By Jesse Criss edited by Sophia Savalli
For the last four years, my good friend and mentor Randy Carter has, on a fairly regular basis, asked me the following question every time we talk.
“How’s your heart?”
This is the very first question he asked me when I recently lost my job and started this season of transition. He is also not the only one to have asked me that question in the last 30 days and every time I have been asked, I always respond with around the same answer:
“Though I don’t like the situation or agree with it, my heart has been at peace”
This response has caught many people off guard because the reality is that the world expects me to be angry, frustrated and frankly pissed off. The world thinks that I should have every right to be negative and kick up a fuss on my way out the door. But that’s not how I have felt and it’s not where my heart is right now. Are there bad days? Of course, there are but they haven’t changed how my heart has felt.
My heart didn’t just arrive at a place of peace all at once, God’s been teaching me something for over a year now but it’s only been in the last 30 days that I have put it all together. The peace I feel is rooted in three journeys I have been on over the last few years.
- The Twins – I was a person (and sometimes still am) who likes to be in control. I am not a control freak but when you are in Youth Ministry this long you need to learn how to control the chaos or it will overwhelm you. The challenge is that when things are outside of your control it can drive you mad. My twins were born at 26 weeks and everything about those early days was 100% outside of my control. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help them, all I could do was surrender my control to God. Only He could be their provider. When the girls were finally brought home and relatively free from medical drama, I realized God had solved my control problem by giving me two amazing daughters who were a constant reminder that God is our provider.
- Family First – Over the last few years, God has been realigning my priorities to the new realities of my world. I’ve been a husband for sixteen years now and my wife and I have a pretty solid rhythm and understanding. Then these two little people entered our world and everything changed. It wasn’t enough to be home more, I had to be “present”. Not just a passive member of my house but actually present in my world. This meant I had to say no to things, good things, Godly ministry things because my first calling is not ministry its family.
- I’m a Christian – A year ago I asked myself “Am I just a professional Christian?”. I’ve been in paid ministry since I was eighteen years old and only became a Christian at fourteen. This has been all I have ever known and over this last year as I wrestled with work, life and ministry I ended up asking myself the question: “If I wasn’t a Pastor would I still be a Christian?”. The immediate answer was YES… but it took several months to work out in my heart. Would just attending church and serving to be enough for me? What’s my calling? What’s my ministry? What defines? The answer was point #2 – Family First.
The peace in my heart has come about slowly through this journey. It has come about by asking some tough questions about life, love, and faith. I know who I am, what I believe, what my calling is and where my priorities are. For me, all of this means I have a healthy heart and it’s a heart that trusts God to not only see us through this transition but to lead us to a place that will love and support the journey I have been on. This is my story, but what about you? How is your heart doing?
Consider following these steps to help you begin to answer the question: “How is your heart doing?”.
- Find/create some space to be still.
- Pray about the question.
- Write down all your priorities. The things that make you tick and get up in the morning.
- Number them based on what you/others think are the most important ones. Start with #1 as the MOST IMPORTANT and then go until everything has a number.
- Pause and pray about the question.
- Now circle five priorities that you think should be the most important things in your world.
- Pause and pray about the question.
- Now check off what you think God would say are the five most important things in your world.
- Now sit on the discovery for a few days. Pray about it when it comes to mind and consider asking someone you trust to pray with you. After a few days take some time to ask and answer the question… How is my heart doing?