You can’t Save anyone and that’s ok: An open letter to younger me
Heidi Tai | MARCH 6, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
I know you’re feeling both excited and apprehensive as you count down the days to your big move to Brisbane. Your optimism has propelled you into the deep end in ways that people deem “courageous,” but deep down I know that you’re nervous of the unknown and concerned for the future. After all, you’re only a 26-year-old, newly married, Bible College graduate. What would little you know about church planting and being a pastor’s wife?
Youthful enthusiasm has brought you this far, but I’m writing to ground you with a dose of reality: Being a church planter’s wife is an immense privilege, but to fulfill the role will come at a cost. Over the next five years you will be surprised with unimaginable highs and heartbreaking lows, but one thing will remain the same: our big God’s faithfulness to little, forgetful you.
Very soon, you will wave a final goodbye to the decaying, lopsided building that you had called home. To the naked eye, it is a collapsing, dated duplex, but I know that for you, it stands as a symbol of God’s good and kind provision. You didn’t have much when you got married. Your husband was still studying at Bible College, and you had to financially carry the family in one of the world’s most expensive cities. In your second year of marriage, you also enrolled into Bible College to be theologically equipped. Were you simply young and dumb, or just so in awe of the gospel that nothing felt like a sacrifice? In time, those years will become concrete reminders of God’s provision and as experiences that will serve to empower even bigger steps of faith.
Heidi, I know that you’ve always been an optimist. I know that you dream of a flourishing, multicultural church that will raise up the next generation of believers in Brisbane. I know that you envision a slick and modern building filled with hundreds of people and an abundance of ministries. I know that you hope to be a bulletproof pastor’s wife who is capable in every way. Although you have big visions, the reality is, the church plant will be born out of faith. Very shortly, you will feel the weight of inability because ministry success and personal glory is far from what God has planned for your life.
Your lack of ministry experience will be paired with a lack of resources. You will move to Brisbane with no money, no church building, and no clue as to where you will find people crazy enough to join you in an “impossible” adventure. Despite your eloquent efforts to mobilize and recruit people, God will give you a small, but faithful team of ten people. You will pray for a long list of friends but not a single one will end up joining your church. You will face hostility and skepticism from friends and strangers. The odds will be stacked up against you, but God will convict you that you only need to be faithful.
Once the church begins to grow, you will find yourself surrounded by people and yet feeling alone. You will have to share your introverted husband with the rest of the church. You will be friendly to all, without knowing who your friends really are. You will attend to every emergency, but you won’t know who to turn to when you face problems of your own. You will grieve every goodbye, as God will send good friends and key leaders to serve elsewhere and as people you love abandon the faith. Being in the public eye will make you “known” through rumors, which of course is not being known at all. As the pastor’s wife you will simultaneously feel like a leader and a nobody, a stranger and a friend.
In Bible College, you learned that the greatest gift you can give to your people is your personal holiness. Over the next five years, God will allow you to feel incompetent, little and lonely because He cares for your holiness and will train you to depend on Him alone. God loves you enough to allow for circumstances that will break the cycle of pride and self-sufficiency. He cares enough to stop you from believing that you have to carry the weight of the world in your own feeble hands. God desires your heart so that what motivates you isn’t naive optimism, but the ability to “be still” before the God of providence.
Be still, for God will put you in touch with strangers who will launch the church with you. Be still, for God will provide you with new friends in a new city. Be still, for the finances will come, the building made available, the roster filled and the church will grow. I won’t share how many people attend your church, because in the end, your faithfulness is the only “success” that matters.
Finally, I know that you are someone who cares deeply for others, but I want to remind you that you are incapable of being anyone’s savior - and that’s okay! You are flawed and finite. You will get weary and sick. You will suffer from anxiety and failure. And yet it is precisely in your inability when God’s power and promises will be magnified. You won’t have the power to solve everyone’s problems, but you can point them to the One of infinite knowledge and wisdom. (Isaiah 40:12-14) You can’t physically be available for everyone, but in prayer, you can entrust them to the One who is always present by His spirit (Psalm 139:7). You will never satisfy people’s longings for friendship, security, hope and salvation, but you can continue preaching the gospel and reminding them of the One who can. Remember: “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Their salvation is worth more than your pride.
Don’t give up on praying as you step into this big role. Pray that you will never be broken by inability, and that every challenge and disappointment will only serve to empower many more steps of faith. Pray that your awe of God’s providence will increase, so that you will be the type of leader who boasts in Christ’s power alone. Pray that you will never grow weary of doing good, and that our Savior’s “well done” will be sufficient in times of loneliness. As the pastor’s wife, may you never lose sight of our big God’s faithfulness to little, forgetful you.
Love in Christ,
Heidi Tai is an Australian born Chinese who grew up in Sydney, Australia. She loves a good coffee, getting lost in the Marvel universe and pumping 90’s R’n’B and Hip Hop beats. Heidi is married to Mikey, and together they planted Providence Church in Brisbane. As a church leader she believes in the influence of her words in a world that is hungry for love, hope and truth. You can follow her candid and unfiltered stories about life, faith and culture at www.heiditai.com.