When Refinement is Hard by Annie Harrington
I’ve officially been a fellow for four months and 27 days (probably more by the time you read this). During the fellowship I’ve been challenged beyond measure. I came into this place as a 22 year old who didn’t want to work for a camp. I thought only really Holy people who didn’t have a good plan A worked for a summer camp.
I come from a childhood that grew me up faster than I could blink. I then went to a college where I jumped into anything and everything I could. The culture at my university was to be involved in all that you could. It was all about who you knew and how you got to where you were. It was about building your resume and impacting people along the way. I loved it. I worked hard and invested everything I had into the people and organizations there.
The thing I didn’t realize about my life until the fellowship is that I’ve lived caught up in who the world says I should be more than who God says I should be. I’ve lived my life hustling and working hard to be known by people. Because where I come from, to be known is to be loved. That’s funny because God is love (1 John 4:8) and to be known by Him is the ultimate free gift. I’ve trusted my ability as a hard worker way more than God’s ability to heal my heart and move in different circumstances. I’ve never been good at stillness, discerning things in my own heart, or even rest. You see, I always thought rest and stillness and vulnerability were for weak people and I didn’t want to be weak. Praise the Lord that the above statement is a lie.
I’ve never been good at letting other people, let alone the God of the universe, take care of me. I constantly stiff arm people because I don’t want to feel weak. I believed that my weaknesses were far more abundant than my strengths and in the fellowship, that can easily make you feel like the worst person at this job.
You see, faithful Sky Ranch blog readers, the past four and a half months I’ve spent in misery. I came here in obedience to the Lord but in absolute discomfort. Here our days are full of physical labor, teaching 5th graders, facilitating activities, and striving to walk alongside one another deeply just as the church does in Acts 2:42-47. My days are full of vulnerability, stillness in the presence of the Lord, and focusing on my own heart – A;; things I have previously despised. Our boss Clinton always tells us that the fellowship isn’t hard, it is simply our sinfulness that is hard. This has been the most difficult four and a half months of my life, however this has also been the most growing season of my life.
The fellowship isn’t what is miserable for me. I realized this while sitting over a cup of coffee with my grandmother over the Christmas holiday. The fellowship isn’t what makes my days tough, it’s the season of refinement and growth with Jesus that has been miserable. I wake up every day in a place where people are willing to call me out when I make mistakes, tell me when I do something that doesn’t reflect the kingdom, and push me to know, walk in, and believe truth. I live in a place where people are willing to hear my heart cries and tell me I’m stuck in a lie that I’ve believed for years. I live in a place where I’m getting paid to read the bible in 9 months. I live in a place where my character is changing, to reflect the Father more than it reflects Annie, and that, that is a gift.
This season, this 5 month season of heartache, refinement, growth, discipline, and most days darkness, has been miserable. Most days I have chosen to live in my misery instead of in truth. In the darkness, I’ve been challenged by my community to find rest instead of frantically searching for a way out. I’ve been reminded that Jesus, the risen Son of our King (Matthew 28:6), what He did on the cross for you and for me (1 Peter 2:24), is bigger and better than any circumstance or spiritual darkness I will ever live in. You see, in every single season, the goodness of God has NO bounds. More than anything, during the fellowship thus far, I’ve learned that Jesus is true and He will never not be true.
The other day I sat down and had a tough conversation with Clinton. He asked me what I want to be known for. My immediate answer was that I want people to know Jesus, what He did, and how He is moving in my life more than they know me. Almost immediately after I finished spewing out my heart cry of an answer, he told me that the way I’ve been living does the exact opposite of that. By choosing to wallow in my misery instead of steadfastly pursuing righteousness and living in His glory and victory I have single handedly done the exact opposite. This crushed me (in a good way, Clinton, don’t worry!!) I don’t know about you, but I can easily see the bad, tough, hard things, and not the good. It feels hard for me to see the good work Jesus is doing when so many days are tough. But you know what? He is doing a good work. My deepest prayer the past 3 weeks is that I would want this tough, dark, hard season of life more than I would want a way out, knowing that in the darkness, Jesus is doing a good work. As sinful humans, I think finding a way out into the good, easy days always seems better. But wouldn’t you, as a follower of Jesus, want every day to be reflecting a good work Jesus is doing within you even if it’s hard? I sure do.
I know this is long winded and I’m not even sure my thoughts have rounded out into a coherent post, but readers, I urge you to persevere. In whatever season you are in, know that Jesus is true, His goodness has no bounds, and that He is doing a good work in you!!!! I pray that you would want a good work more than the end of a season, because a good work will make you more like Him and that is a beautiful gift.
If you’re in a tough season or have ever persevered through one, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Be blessed, Sky Ranch Family,