I have so much to tell you. A weekend with over 700 women at She Speaks in North Carolina. Powerful worship, incredible messages from Lysa Terkeurst and other gifted women, God ordained meetings…I could go on and on. Stories of rejection, renewal, revival. On the last day, I gave a message for a small group that is the cry of my heart – returning. I, along with the voices of many other women, believe it is the key to our most compelling life. We must be good returners. Here’s why…
I am learning to be a good returner when the world says to be a good move ahead-er.
Many of you know me by now, but those of you that are just stepping into your very own imperfectly brave life, let me say “hi!” I’m Whitney. I’m a girl with too many passions that blaze wild. I love teased hair and putting people around my long table with regular food and in my regular, messy life. I have two blondes named Collins and Carter and they couldn’t be more devoted opposites which makes me laugh on end. (It also makes me want to pull out all the gray hair they cause me.) And eight years ago, I married this tall, red-headed man named Michael. I fell in love with the way he kissed me and the way he loved me, and I feel the same today.
We serve at a little white church on a hill next to a peacock farm that is one hundred and seventy-years-old. Yes, that is a real number. And yes, we love it. But that was never my dream. I am a city girl through and through. God took us from a mega church in a mega city, to a normal church in a normal city.
And you better believe, we have big, beautiful messy dreams for revival in that place.
When we started serving at our little white church, a question settled deep in my gut. The question was this: Why is Church not the most compelling thing in our society? When I walk with my Jesus and read about my Jesus,
He is compelling and captivating and alluring.
That made me take great pause. I kept looking all around me, wondering why I don’t feel this way about church in my own neighborhood.
Not just my church next to the peacock farm, but all the churches.
So I wrestled.
I wanted so badly to point my finger outward to the world saying, “God, why is the Church not compelling?” but God did something that He usually does. He had me point the finger inward.
Because God finds value in the hard and holy, not the easy and breezy.
He asked me this:
“Whitney, are you living the most compelling life? Is your fire blazing like you thought it would all those years ago that you gave your life to me?”
Evangelist John Stott put it this way: “The greatest hindrance to evangelism today is the secret poverty of our own souls.”
And to save us gobs of journal pages and bottles of tears, I am just going to give us it straight. My soul was poor and I didn’t know where to go.
I definitely didn’t want to go to the church and show them that I was so broken. I couldn’t. Everyone seemed so buttoned up and put together. I couldn’t show them I was struggling or that my soul was starved. So I did nothing instead.
I let my brokenness sit in the pew.
And maybe, if we are all a bit honest with ourselves, we have let our brokenness fester in the padded cushions of a man-made pew, rather than fling our bodies into a living God who wipes our tears and makes everything new.
Throughout this season (and really most days to date), God has given me Peter.
You know, the wild and brash and passionate leader, Peter.
Peter is the one we know that denied His Christ. We know him to be the disciple full of zeal. But can you just imagine being him for one second? Feel Peter in your own bones. He denied his Jesus. The Savior of the world — his friend.
Can you feel the weight of his soul?
Now cue to the Sea of Tiberias several days, maybe weeks, after the resurrection.
Jesus has already reappeared to the twelve disciples and they were in awe. Now we find seven of Jesus’ followers fishing on a boat. The sun is making its way to its home in the sky, and the disciples look out to the shoreline.
“John said, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work and threw himself into the sea.” John 21:7
You see, we must be a people who constantly and unashamedly return to God.
Peter did something that I rarely see us show in the Church. Desperation. Peter desperately needed His Savior.
Peter stripped himself and threw his whole body into the water to get to His Jesus.
Despite His broken soul.
Despite what others would think.
He had to get to Jesus.
And don’t you know, others followed quickly behind him.
Peter was a good returner. And because of Him, others followed.
In a world that is saying that we must have all the answers, we must be people who proclaim, “We don’t have all the answers, but we know the One who does.”
And we return.
And as we keep throwing ourselves into His arms day in and day out, we will begin to live the most compelling lives. A fire will be lit inside of us. It will be lit in the Church once again. And a fire, my dear, dear friends, never has to advertise for itself.
So whether you are just stepping into your imperfectly brave life or you have been journeying with us for a while. Whether you have known your Jesus for decades or you have just tasted Him, let me ask us this:
Can you and will you be a good returner?
Over the month of August, I am going to walk us through what it looks like to return in every season of life. Join us weekly as we decide to unashamedly through our bodies back into the arms of Jesus. With our world crumbling all around us, we must crumble into the arms who created the world. If you’d like to receive these notes in your inbox, you can subscribe here.
Friends, this is the bravest, most compelling thing you can do in your whole life: be a good returner. I’m excited to learn together. And for right now, would you tell me? What brings up fear about returning?
I can’t wait to hear. Love you all deeply.