You all know that song from Frozen, right? “Let it go! Let it go!” Well lucky for me I don’t have a kid old enough to have made me memorize the whole thing yet, so that’s all I know for now, but I recognize that this line from a Disney power ballad is something God has been subtly whispering through my life for quite some time now.
I grew up in a family that believed church was an important part of our lives. I went every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. One of those Wednesday nights at “Girls in Action” my leader shared the Gospel message in a way that clicked in my 6 year old mind.
I couldn’t sleep until I fully processed what it meant that Jesus died for me and I can either accept that and live my life full of Him, or deny it and live away from Him.
Even in those early moments the weight of the commitment of accepting the free gift of salvation and choosing to live my life to glorify God made total sense. And I jumped in and asked Jesus to lead my life that night. After a couple of conversations with our pastor and several months of building up bravery, I was baptized not long after my 7th birthday.
After accepting the free gift of salvation, I saw God as a good-deeds vending machine. He taught me what was right and wrong, in a pretty black and white way. I believed that if I just did the right combination of things, that He would reward me with a comfortable version of His love and grace. God and my faith-walk were things I could control.
In middle school my unwanted nickname was “Miss Perfect” because I had it all figured out. Easy enough for a 7th grader who hadn’t experienced any hardship. I probably owe most of my middle school peers an apology for telling them to just stop saying “crap” so God would solve their issues. Control yourself, and God will dole out His blessing! Easy.
Of course, salvation was covered by Jesus’ death on the cross and that’s all I needed for an eternity in Heaven, but I had to make the right moves to experience a good life in the meantime on Earth, and my good life would reveal Jesus!
God began to challenge that notion of control, through a lot of unexpected ugliness in high school.
Between my freshmen and sophomore years we moved from my home state, Louisiana, to Texas. Very soon after moving, my parents’ marriage began to fall apart, and our lives as we knew it unraveled. My “Miss Perfect” life was revealed to be a lie.
“God! I’ve done everything right! I share your love with those who don’t know you, I read my teen devo every night and wrap that up with prayer. I only listen to Christian music, I don’t curse, I don’t even DATE right now! How can YOU let my life fall apart?!”
My angsty 16-year old cries were met with several years of struggling to make my faith my own. This is where I began to learn that God wanted me to depend more on Himself and control less.
My angry prayers were answered in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It wasn’t until my “perfect life” fell apart that I could see that following all the rules in the world would not reveal the strength of God.
God is not a machine that I control at my own whims! He is the God who is bigger than all the world’s broken. He’s the God of paradox who takes something ugly and turns it into something beautiful. He is God of the gray area, too! God had to snap me out of dependence on my own ability so that His ability could shine.
Since that revelation, God has continued to draw me into a deeper dependence on Him. He started doing this in adulthood when He seriously messed with my plans, and didn’t give me much say in the matter.
I got a degree in Graphic Design because it was going to set up an easy life for me and my husband. I would be able to build a work-from-home freelance gig and raise our babies. I’d live a quiet, comfortable life and not make much of a splash. It all seemed to be working out when we were getting ready to move to Baltimore. Marc and I were freshly married and I had an entry level design job set up to help me build a portfolio and contacts in a new area. We honeymooned, packed up, and moved to Baltimore, and when I called my “new job” to get the final details, they didn’t answer…for 2 months.
Long story short, I quickly learned that I would be a terrible freelancer because staying home all day makes me terribly depressed and not creative at all. And in the midst of this identity crisis we found Severn Run.
God drew me to Severn Run like a moth to a shiny light. I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t let go. I was all in. Thanks to the amazing leadership of our pastor my Severn Run obsession grew into a freelance partnership, then quickly into a part-time job, then full-time…and then more than I ever bargained for.
I was happily going along doing my background job at Severn Run. People hardly knew who I was, much less knowing I was on staff. Pastor Drew & Pastor John had pulled me into sermon prep meetings so I could stay on top of graphics, and it was in one of those meetings that it happened. I shared something on my heart and Pastor Drew said, “Bonni, why don’t we get you a mic so you can share that during the offering time.”
Let me go back to childhood Bonni really quick. I used to be in the children’s choir, because it’s what you did with your kids in certain seasons on Wednesday nights. One time I sang “Thy Word” a little too loudly in practice and I guess it sounded decent for an 8 year old. The choir leader locked eyes with me and said, “Bonni! That was so beautiful! I’m going to give you the solo!” After several weeks of loud protesting and refusing to practice, she somehow still had it in her mind come performance day that I would sing the solo. Luckily for me, I knew all the good hiding places at First Baptist Marrero, and I used them all. I’m pretty sure my parents almost reported me as missing, and the last children’s choir concert I performed in was the one before that one. From then on I swore to stay in the background forever.
“Bonni, why don’t we get you a mic so you can share that during the offering time…”
What I wanted to say was, “Heck no, Pastor Drew! You clearly took some crazy pills this morning because that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth and you’re pretty smart usually. I mean, goodness gracious, let’s just call this meeting because we’re all clearly losing our minds here and nothing good is coming out of this…so let’s pray and wrap this sucker up and never talk about anything like that again!”
Instead I said, “Oh that’s ok, I’m a behind-the-scenes person, I think someone else will do a way better job at that then I would.” After cordially arguing about it for 10 minutes, I lost. This is when I realized that God was pressing me to lean into His strength even more, which meant exposing more of my weakness to the world.
“My power works best in weakness…”
It’s been almost 3 years since I started speaking on-stage and in that time I have continued to learn that the more I release control to God, the more He glorifies Himself through me, the less I need to do. I’ve had more God-revealing conversations in the time that I’ve been able to peacefully answer questions with “I don’t know, but God…” than when I thought I had it all figured out and under control. When I resist what God is trying to do in my life I experience stress, depression, and discontentment. He then firmly, yet gently reminds me to let go and just be with Him, allowing Him to direct my steps. When I let go, and choose to spend time seeking Him instead of plowing my own path, He spurs me forward in unstoppable (sometimes terrifying) ways. That’s why my son exists…but that’s a story for another time.
“My power works best in weakness…” Like Paul, I’m learning to confidently brag in my weakness so that my Father can be glorified in me. While I’m mildly terrified about the next time God challenges my self-dependence, I know that He will again be faithful, and be glorified. So I will boast in my weakness, because that is where He is most strong.