How I Nearly Lost It All In Pursuit of God’s New Thing


nichole forbes -how3

Lean in, dear Children, for I am about to tell you a cautionary tale of how I nearly lost it all in pursuit of God’s New Thing.

It was 2007 and my life was The Perfect Storm. I was a budding writer and a stay-at-home mom of three little people. I had just completed a mediocre novel that was getting rejected by agents far and wide. I had also recently suffered a miscarriage, which threw everything I knew to be true about a loving God into question. I was struggling with my faith and my sense of purpose. I was afraid that all I would ever amount to was the mayhem three Littles imposed on my world and the constant failure of a bin full of mismatched socks.

I knew I needed something more, something that would bring meaning and order to my life. I purposed to return to the faith of my childhood but I have to say, that wasn’t very helpful. I was raised in a Pentecostal church in the 80s and 90s. For those of you with a similar upbringing, that’s pretty much all you need to hear. For those of you with a different background, let me explain.

The Pentecostal church of this era was happy-clappy-God-is-on-the-move-Holy-Spirit-is-a-mighty-rushing-wind-new-wine-new-wineskin force of nature. My youth group was called “Youth on the Move.” We were constantly told that God is doing a new thing (Yeah, I’m looking at you, DC Talk) and if we didn’t hurry up we’d miss out on what God was doing. There was this underlying vibe of creating newness. Like, the holiest people were the ones who were creating new songs, new poetry, new ministries, and new interpretations of what the Bible is saying.

I was feeling depressed, disenchanted and like I was completely missing out on some Great Big Thing God was doing. There’s another piece of this Perfect Storm that I’m having trouble adding without sounding like a holy-roller loon but since I’ve already quoted DC Talk and disclosed my chronic inability to match socks, here it goes.

When I was 13 years old, my pastor stopped his sermon in the middle of a Sunday morning service and called me out. He had a prophetic word for me that has plagued me and haunted me and frustrated me for these past 25 years. He said, “Nichole, if you follow your dreams, you will be a mighty woman of God.”

Huh? Yeah. Okay.

At different times in my life I have remembered that Sunday morning and thought about the words my pastor spoke. I have spent no small amount of time trying to sort out what this meant but when I remembered them again in the spring of 2007, I felt the crushing weight of their importance. I felt as though I needed to act and act soon because somehow I was disappointing God.

It was in the middle of this Perfect Storm that I made a decision to start something new. I decided to take the small things we were doing as a family (supporting an orphanage in Mexico and collecting and distributing clothes for the homeless in our city) and turn it into something big. I decided that we needed to start a charity.

We spent six months and thousands of dollars trying to get our charity off the ground. It was a disaster. We did help people along the way but we put ourselves in debt, put an enormous strain on our marriage and, in the end, I felt no closer to God or fulfilling my dreams–whatever they were. I didn’t know what the point of any of our hard work was other than feeling compelled to do a new thing, so God would approve of me.

Our efforts fizzled out and I went back to feeling depressed, useless and, now, embarrassed at yet another failure. I hid for months. And then I joined a neighborhood book club. And I joined the creative events team at church. Then I attended a social justice rally and then a seminar on human trafficking and I read. I read and read and read. I educated myself on every cause and issue that stirred my heart.

Over the years, I offered my time and talents to a variety of organizations and causes. I found small pockets of joy and purpose in those efforts that helped to heal my disappointment in myself. God and I figured out my issues and we became tight again. God was gentle with me and allowed me to rage and question and grieve and heal.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I spent the following year in treatment and recovery. I, legit, spent a year healing–both physically and spiritually. When it became clear that I was truly on the mend, my husband and I sat down and looked back on the years we had spent trying too hard. We tried hard at everything. We fought for our marriage, for our family, for our adulthood, for our ministry, for our lives. We tried with all our might and we were tired. So very tired.

Then we looked forward.

We saw this whole life ahead of us and we knew we had the opportunity to do things differently. We knew we could decide how things were going to go from this point forward. We could choose the next chapter of our lives. We realized that things didn’t need to be so hard, that we didn’t have to try so hard. We finally understood we could just be.

What a relief.

Somewhere in this revelation we realized that our life was filled with a whole lot of good. We had been so busy trying that we had failed to recognize we could just be in the goodness. And more than that, for probably the first time in my life, I heard the whisper of my dream. I dreamed of amplifying the goodness. Like, seriously, putting a megaphone up to every good thing I saw or heard and amplifying it for the world to see and hear, too. I dreamed of calling out the good I saw in the people who filled my world. I dreamed of putting my efforts behind good things that were already happening in the world around me. I dreamed of being a hope-monger.

Now, I don’t know what it even means to be a mighty woman for God, but I do feel like I have a purpose. I feel closest to God when I am naming the goodness I see in others. I feel indescribable joy when I roll up my sleeves and pitch in where good people are already doing good things. I get a kick out of saying random encouraging things to people who least expect it. I am passionate about being so fully in the goodness that I don’t ever have to try to be or do anything more than I am right in that moment.

I bask in the knowledge that God loves me, wholly and fully, just as I am.

Maybe the new thing God is doing is really the old thing called community. Maybe God is moving, not so much in a direction but in people’s hearts. Maybe the rushing wind the pastors of old spoke about is the breath of life that comes from really seeing the goodness around you and naming it. Maybe all God requires of each one of us is to look up and be present in the goodness that surrounds us each and every day.

The Mister and I still work hard. We put our efforts towards all sorts of things, but we no longer feel the need to do a new thing. We’ve settled into just being the New Creation that God has dreamed us to be. I serve on a number of teams in a variety of capacities. I write and I pray and I sweep halls and I hand out sandwiches. I do whatever I can to help in the spaces God has led me to. I’m an Amplifier of Goodness.

I am all that I dreamed I could be.