A low month of trade had eaten into our reserves and suddenly the future of StoryHouse – our missional coffee shop and micro bakery – looked uncertain. Doubt, difficult conversations and meetings fuelled by the fear of failure suddenly consumed our days. We had to ask for help, we had to share the news with our staff and explore ways to cut costs. But amidst the chaos of fear, stress and exhaustion, there was also a sense of God at work as he refined us. He reminded us of who we are but more importantly, of who he is.
It sounds inspiring to talk about what I’ve learned and how these recent struggles have deepened my faith, but if I’m honest I just wanted to give up and run away to a house by the sea and pretend none of this ever happened. We thought we would lose it all and I was berating myself for even attempting something as crazy as planting a missional coffee shop in the first place. In a culture where a good life is marketed as an easy one, the battle of fear against the excitement of possibility felt overwhelming. But as much as I struggled with it, this feeling was not new to me. In fact, I can’t imagine how being part of God’s mission in this world would feel any other way.
In the middle of all this uncertainty, God broke in. One of our staff members has started referring to this time as a ‘week of repentance’. It began when God reminded us that we’re here to tell people about Jesus and not simply improve our latte art. We fell on our knees and begged for help. Our mission was refined and the passion behind our calling reaffirmed. Complacency can creep into any aspect of the Christian life, even the pioneering parts. Our lust for comfort accompanied by an ambition to be appear strong, capable and confident leaves little room for God. Even as I write this I realise how, after a couple of weeks of improved trade and successful evening events, my prayers are less urgent and I’m failing to transform the daily satisfaction of this recovery back into praise when I know it is God who has intervened and I know I will need him to do so again.
Pioneering, mission, church planting – whatever you call it – keeps bringing you to your knees. The risk, the fear, the doubt isn’t just present at the beginning. The calling of the missionary is one of adventure and excitement. But roller coasters can also make you sick. It’s those vomit-inducing moments when you’re losing everything that can provide moments of clarity. Shock hits you as you watch the distractions and activities you’ve been putting your energy into dissolve into dirt on the floor and you realise all that’s left is Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
I know this is not the last lesson or crisis we will endure, and sometimes I hate the impact my calling to pioneer has had on my life. But this endless beating drum in my heart tells me there is no other way. I must continue on this path. I must continue this journey of long obedience in the same direction towards the one who loves me. But I must also remember to do so on my knees.
LIZZIE LOWRIE is a local mission leader in Liverpool and runs a coffee shop and micro bakery called StoryHouse. storyhouse.community @storyhousecommunity