by Julie Mullins
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This was the question asked of my good friend Addie, who happened to be in the fourth grade at the time. There was no hesitation in her undaunted response, “Well, it’s tough to know what I will be, since I have SO MANY gifts and SO MANY talents… really, the possibilities are LIMITLESS!” Her answer was completely void of arrogance, but full of the confidence that could only come from a fully loved daughter who believed that the truest thing about her was what her parents said about her.
I wish I could have taken a snapshot and frozen that moment in time for her sake. I never wanted her to forget that moment when she was full of confidence, fully aware of her limitless potential, and ready to take on any challenge! There was something so uncomplicated, so right, and even biblical about her response.
At nine years of age, I may have looked ahead at my own future and calling with the same optimism and enthusiasm, I just can’t remember. See, that was long before I faced unexpected seasons of family crisis that felt like detours off the path of my purpose. It was before I spent an extended time serving in a ministry area where there was a “need” but that was way outside my “giftings and passions.” And it was before I knew the sting of rejection that came after I preached my first message to our church family and was met by two gentlemen (with Bibles in hand) who let me know all the reasons I should not do what I just did.
Detours, disappointments and dismissals at times have made me question, and even believe, I was missing out on my calling. What I am learning is that it is almost impossible for confidence to flourish when doubt takes root. When wrestling with my own confidence, as a woman in ministry, I have found that self-doubt enters the picture when I confuse my assignment with my calling.
My “call” in 30 years of ministry has not changed… it is to love Jesus with my whole heart, lead people to experience the full, abundant life that he came to give, and to give my life to make the bride of Christ beautiful. My “assignment” however, has changed at least 20 times in 30 years. My “calling” is constant and eternal; my “assignment” is temporary and shifting. My calling is tied to my identity and is rooted in the unconditional love of a heavenly father who chose me, anointed me, and is more concerned about who I am becoming than all that I am doing for him. My assignments—although important and worthy of my best efforts—cannot be my source of affirmation.
When you are called, you don’t always get to choose your assignment; sometimes an assignment chooses you. When this happens, you can have confidence that the One who called you can be trusted. Jeremiah 17:7 says, ““Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”
Here is what I am learning from the assignments I didn’t choose…
In the season when I traded in my full-time ministry role for full-time mom, therapist and special needs coordinator for my young son who had significant developmental delays, I was sure that my calling to ministry was put on hold. My call to ministry had always expressed itself in the desire to serve within the four walls of the church. On this detour, my passion was ignited to bring hope and encouragement to parents who were facing the same challenges I was. I became aware that I wasn’t just called to pastor a church-- I was also called to pastor the therapist’s waiting room.
The years I served in a position that seemed so far outside my sweet spot and took me away from the people that I enjoyed doing ministry with the most, is the assignment I call “Ministry Boot Camp.” Painful at times, but God fulfilled my desire to expand my strength zone in ways I could have never experienced in my comfort zone.
The assignment to make a way for women to step into their call to ministry, and to create a space where “sons AND daughters” could echo God’s voice over their generation has not been without criticism. I have often referred to this assignment as my “AA Journey.” I have stepped into many awkward moments, hoping to pave the way to an amazing future for an entire generation of “Addies.” My desire is that they would always know that in the Church where they are planted, their opportunities would be, as Addie put it… LIMITLESS.
Julie Mullins is the Co Pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. She is married to her seventh grade boyfriend, Todd and together they have one amazing son. She is passionate about building a healthy thriving team culture and creating environments for people to experience the John 10:10 life. (any websites or social media links you’d like to include?)