How to Leave Normal


June 23, 2016

Jennie-Allen-meme-june21

(Originally posted January 21, 2015)

The Road Not Taken” is one of the only works I can still recite after two decades of school. I have always been drawn to that overgrown path in the wilderness, even though it scares me a little even now. Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.

Today, many years since the hunch, IF:Gathering is a non-profit made up of tens of thousands of women who desire to gather, equip, and unleash our lives and the lives of others around the world for the glory of God and the good of people.

A few years before the birth of IF, I was ushered onto the established highway of the business of Christendom through the door of publishing. Influential people in the industry merged me onto the highway because they saw a seemingly sincere and passionate faith in Jesus. But at 75 mph, my sincere faith felt threatened by the business and structure of it all.

All the while, a quiet road off in the distance beckoned. I doubted I could ever build what God was growing within me without the covering of an institution that seemed to be holding up most everything that had ever succeeded.

Jesus certainly traveled the wilderness road and pursued people while He was here: “I am the good shepherd. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” – John 10:14,16. Jesus went after all kinds of people because all people need Him.

And while the Truth of God and his Word never change, cultures do. The Spirit and work of God continue to move in fresh ways, through new methods. The Church throughout generations attests to this. It’s exactly what Paul meant when he said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” – I Corinthians 9:22

While I wish I were a more confident, rebellious pioneer, God had to nearly force me to the wild, new path He had for IF. I am, however, compelled to call as many of you as possible to the roads less traveled because there are many wandering who may never make it up to the highway. In fact, it seems we are looking at a generation disillusioned–standing off the highway, outside the gates of establishment. And if none of us go build and pioneer in the wild, we could miss an entire generation.

So if you have a similar hunch…. let me give you my notes from the wilderness:

1. Expect resistance. Actually, more like upheaval. While to the world, IF is nothing but a success, behind the scenes in the first year, we endured more conflict and difficult conversations than one should have in a lifetime.

2. Embrace the fear. Quit looking for footprints to follow. At first, it is paralyzing to head into the wild. Learn to differentiate between the anxiety you feel when you are doing the wrong thing and the good butterflies you feel when you are braving new territory.

3. Give up on maps. There is not a right way to pioneer new territory. It is a step-by-step journey, completely dependent on God, who usually only gives you the next step. I still crave a map and a guide, but I am learning to lean into the Spirit and God’s Word when I feel alone and lost–and He has yet to forsake me. But do seek the counsel of those pioneers who have cut through the wilderness before. Their remarkable bravery can inspire the strength you need to take new steps.

4. Dont make a god out of being a rebel. Nothing stays new. So as soon as you think you are cutting a new path and people follow, the paving crew comes behind and turns your hipster little path into a 6-lane highway. Let following Jesus be your goal, not being a contrarian. Because in itself, there is nothing special about wilderness paths. It’s the enjoyment of the God you love and the people who meet Jesus that makes it all mean something. Don’t lose sight of the point.

As IF grows, my greatest temptation will continue to be to conform, pave the road and choose an easier path, rather than the unknowns of a life without maps and plans. God protect me, and let Yours be the only voice we hear whether we find ourselves on highways or overgrown paths.

What wild, new paths is God calling you to build and pioneer? What is stopping you?

Register for IF:Local in your hometown here!

(Originally Published at Relevant Magazine)

31 Responses to “How to Leave Normal”

  1. Katrina

    Have you ever looked at/read about something and it made you feel excited, and emotional just reading it? That is how I felt looking at this. I know God is working on something for me, somewhere He needs for me to be, something He needs me to do. I am just trying to be patient enough to let Him bring it all together. The funny thing is, I can’t even seem to find the right church. So, I have started a small women’s group(not to take the place of church, but something I felt led to do) But I feel like there is more. I would just appreciate some prayers as I work through all of this.

  2. Danielle

    Jennie,
    Thank you for these words and truths today! I have felt a stirring in my heart to “shake up my normal”. And a whole lot of uncertainty on what that will look like and what direction that will be. For a decade I have worked at a school here in Austin I adore and love. Yesterday I received the unexpected news that my work load for next year was being cut from 20 hours to 3 hours! At first I was disheartened, sad and super angry. But today, with fresh eyes, maybe this is God forcing that room into my life to explore something new and open those doors I haven’t been able to see yet? At least that’s the hope I am holding to now and looking at this with a new perspective.

  3. Amanda Carpenter

    Thank you for this post! I actually shared some of it with my husband because we are trying to figure out the next step for our family. We are praying about going into full time ministry/missions, or possibly just changing careers. It feels like we have heard NOTHING and it’s getting frustrating. I just keep seeking, praying, and fasting because we need some answers soon. But I know He hasn’t forsaken us. Thank you for this encouragement!

  4. These are nourishing words to my soul as I step out and trust God in new ways, specifically, gathering our city in unity. At night the doubt and fear comes, but in the early hours of the morning God re-affirms my path (Proverbs 16:9).

  5. Marsha

    Jennie,

    I am so grateful that you answered the call on your life to start IF. IF has renewed my faith in Jesus. I had been in a desert time of uncertainty and discouragement. I was fractured from struggles in church leadership and your desire to disciple the next generation really resonated with me. I stepped out to start an IF:table with some ladies in my church that are new to our town and church and then some younger ones that are newer too. This has been a blessing to me. It is a start and I am not sure where this is headed but I am resting in just getting started with something. I also love that you embrace the local church and are encouraging ladies to unite together for the cause of Christ. Thank you and may God shower you and your family with blessings!

  6. Thank you for these words of wisdom. Sometimes I look over at the highway and think, “I could never make it out there. I’m not even sure I want to try to make it out there.” But the road less traveled feels like a gamble, as if somehow it’s foolish to go the way of the wilderness path. I appreciate your honesty and the reminder that any time we follow Jesus, whether to the highway or the hillside hike, it’s following him that matters. So thankful you decided to take the road less traveled.

  7. Rebecca

    Yes! This could not be more timely! I train nurses and doctors how to care for women that are pursuing an adoption with their newborn. We have the only curriculum in the nation that addresses care at the hospital bedside during this ambiguous loss. After 14 years of pursuing this passion and knowing I am called to put our program in every hospital, the publishing mainstream is taking interested and the exhausted side of me is anxious for the hand off. I pray desperately – day by day – moment by moment -that I trust He that crafted our program has a mapped strategy that is far beyond my understanding, far more efficient that anything that I could envision. May I cling to the uncharted territory – as a tech pioneer once said, “We can’t follow tail lights, we must blaze a new path” (The outcome for him? Facebook)

    • Just keep moving one step ahead as Jennie said. When we are following Gods direction and vision so much comes against us. Especially ourselves, our fear and weariness, but we need to keep looking to Jesus and the equipping of the Holy Spirit. I to have stepped out walking in an area of unknown to me. Leading myself and members of our church to step out of our walls and meet needs in the community. Not knowing what it was going to look like or where we were going I moved on. We are helping in two schools, with a senior memory care and homeless. Satan comes against us and I so feel what Jennie said about wanting the quite path but Christ calls us to follow and to suffer if need be and it is so worth it looking at the eternal side of things. I want to also run this race He has called me to and not look back.
      Hang in there and continue to forge ahead. What great work your doing. Jesus is sufficient

  8. Michelle

    Thanks for the encouragement today! God is calling me to open an after school art studio for at risk kids. What is stopping me is not knowing how! I’m praying for direction and people to help me.

  9. Andrea

    Wow! This is timely for me. I know that I am called to ministry but I don’t know where or how. I’ve sought out mentors but each time the door is closed. It leaves me crushed and wanting to give up on the very thing I feel God created me for. Even then, I can not deny the knowing deep within my heart that I was created for so much more. Thanks for your words of encouragement. It means a lot to me and other like me.

    • Lerecia

      Hi Andrea,

      You mentioned you sought out mentors for what understanding to what God has called you to? Has God encouraged you to seek out mentors or to seek Him out? Don’t get me wrong, wise counsel is good. But what is wise counsel? It is those who God leads you to, not those who you choose to seek out. It seems to me that God wants you to seek Him out, concerning what you believe He is calling you to and not people.

      Wishing you all the best in God.

      Love,

      Lerecia your sister in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

      • Andrea

        Hi Lerecia,
        It’s a long, somewhat complicated story. The journey has been about 10 years now, and still continues. I have been continually seeking the Lord on this matter, fist and foremost. I do appreciate your feedback. Defiantly something to pray about.

        Bless you, sis!
        Andrea

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