Hello, my name is Taylor Madge and I am addicted to serving.
If anyone asked me to serve in God’s house, I was in. I said yes to everything. I would love to say that it was only because I love Jesus and wanted to be a part of his vision for his church.
If I am being honest though, that is not the ONLY reason. I am not even 100% sure it is the majority of the reason I have worked as hard as I have.
Perhaps I should have said “Hello, my name is Taylor and I am addicted to approval and recognition from people.”
Oh how much my fingers want to go back and hit delete on that sentence.
I really want people to like me. And even more, I want people to see me as a “good” Christian. And even worse, I want to be involved because I am sometimes so afraid of being left out and left behind. And so I kept saying yes.
OOF. I really want to hit that delete key.
I have lived most of my Christian life constantly seeking the approval of people and recognition of my leaders and I have wanted so badly to feel like I was needed and had worth and value in the house. BECAUSE I seriously value the house of God. It has been my family, my fortress, my bible college and my sanity.
I have mistakenly thought that meant I need to do anything and everything anyone asked. Now, there are seasons for having a full schedule and serving full on in God’s house. There are seasons where he wants to stretch us and grow our capacity.
Which is why I have often balked at people when they said that I did too much. I knew God was leading me and growing me and I earnestly wanted (and still want) all that He has for me. However, I have realized that I had been leaving behind wisdom in favour of the approval and acceptance of others.
So, I have been stretched about as full as one can be stretched in terms of serving at church. And I also work full time, have two teen daughters (having their own crisis) and an amazingly grace filled and patient husband. I eventually found myself in a place where I have left very little room in my life for rest and margin, and I had fooled myself into thinking it was all good work so it was good.
And who knows, I may have kept going on that crazy train without derailing? But then I experienced a huge loss in my life. My mom passed away suddenly in a car accident. Suddenly I genuinely needed some rest and some margin, but none existed. So I just kept going…….kept DOING. Kept working, and serving. On empty.
After about 8 months of that, my world started to really fall apart. Everything in my life started to pile up on me like the dirty laundry mountain in the corner of my room. God started to remove all the coping mechanisms I had built up in my life, that were not HIM, and it felt like there was NOTHING I could handle any longer. I didn’t want to even get out of bed.
One day it all came crashing down and there I was shaking and crying in my doctor’s office without any clue of what to do next or how to even move forward. She diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and gave me a note so I could take some time off work. It was both the hardest decision I have ever made and the best decision I have ever made. I don’t QUIT well. The people pleaser in me was horrified.
What would people think? How would it affect my career? What would it say about my faith? How would I be perceived if I couldn’t cope with life anymore? If I didn’t keep all these balls in the air, would anyone still like or respect me?
The first week I was home I laid in bed and cried a lot. I had never felt so out of control in my well controlled, planned life. I didn’t have any idea what to do. I had a meeting with some of my amazing church leaders and they lovingly gave me some space to step back and breathe. I spent the next three months learning again how to take sabbath rest. Something I had never really taken seriously or done well.
I had been neglecting my soul.
See, I had allowed the approval of people and the WORK of my hands to become more important than the rest and joy I found in Jesus.
I kept saying yes to doing. I kept saying yes to people. And in those yeses, I had inadvertently said no to rest in Jesus.
I had magnified my work and my relationships over my intimacy with Jesus. My priorities were out of whack! I had to relearn how to be in relationship with God first, before anything and everything else. Including serving in his house.
(Now don’t get me wrong. I still served in small ways. And I never stopped going to church. It is so important to be in community with other Jesus followers, especially in crisis!) However, I had really let it get away from me. I didn’t realize how far away I had drifted. After all, I was at church constantly, doing the work of God, serving people. How could that be so far away from where I was supposed to be? Because I had forgotten the value of the sabbath. Sabbath means “a day set aside for rest and worship”, and in Hebrew is written like this: שַׁבָּת
What does it look like to you? I see the word “NEW”. Rest makes us new.
The first time we see this word in the old test is in Genesis chapter 2:
2 On the seventh day—with the canvas of the cosmos completed—God paused from His labor and rested. 3 Thus God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping,because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.
Even GOD rested!!
See that word RESToration? GOD took time to rest. Perfectly good, perfection in divinity, still rested. He knows the value of restoration and renewal. I found this promise in Isaiah 43:19 The Voice (VOICE)
19 Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.
I certainly felt like I was in the desert and I desperately needed something NEW!
The instruction in scripture was clear. God was the way through this mess. Jesus spoke to me through the book of Matthew…..I felt his words resonate in my soul.
Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. - Matthew 11:28
I spent countless hours in scripture and prayer. It took weeks of immersing myself in the water of life that is the word of God. It took weeks of me talking to God and getting my heart and my mind back in order. The dehydrated state of my soul began to change. I began to feel filled and able to pour out again. Here I am now, 7 months later and I have never been so refreshed. I am back to work, have new direction in regard to serving in ministry, have found reconnection with my husband and my kids, and my friends are actually liking being around me again.
I have realized how valuable it is to fill my cup with the water of life- Christ, before I try and pour out of my life to others. That serving in my own strength and just “DOING” to make myself acceptable or valued is going to empty me of life every time.
There is nothing refreshing or refilling in that empty pursuit. All it does is drain my soul of the much-needed sustenance in order to SAY YES to the amazing things God DOES want me to do. He wants me to work hard. He wants me to serve hard. He wants me to give and love and do. But I have learned it must come from a place of resting and relying on HIM and not on myself.
And somehow, I am doing more now than ever. But with my rest time in place. With my priorities in order. With allowing Jesus to be the one to fill me up and accept me first so that I can in turn give out a huge measure of love and acceptance and service to others.
Because it all begins with Him.