A Collection of Essays

Warning Signs

Dear Reader,

I feel like I have an emotional hangover today. It is strange how putting words on paper that have long been locked up inside bring feelings to the surface.

Maybe that is what happens when silence has been your comfort in the rawness of a story.

DO not misunderstand me I do think there is a right time and place to share our story. As one of my dear friends always says, “timing is everything.” And it’s so true with a story.

IF I can give any word of advice – do NOT share your story in the heat of emotions. Let them calm. Let time and space bring some healing and THEN share your heart out.

People need to know they are not alone. In this world where we have associate connections with screens, we so desperately need to know there are others out there with similar stories.

Anyway, I have digressed a little and I am sure you are wondering about other pieces of this story.

One of things I have learned upon reflection of this story is there were WARNING signs.

GIANT Red flags. Things I should have paid attention to.

One of those red flags came in the form of a meeting with Jane at a coffee shop that took place prior to the “retreat incident”. APPARENTLY, Jane and I should have avoided all coffee shops for they became a breeding ground for confusion and frustration.

Jane and I were meeting to go over an upcoming bible study series that the team was working on for our weekly women’s event. We had added a new teacher to the team who was going to speaking on a few of the topics.

I want to pause here for a moment and share that I adore this added teacher. Her and I are still friends today and I thank God for her. She helped me through this very very difficult time with grace and compassion.

I spoke with her today prior to writing this post to ask her what “code” name she would like. She told me that would like to be referred to as Felicia. AND I need you to know I think this is the most ridiculous name known to man for her BUT since I love her so (and I do think she was half joking); Felicia it is.

As Jane and I began to discuss the bible series it became clear that she had apprehensions about Felicia. She kept saying things like, “I do not know if she can do it.”

“Do you think she capable of delivering a good message?”

“Do you even think she can even teach?”

Looking back, I wish I would have walked away from that table, but I did not. I just went along with the conversation because I so desperately wanted Jane to believe in me.

Fast forward to the night Felicia spoke. Felicia was brave and courageous. She gave a message to the women that I know they needed.

BUT Jane.

Oh Jane.

She saw it another way. In fact, Jane could not contain her distain for the message that she was visibly uncomfortable while Felicia spoke. She rocked back and forth in her chair and I am certain her palms were sweaty.

We exchanged glances mid talk that said it all. Her face disapproved. She feared that Felicia was not good enough and the women would not return as a result.

When it was all said and done, she met me in the hall and said, “well that turned out just how I thought it would.” In that moment I knew I needed to say something. I told her, “God’s word never returns void regardless of delivery.”

I did not know what else to say. I felt awkward: a mix between wanting Jane’s approval and wanting to save my friend.

And listen, this should have been a GIANT red flag to me. Not only was this gossip because Jane never once spoke with Felicia about this BUT this should have also clued me into Jane’s real issue.

She feared man. She was so terrified what the other women would think about Felicia’s message that she never stopped to consider that maybe just maybe Felicia had done exactly what God had called her to do.

This moment should have stopped me in my tracks.

But I ignored it because this person served a purpose in my life that was greater than the warning signs.

And I think that is why we get connected with toxic people. They serve a particular need in our life that we cannot possibly see being fulfilled if they go away. So, we compromise, and we put ourselves in situations that ultimately rob our peace.

Jane was that for me. I so desperately wanted someone to believe in me. To believe in the giftings that I know God had placed within me. I wanted her to help me navigate through this thing called ministry and come out on the other side with the skills to move forward in all the things I knew God was calling me to.

LET me be clear here: this did not happen. Nor, was it suppose to. And the bigger picture is that this caused me confusion. I believed I knew how God was going to work all this out.

Call it zeal.

Call it faith.

Call it whatever you want to BUT sometimes we get wrapped up in this believing (with the best intentions) that we KNOW God’s plan.

And that my friend, is not faith. That is trying to work things out in our own way and in our own strength. It is probably why it feels so confusing. We were never meant to do that.

Faith requires that we often don’t know the plan. The way. Or the ending. We just trust that its all going to work out some way, somehow.

Jane was a faith test. Sometimes I got it (as later stories will show) and sometimes I failed miserably. But looking back, I know I learned. I know I grew through this. And here I am now writing you this story.

Trials were never meant to kill us – just grow us. Hang on friend, there is meaning in it all.

Kara Jess

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