By this point I can feel the sweat trickle down my forehead and run off the tip of my nose— it’s hot. Much too hot and late to be counting stacking t-shirts and organising boxes of CDs. To be honest I used to hate this kind of work. It was monotonous, grubby and exhausting. My muscles would ache, my clothes would smell of sweat that never really seemed to come out no matter how much I washed them, my nail ripped to shreds from opening box after box.
I’m not try to overdramatise that time, it’s how I remember those nights running the merchandise booth during my first year of touring.
Little did I know that I wasn’t just stacking boxes, I was building character.
I didn’t fully understand that purpose and character can be forged in the unlit corners of a semi truck counting CDs and hats.
I didn’t know that I was being discipled.
Up until that year discipleship had always looked like meeting in cosy coffee shops, poring over books I picked, and having someone sit and listen to me while I talked about… well, me.
So when discipleship looked like pouring myself into hard work, I didn’t recognise it. I couldn’t see how any of this was designed for my good.
Until that year, church was something designed for me, not a community created by me. No longer could I hide behind my Sunday best, a tall soy cappuccino and a groggy morning smile.
That year church looked like doing grocery shopping for my friends and learning how to apologise to people I barely knew when they saw the worst sides of me, again, and again, and again…
We choose our friends, we’re given our family. That includes the family of God. I'm grateful that even though my road family didn't choose me, they gathered me in with open arms, forgave me when I was stroppy, pursued me when I was tired and helped pick me up over and over.
I guess I’m thinking of all of this because this week, as I loaded suitcases of t-shirts onto Tom’s white pick-up truck at midnight in Palmdale, California, I couldn’t help but notice I’ve changed.
Three years ago I would’ve been holding back tears all the way back to the hotel, questioning why I was literally the last person to leave the festival that night. I would’ve stifled bitterness when I got to my room and found my husband, showered and half asleep, while I tip-toed around smelling like a bag of dirty laundry. I would have questioned my worth. I would have questioned my significance and I would have felt like I didn’t matter as much.
But that night, none of the thoughts even tried to creep into my heart. Instead I felt a glow. A glow of satisfaction for a job well done. A sense of accomplishment that I was able to serve my team, play my part, and be relied upon. I fell asleep exhausted, but happy (and honestly, probably a little bit sweaty!)
I didn’t know I was being discipled these last few years, but I’m grateful I was. I didn't know I was being discipled when Gareth would take me out for coffee and ask me what my dreams for life were, and how Rend Collective could be a part of them. I didn't know I was being discipled when Ali patiently went over the merchandise spreadsheets with me....again, or when she invited me over for dinner, or out to get our nails done. I couldn't see the bigger picture when I was crying in another strange hotel room to my husband, saying I was done with ministry, that I needed to go home. I didn't know I was being discipled when he'd put his arms around me, and tell me I had it in me to get back up and do it all over again tomorrow.
We need community to mould us. We need community to push us further, and pick us up when we fall down. At least I did.
These days I’m wary of saying what I “won’t do”, and when there aren’t things in my life I didn’t pick for myself. We need the interruptions, heavy t-shirt boxes to shape the muscles of our souls. We need people we didn’t choose to be in our lives and teach us what it looks like to be family. They're often the ones God chooses for us, and result is a sweeter, deeper and more long-lasting friendship that isn't based on anything fleeting.
These days I don’t think less of myself, I think of myself less (although it’s definitely still a work in progress!) And I love my work. Not because it's changed so much, but because I've changed so much. My little road family has taught me how to widen my view, to keep my eyes on the finish-line, to find my worth from a deeper, calmer place. And I love them for it.
I thought I was doing a service by giving up my time, skills, talents to come on the road. But really God was using it to serve me. The point of this post isn't to say how awesome I am. But I do want to celebrate the people and growth God has worked in this stubborn, often self-absorbed heart.
So wherever you are, whether its living your dream or wondering when your life is ever going to be something you live, close your eyes and rest. There isn’t a moment Jesus isn’t sure of what he’s doing in your life. He’s for you, he loves you way too much to leave you where you are.