In Forge, we refer to the “ahha” moments of life as paradigm shifts. A few years ago, I began a rather large paradigm shift and it all started with a simple prayer, “God, please set me free.” I’m not even sure what I wanted freedom from...my circumstances, the pain of loss, broken dreams, endless stress at work, all the demands of church, family and ministry. I spent years building a life that was not what I wanted; instead I was building what I thought I should want, and doing the “right” things. In 2014, I took a job at a Christian boarding school in India to pursue a lifelong dream to be a missionary. When that fell through last minute, I found myself homeless, jobless and sleeping on a hideabed loveseat at my sister’s home in San Antonio. I felt like a failure.
During that time of transition and upheaval, I found Forge Austin and started their 9 month residency on missional living. It was a critical point in my spiritual formation. God took me away from what I knew, but gave me friends in Forge who understood my journey. Since I was already in transition and missed home, I headed back to Colorado to work seasonally at one of the resorts in the mountains west of Denver a great context for mission. In my new job, I earned less than I had in almost 20 years. It seemed absolutely crazy at the time, and yet it was fun to be able to let go of what I should do as a responsible, middle class, evangelical, and to instead pursue something adventurous and life giving again with God. At the end of my work agreement, I took a year round position in Human Resources and stayed.
While the past year has been very rich, it has not been easy. I am both single and introverted. The transitional nature of the workforce coupled with the independence and noncommittal attitude of the average person make it incredibly hard to build friendships and authentic community here. However, God brings Christian community to me in unorthodox ways. Chaplains Ben and Steve are great friends and leaders and have encouraged me to grow and flourish in my Godgiven abilities. We partner in several ways on campus. After years of being told I could not do certain things in the church as a woman and serving under controlling, narcissistic ministry leaders, that blesses me.
My coworker Mary is my prayer partner and tends to my heart when I am hurting. Those relationships are crucial to the sustainability of my life here. There are definitely days I want to give up and go back to a more comfortable life, but Paul tells us that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Cor 13:7 NLT). I have a deep love and affection for the community in this county. God may ask me to take on new circumstances at some point, but, for now, my heart is here.
My simple life of missional living isn’t very glamorous, but it is certainly never boring. Each day I join God in the work he is already doing rather than trying to come up with my own plans to achieve success. The result is more fruit in 18 months than I saw in 12 years of full time work in traditional ministry. Those small victories for the kingdom bring me so much joy. It feels odd to say I gave up a life of ministry and mission in order to really learn how to minister and live missionally, but that is exactly what happened. Missional living is a crucial part of becoming like Christ. This critical paradigm shift has changed my story, and my relationship to Christ will never be the same.