Lately I’ve been asked a lot of similar questions:
“Has it been hard?”
“Are you overwhelmed?”
“Are you feeling exhausted?
Since taking the leadership role of CEO at Awana Clubs International, friends often wonder if I am surviving such a large responsibility. No wonder.
My answer is simple.
I tell them, “Yes. All of the above. But most of all, It feels like coming home.”
It seems to me, at least, that I’ve been coming home to this place most of my life. When I was in 7th grade a guidance counselor asked me the standard question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be a lawyer for children,” I answered, feeling an urgent gnawing inside.
She said, “There is no such thing.”
“Well,” I asked, in surprise, “who fights for children?”
I grew up, forgot that conversation, became a teacher, a singer, a wife and mother.
On weekends I would travel to places singing. I thought I would do that for the rest of my life until one awful weekend. 4,000 women had gathered on the east coast to hear a famous national speaker. I was to provide special music for the weekend, including a large concert on Saturday night.
At 6:00 Friday night there was a knock on my hotel room door. Standing outside in the hallway was the conference committee. They looked sick. “We have a problem. The famous speaker’s plane is grounded, she won’t get here until tomorrow. Do you think you could do your concert tonight . . . in an hour?”
What choice did I have? So, with a few minutes of practice (with two women sitting at a piano to accompany me) we tried to pull off a concert. I never even had the time to ask, “Why are there two women accompanying me?”
To put it mildly, we pretty much stunk. Truthfully, we were just plain awful. The accompanist struggled to stay with me. I became rattled and forgot words to songs I had sung for years. Afterward, we escaped the hotel and went to a place where no one would know us to grab something to eat. We were laughing at our humiliating, thrown-into-being-heroes experience.
With tears running down my face, I finally asked, “How come both of you were playing for me tonight?”
One of them started speaking. “I used to be an accomplished pianist, but treatment for breast cancer has left my left arm paralyzed. I was just sitting beside my friend tonight trying to help her stay in the right place.”
Oh yes, Valerie, I thought. This is just the frosting on tonight’s craziness cake. This woman could be dying! And here you two are, hanging out and laughing your heads off! What a spunky gritty one she was! She touched me deeply.
The next day the famous speaker made it to the meetings, but she paled compared to the music. My new friend played a trumpet solo. She explained that when cancer robbed her ability to play the piano, she’d asked God, “You’ve given me all this musical ability, isn’t there an instrument I can still play?” The trumpet is such an instrument. She played it beautifully, as if she had been playing it all her life.
On the airplane returning home from that disastrous weekend, my body was shaking as I settled into my seat. “Oh God . . .” I prayed. “What was that about?”
Immediately my new amazing friend, the one-handed trumpeter came to mind. I saw her bending to God’s purposes for her life, lifting her trumpet in praise to the heavens and doing his work in the world in the way that most glorified God.
Tears welled up in my eyes. I sensed God asking me, “Valerie, will you bend to me? Will you let me tell you want I need you to be in this world?” Again, that urgent gnawing was so strong.
It wasn’t long after that I began to write. The books and publishers came to me and I bent, unsure of where it was all leading, only aware that God was changing my definition of who I thought I was.
Today I am keenly aware that, once again, he has asked me to bend my plans to his. Leading a wonderful ministry at this stage of my life was not on my bucket list. God has asked me to change my plans, and at this late date, my definition of my place in the kingdom. This calling came with that same familiar urgent gnawing feeling.
Perhaps he is asking the same thing of you and of Awana. Do you feel the urgency? Will we bend to him? Will we let him tell us who he needs us to be in this world today?
Might he be asking us to be the ones to fight for children?
Are we being asked to bend our messaging to his heart?
Is he asking us to speak prophetically to the church about the needs of children, increasing their desire to want more for their kids, more for their church and more for God’s kingdom?
Are we being asked to bend our hearts to be in sync with him?
Might he be asking us to fall in love with kids again, to fall in love with club again so that his enormous capacity to love kids would grow in our own hearts . . . and then flow from our hearts to our country and the world?
Are we being asked to bend our passion to fall in love with our mission again?
Might he be asking us to follow him across the world wherever he leads so that children will have a biblical foundation to face whatever evil may arise in an increasingly dark world?
I believe, in the coming years, that is what we will get to do . . . bend to God’s purposes and definitions of who we are.
We will step up to fight for children. We will love with God’s heart and message that passion to a 21st century global church.
And we will get to that together, in God’s way, bending to his purposes as God’s people . . . one-armed trumpeters, you could say, the ones who fight for children.