find a baby sitter for her four little ones at home. Her husband had left her a few months back. Broken-hearted she was drawn by a flyer she had seen at the local YMCA and came that night because she just needed to know that Jesus was with her. That He LOVED her. As I listened to this woman talk, my heart melted. Compassion broke open like a jug of water smoldering my self-consumed insecurity. I could see Jesus working in her life and I could sense Him working in mine. In that moment, I was no longer the Speaker, the Pastor’s wife, the Author, the Anxious One; I was the Observer of the work of Jesus in a broken life.
I learned that night that to experience the love and affirmation I had craved for so long was to simply love the one in front of me. To listen with compassion. To look intently for Jesus in the crowd and find Him in the shadow with a bad perm and a Disney coat. God had given me the gift of watching him love the messy so I too could embrace the mess in me.
Jesus, you have invited us to love one another, not only this month, but for the rest of days to come. And in this wonderful invitation to love, we find the true ability to watch You love us back as we see our own flaws in the face of an insecure woman being comforted by a very secure God.