Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Gift of Being Naive

I have the gift of being naïve.  Now I realize that naiveté is not featured as a spiritual gift in Scripture, but I would argue that it is a gift from God none the less, for He has used that gift in enormous ways in my life. 
This most vividly came into play about ten years ago.  I had always wanted to be a school teacher.  In fact, my mother had kept a journal of my school years and in it she wrote “what Lisa wants to be when she grows up” and except for the year in which I said I wanted to be an ice skater (after seeing Dorothy Hamill win the Olympics) I was committed to that goal. But it was not meant to be, and at age 29, I finally accepted and mourned the fact that God was not going to send me down my desired career path.  At that point, I decided to go to San Jose Christian College.  I applied to the school without much thought or investigation.   One day I just decided that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree at a Christian school, and it was driving distance from home, and they offered night time classes, and I could have it done in two years, and the overall program sounded interesting.  Most importantly, I applied and was accepted just days before the start of the next semester.  So it seemed God was finally throwing open a door wide for me.
My lack of inquiry into the program requirements was actually a blessing.  I would have run for the hills, so to speak, had I bothered to find out which classes were mandatory.  But ignorance is bliss, so it wasn’t until six months into the program I was informed that I would need to do a “Teaching and Preaching” class and a one year internship.  In high school, I had failed more than one assignment that required giving a speech; being painfully shy talking in public felt like I might as well be standing in front of the class naked.   My college professor, witnessing how difficult this was for me, very mercifully and graciously gave me a passing grade…though I am still not sure it was deserved.
But that wasn’t the most astonishing part.  It was the internship that would change my life.  My internship only required that I work 4 hours a week with a Christian organization of any kind.  Just a few months earlier I had started attending a new church, so I went to the Senior Pastor of the 125-member congregation and introduced myself and asked if there was anything I could do in the church office that would be helpful.  He said he would pray about it and get back to me.  So imagine my surprise when he met with me a few days later and asked me to be the Director of Children’s Ministries.  He had heard from his wife that a few weeks before I had volunteered to help out in Vacation Bible School working with the kids in a very minor role, but I never worked with her…so this was crazy!!!  It was beyond my imagination the pastor would ask me to do such a thing!  But I was also overwhelmed with the realization that God was in the midst of this request…I wasn’t going to be an elementary school teacher teaching the ABCs and 123s, but I was going to be teaching the Bible instead!  I had to wonder if every experience of disappointment before was all part of His master plan.  Shocked, I explained to them why this was such an incredible request and then accepted, not having a clue what it would entail.
God grew me in so many ways through that experience.  Little did I know I would have to get over my fear of speaking in public, for speaking in front of the congregation on a regular basis was a necessary part of the job.  I learned how to lead volunteers and found joy in finding just the right role for them.   The highlight was at the end of my internship when I had the privilege of creating a totally new concept for Vacation Bible School.  Utilizing the many church buildings and rooms we created a small town with characters in full costumes where for one week the children daily traveled through the town visiting places like the police station—where they heard a gospel message woven into a mystery to be solved, the snack shack—where they made snacks not for themselves but for other children, the gym—where they learned a memory verse with hand & body movements...and a post office, a toy store, a city hall…and more.  I had no idea when I first present this idea to the elder board that they were convinced there was no way to pull this off, but I was so excited they didn’t have the heart to tell me.  They were certain I would never get enough volunteers to get it all accomplished.  But thankfully I didn’t know it was an impossible task…so I just blissfully and enthusiastically told everyone about it and mentioned how their skills were exactly what I needed.   In the end, attendance in VBS was higher than ever before and the attendance increased each day because kids told there friend about it.  Historically, attendance always decreased each day.  In addition, 80% of the church body volunteered in some form.  Apparently that is unheard of, but I didn’t know that until the week was over and my pastor pull me aside at the celebration dinner and total me about what the elders “knew”—that there was no way it could be done.  So my naiveté along with my love of service has been and continues to be a gift from God.  For anything is possible when God wants it to happen… and if you go along for the ride He just might let you be a part of it.
And just as a side note, while any spiritual gift has pros, there are also cons.  My life the last few days is a testament to that!  Naively, I volunteered to make housing and carpooling arrangements for 36 singles from my church.  We are going to the snow in Tahoe this weekend.  The number of hours and phone calls and emails were beyond my imagination.  Had I known what I was getting myself unto I definitely would have reconsidered taking this on.  But it got done…I think.  We leave in the morning.  Pray for us!

Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

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