When I first thought that God was calling me into ministry I was very confused. First because I never wanted to be in ministry. The second reason was because I felt as if I wasn’t qualified. If this was supposed to happen, it should have happened before my life went off the rails.
I was still active in my addiction, although I didn’t realize it. (I had it under control after all.) But I knew enough to know that my lifestyle had brought with it consequences. I had lived a life of sex, drugs and rock & roll…if people only knew, I was sure to get the “Thanks but no thanks.” speech.
My mind had betrayed me by then. I struggled with suicidal ideation. I had thoughts that were dark, too dark for someone in ministry to ever have. Hypocrisy is what turned me off to the church in the first place. I didn’t want to be one of those people, I was a freak.
I had become a Christian but the things I thought of the Bible and church seemed to show me that I wasn’t one. I wasn’t offended by profanity, I didn’t like “worship music”, I wasn’t about to get dressed up to go to church, I wasn’t thirsting for scripture and I certainly didn’t have a “life verse”.
I was waiting to be judged.
And I was. There were people that looked at me differently. I had people tell me to my face that I was not what a Christian was supposed to be. And that is how God confirmed to me that I was meant to go into ministry.
The judgement I received was different than the judgement I expected. I was judged as qualified for ministry not exempt. My past, although far from what someone would put on a brochure for healthy living, gave me an opportunity to be in a way like some of the heroes of the faith that I read about in the Bible. God doesn’t call people who have it “all together.” Look at David for instance, God described him as being a man after His own heart. David was also the same guy that slept with a married woman, tried to cover it up, and when that didn’t work he had her husband killed. Your take away from that example is not meant to be that God wants us to do all those things. David had to pay some very real consequences for what he did. The point I want you to take away from that is, God uses misfits. I was definitely a misfit.
And the thing about my mental health issues and my addiction issues and all the other things I experienced is that it not only didn’t disqualify me from ministry if made me able to reach a people group I wouldn’t have normally been able to reach out to simply because of societal norms.
Not that a person who didn’t share my experiences couldn’t reach my demographic. There are just some things that make it easier. In no way do I want this to come off as one of those stories that make the person with the “vanilla” testimony feel less qualified to minister to the world. In fact I think in many ways they have an advantage and I wish those stories were a larger part of ministry. It just wasn’t my experience.
Of course I understood that I couldn’t keep living the way I had in the past but that didn’t mean I had to be a perfect person either. God doesn’t want us to look, smell and act perfectly. He wants us to love Him. He wants us to love the people around us. He knows that we will not be perfect; He likes us anyway. He knows we will make mistakes; He likes us anyway. That is why Christians throw around the word GRACE, because we need it. I have mentioned before in these posts that us being perfect to get into God’s favor is not love it is a transaction. God is the one who made the sacrifice. God is the one who loved us when we didn’t even love ourselves. God offers us GRACE.
I will continue to try and be more and more like Jesus. I won’t keep on sinning so that grace can increase; the Bible clearly says otherwise. I try, I mess up, I try some more, that is a process that won’t end and I am okay with that because God is okay with that. I will be complete when Jesus takes me home. That is an expectation we both rejoice in. Not that I earn my way to heaven but that I instead was saved by grace.
Looking back to when I got involved in ministry I had so much to learn. I needed to learn that I wasn’t so good at sinning in my past that God couldn’t use me in the present. I needed to learn that being a hypocrite isn’t a deal breaker. I can profess Jesus is Lord with my lips and still make mistakes.
My mistakes do not make me exempt. My mental health struggles don’t make me exempt. God has made me exactly who He wants me to be, I am in a lifelong process of figuring out what that is. I am not stuck in a perceived notion of what a Christian looks like. I am a Christian who is changing his own perceived notions of what a Christian looks like.
God has called us to a purpose. ALL OF US. One of the first steps in that purpose is believing that it’s there. And there is nothing on this earth that can exempt us from that calling. It doesn’t matter what the world tells us, because God says we are enough, we do matter, we can make a difference.
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery