At the beginning of the year my husband felt God encourage him to “follow without grumbling” and I, a little patronisingly and smugly, thought that it was about time. I had always thought of myself as submitted and ‘on board’, ready to blow wind into the sails of my leaders and to make their lives a joy. Over the years I have been a bit of a pastor’s pet to be honest. In comparison my husband had a complicated relationship with leadership that caused some mistrust and backfooted-ness in following.
At times this was a source of frustration for me as I could see so much potential in him and we had had many prophetic words as a couple about how God wanted to use us.
Over the December holidays I had been praying for us to be established in church and I thought that this largely needed a heart shift on his side. Well, that heart shift happened, and I was overjoyed. What I didn’t reckon on was how my heart would be exposed and changed in the process.
In March we had a leader’s camp in Stellenbosch planned. As an extrovert I was excited to spend time with people that I loved and looked forward to a change in scenery. I have to be honest that as a mother of two children under 5 I did not spend much time in prayer leading up to the weekend nor did I have a huge expectation of what the camp would mean for us as a congregation. I had a vague idea that it would be good for unity and was interested to hear what Ross was going to share but I had no idea how incredibly powerful it would turn out to be.
On the first night during worship my husband shared a little about his journey with learning to follow Ross, despite their being very different men with very different giftings, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. As he spoke, he also shared a picture he had of some people in the group with “grappling hooks” digging into their backs, holding them back. As he said this, I knew that I was one of those people. I knew that I had not given my heart to Ross, that I was ‘following him’ only to a degree and that there was suspicion and mistrust in my heart. I asked Ross if I could share openly and stood up and told the group that I didn’t fully trust Ross but that I wanted to, and that I knew it was nothing that he had done but likely due to hurt from a previous church leader years ago. It was a watershed moment for me. To acknowledge that ugly place in my heart and to also acknowledge my sincere desire to follow well felt like both a prayer and a repentance moment. God responded swiftly and did such a transformational work in my heart that almost immediately I felt such a love and respect for Ross that I knew God was at work. One by one, other people also came forward to share their fears and struggles with leadership and God started doing something truly beautiful in us.
It set the tone for the weekend and you could see Ross having deep and possibly difficult conversations with people individually and as couples. What came out of this was the most beautiful sense of unity and family. I have never enjoyed a leaders’ time away as much as I did this one. Our children played together beautifully, the older children joining in with our games and laughter in the evenings. Everyone seemed to be feeding a baby, playing a game with a child or helping prepare food ... it was family. We didn’t want it to end.
On the last morning we had a powerful time of prayer and deliverance and I could see that God was using my husband and I powerfully as a couple and in our individual giftings – it was like something had been dislodged and we could flow better as a couple and in the Spirit.
The true test is what happens when you are back to ‘real life’! I feel like a different person in many ways. I am excited for what God is doing, expectant and full of faith. I have not been struggling with anxiety (which is something that I have battled in the past), I have a renewed hunger for the Word and I have found it easy to submit and follow Ross without any undertows of mistrust or suspicion. I am so excited to see what God is going to do. I feel like as a couple we are better placed to lead now than we have ever been – because we are learning to follow well.
Nicola Sayer is a saint in JoshGen Wynberg, a wife and a working stay-at-home mom to two feisty angels.