This month, we are celebrating International Women’s Day by featuring stories of courage and determination by ordinary women who are playing extraordinary roles within our Baptist community.
The blessings of diminished capacity, tiredness and God’s grace – Jess Groszek
The year was 2015. I had one child at home, one on the way and I was trying to do it all. I had been asked to help provide some pastoral care within a large organization where many were suddenly processing their redundancies. I sat with people who felt uncertain about the future, who last week felt things were on track in their lives, and suddenly were confused or angry or resigned to the shape of their future. I listened and provided what support I could. One person, despite the whirlwind of emotion, paused to ask me what I usually do for work. My response was straight to the point: “I have just been made redundant. And my husband has also been made redundant.” We sat together in empathy for one another’s situations.
Since Chris and I married in 2013, we have experienced together four redundancies, the birth of three children, four houses, two graduate degrees and seven jobs. God has moved us through disappointment to greater clarity over these years. But there have been days full of struggle, juggle and sheer frustration. I feel the pull of my passion and gifting to lead others within the community through my role as Campus Pastor in Surrey Hills with NewHope Baptist Church. But I also feel the desire to cherish and lead my little herd and make the most of every opportunity. At the heart of my struggle has been dealing daily with the lie that I can do it all.
The truth is that women can achieve in all areas of skill, capacity and diligence. However, this truth has become increasingly twisted. Firstly, we are told our ability is self-made; secondly, that each one of us can achieve in every area; and thirdly, that each one of us can achieve in every area in every season. I have fallen victim to the plethora of television experts teaching me how to do ordinary things on a grand scale. And I have been tempted to busy my life in all directions to gain acceptance in a fast-paced society. Undoing this lie in me has been akin to unknotting my daughter’s wild hair – a slow and painful process. It has been slow because I believed the lies for too long, and painful because I let my identity become entangled in it. But, through His grace, God has been slowly unwinding the lie – to the point where I can see more clearly the blessing of weakness, of reduced capacity and of tiredness.
Blessed with reduced capacity
Within the context of community I have found that my children have compounded the opportunities for connection and ministry. In their circles and interactions, they constantly invite me into relationships to the point where I always have the opportunity to be around others. Yet ironically, my capacity to make the most of these opportunities is frustratingly diminished. My brain is foggy, the time is short, the conversations out of my control – and, very often, cut short. In reality, conversations have never been in my control, but in this new season, I am aware that the moment could pass at any stage. I have learned that God is in control. In my leadership decisions, I seek to be present in the conversation, ready to listen and encourage where I can.
Through practising leadership over many years, I have learnt that I love to achieve, make things happen and see things through. People come to me if they want to get things off the ground. Now with children, my time for outward-focused mission activity has diminished. I need to be more strategic about what I achieve. Having a list of tasks that are ticked off at the end of the day may fill my tank, but I am now asking myself, what should even make it onto the list in the first place? The result is that as I have sought to become more fruitful, my house has become messier. I find myself investing more in people, taking on formal mentoring roles, learning to listen and love others, and being less distracted by the tidiness of my house. I am learning to be comfortable with the house and enjoying transformation through deep relationships. My reduced capacity has helped me to undo the “I can do it all” lie.
Blessed with tiredness
Despite suffering from chronic fatigue well before having children, I have never known tiredness quite like I do now. I need forgiveness constantly as I stumble through the days. There have been many days where all I can think about is going to bed that night. I used to bemoan that I need more sleep than the average person. It is frustrating for an achiever to be rendered unconscious for an extra few hours per day. I began to resent the need for rest. But, a wise friend encouraged me to regard sleep as worship. It is the time of the day where I can say to God, “I can’t go on. I trust you to hold the world in your hands while I am out to it. I trust you to look after my child who has croup. I trust you to restore me as I sleep. I trust that you will give me enough grace for tomorrow’s feeble efforts.” It is a time to acknowledge my weakness and God’s providence. My tiredness is a blessing and reminds me to focus on the one who leads me beside still waters.
Blessed with sufficient grace
Just last month my grandmother passed away, at the age of 96. A fond memory is a regular trip from the farm to town in the old Toyota. Without fail she played her favourite cassette. She would sing along, “One day at a time, Sweet Jesus! That’s all I ask of you!” As a child, I had no idea what it meant. “Each day always comes after the other. You never have two days at once. What does this song mean?” Now with the demands of regular adult life, I have come to understand why my grandmother sang with fervor. I slump into bed at the end of the day, with no reserves. I was granted enough energy for the day and plenty of grace for my failings. Now, I need His grace to get through another – with the demands of ministry and children and daily life. I have learned that I can’t do it all – or at least, not all at once. In fact, in my exhaustion and inability to go on, I can do nothing. God reminds me constantly that, ‘“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In this season of family life and the desire to make Jesus’ name known in Surrey Hills, I have been untangling myself from the lie that I once bought into. I can’t do it all. Actually, I can’t do anything. As a leader, I do not want to lead others into the lie, for them to feel the same frustration, struggle and juggle that I have had. God is the giver of grace for our family and ministry. I am grateful to be leading with limited capacity, with tiredness and with grace that is sufficient for today.
Jess Groszek is the Surrey Hills Campus Pastor with NewHope Baptist Church. She also serves as a Sports Chaplain at Surrey Park Swimming Club. Her day to day is filled with caring for three young children and trying to keep life simple in a complex world.