I recently had the opportunity to speak at First Presbyterian Church Macon’s women’s Bible study. The purpose was to share some of my testimony, so I specifically focused on how God called us to missions. A large part of this call had to do with God bringing to light my idols of achievement and comfort, and His gracious, ongoing work of wrenching them from my grasp.
Transcript of Hannah’s Testimony
This morning, I’d like to share with you the story of how God has called me and my family to the mission field. In a year from today, Lord willing, Clay & I and our 3 boys will be flying on an airplane headed to El Salvador to serve a 4-year term with Mission to the World sharing the love of Jesus and planting a church.
But, instead of talking about our future, I’d like to take you back about 5 years, before missions was ever on our radar and share with you about what God has been doing in my heart. I didn’t realize it then, but now looking back I see that I had some serious idols that God wanted to bring to light and begin peeling from my grasp. The two I want to talk about today are the idols of achievement & comfort.
Recognizing the Idol of Achievement
All my life I have wanted to achieve – to be the best at whatever I did and to gain the recognition and admiration that comes from that success. Over the last 10 years, this translated into my need and desire to be valued at work. I’m in a position of leadership, and this was an idol for me for many years. When life got in the way of my aspirations at work, I would get frustrated, stressed, and angry. There were many times that my husband would point out to me that I was placing too much of my identity in my work and at times it seemed even to come before our family, but I consistently shrugged off his concerns.
It wasn’t until God called us to missions that I realized achievement in my own career had become an idol and I had been allowing that to define who I was. And then I had to decide if I was going to give up my achievements to follow His leading or if I would stay put – content with the kingdom of career success I had built for myself.
Wrestling with the Idol of Comfort
The other idol that the Holy Spirit has been convicting me of deeply over the last year and a half is the idol of comfort. Five years ago, Harris made me a mom and with that transition came all sorts of new challenges and adjustments. As a new mom, I turned to comfort as a means of setting up a kingdom and controlling what I would let in and out. I became much more protective of my time, my energy, and my home. I used the fact that I’m an introvert as a reason to show hospitality less and to say no to opportunities to walk alongside others as a mentor or friend.
I limited my activities and involvement because it was just too hard with my babies nursing or sleep schedule. I made a lot of decisions based on whether or not it would be comfortable for me or easy or if I had enough of me to give that I wouldn’t get poured out.
A Better Way
Now, working hard and achieving success is not a bad thing. Setting healthy boundaries is not a bad thing, especially during seasons of change and challenge like becoming a mom. But for me, those things became idols that dictated the desires of my heart, defined my identity, and controlled my choices.
I needed God to lift up my eyes to a better way – a way that chooses His glory over my own, a way that pours out for others as God refills and refreshes.
So, this brings me to when God called Clay and I and our boys to serve him in the tiniest country in Central America – a place that is known for unchecked gang violence, 23 active volcanoes, and the adoption of bitcoin as national currency.
Elimination of Student Loans
Clay graduated Mercer with an unthinkable amount of student loan debt, truly to the point where we thought there we would never stop paying it off. But in 2020, God worked in incredibly miraculous ways, as only He can, and allowed us to settle all of the student loan debt, which brought us to a place of financial freedom. When God did this, the Spirit impressed on my heart that He did it for a reason.
I didn’t have any clue what that reason was, but I knew it was NOT for us to be comfortable and continue to chase the American dream.
I shared this with Clay and we both kept it in the back of our minds for 6 more months, waiting to see what God might have in store for us.
Hearing His Call at a Missions Conference
In February 2021, we attended the missions conference here at FPC, and God spoke loud and clear to Clay. He has never been to seminary and has never been in ministry full time, but he’s always had a love for missions with no capability to go because of his student loans. At the missions conference, he remembers that almost every missionary who spoke that year said the same thing…
It doesn’t matter what your gifts or skills are, God can use you on the mission field if you’re willing to go.
That simple word from the Spirit ignited a fire in Clay’s heart that maybe God was actually calling us to serve him on the mission field. Providentially, the week after the missions conference, I had been thinking about missions and mentioned to Clay that as a family we should go on a short-term trip to Acapulco – FPC goes every year. And his response was … “or why don’t we just go long term?!”
Not on Board
I would be lying to you if I said I was immediately excited and in agreement. Our youngest JonOliver was 2 months old, and I was still very much living in the grip of my two favorite idols – achievement and comfort. So I responded with “WHAT?! We can’t go to the mission field! What about our jobs? What about the boys?” (in that order!)
Change of Heart
But then slowly and gently, God began convincing me that giving up those things – giving up my achievements and my comfort to follow where he leads – is the better way. And the Spirit began changing my heart.
He allowed me to finally see my idols for what they were – false hopes, terrible, unreciprocating loves.
And so I agreed to start walking down the path of an application and interview process with Mission to the World, and then after they approved us, we accepted an invitation from the El Salvador leaders to join their brand new team, and now we are raising support and praying to be fully funded next August so that we can move our family there and begin a church planting ministry.
What is it for you?
Jesus is the ultimate treasure. And when we see Him as He truly is, we are given the opportunity to re-evaluate our treasure and the order of our priorities.
For me it was realizing that my treasure was my achievements and my comfort, which aren’t bad things in and of themselves. But they were keeping me from going deeper into God’s will for my life. They were holding me back from giving all of myself to Jesus and His plan for my life.
What is it for you? What do you treasure in your life that is keeping you from going deeper into Jesus’ will for you, for your family, your money, your time, your home? Like me, do you want to be comfortable? Do you want to have achieved a position or a status that seems impressive to the world?
What is God calling you to reevaluate and let go control over so that you may give even more of yourself to him and His desires for your life?
I hope that you will take some quiet moments this week and ask God to show you your favorite idols and then give you a glimpse of the glorious, beautiful ways he is calling you to give up those idols and run headlong into Him.