By Carol Colvin
I’ve been teaching others how to create what they want for several years now, and I’ve always told them to focus on what they want and why they want it – and to leave the how and the when up to a higher power. Still, sometimes when I try to create something myself, I find it hard to let go of control and follow my own advice.
My goal a few years ago was to change hearts and minds in my church with regard to the treatment and inclusion of LGBTQ people. Two of my three adult children are part of this community, and when they were growing up, they heard and internalized many harmful messages at church and at home – there was something dreadfully wrong with them, they did not fit in; they would not live in heaven with our family after they died, and God did not love them. They were certain that they would be rejected if they “came out” as gay, so they kept their secret – my son until age 21 and my daughter until age 28. I have many regrets about things I said and did in parenting my children that made them think I would reject them. I wanted to turn back the clock and have a do-over.
I couldn’t change the past, but I knew that there were children and youth in my congregation who were currently hiding their own LGBTQ identity from their parents because they heard the same harmful messages at church and at home that my children heard. I wanted to help them by helping their parents. I wanted to save them from making the same mistakes I had made. I also hoped I could help church teachers and leaders to better love, support, and include LGBTQ people.
I pictured what I wanted – programs for training parents and leaders, Sunday evening discussions with speakers from the LGBTQ community who were also faithful members of the church, support groups for parents, etc. I got excited imagining the love that would increase in families and in our church community. I felt really good about the what and the why. And then I got to work on the how and the when. I was driven, partly by guilt over past mistakes with my children, and partly by concern for all the closeted youth in my church. I knew there were some who were at that very moment agonizing over how and when to trust their parents with their big secret. I thought I knew the best way to change hearts and minds and I felt the urgency of doing it right now. So I reached out to my local church leaders to enlist their support and their help to start the ball rolling on the meetings, the training, and the support groups. I quickly found that they did not have the same passion that I had. They did not see the need, and they definitely didn’t understand how urgent it was. I came up with lots of different ideas and ways to accomplish what I felt needed to be done and tried to work with them for over two years, but I finally gave up.
I was heartbroken. I had failed. I had truly felt called to minister to the LGTBQ community in this way, and I had tried to work through existing channels to do what I thought God wanted done, but there were too many obstacles. I felt useless. So I told God in prayer that I quit. I was still willing to talk to people and tell my story and answer questions and try to help them understand the need to love better, but God was going to have to send the people to me, probably one at time. I asked only that I be able to help 10 people somehow, sometime soon. I was done planning meetings and trainings. I was done giving people deadlines. I was finally ready to give up the how and the when.
Fast forward to the happy ending. Through a series of events and one-on-one conversations over the next month, I spoke to over 250 people about my love for the LGBTQ community and my hope that they be embraced, supported and included in their families and in their church communities. There were tears, there were hugs, and I know hearts and minds were changed, which was what I always wanted. The what and the why had been clear. But success didn’t come until I let go of the how and the when. I’ve learned a lesson, and now I heed my own advice. These days I try harder to focus on my job and let God take care of the rest.
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