Several years ago, our church started a karate school. It’s an amazing ministry which seeks to bring people from the community in to learn karate, and in the process they are exposed to the gospel. I encourage you to look up ABKA Karate and Sensei Denny Holzbauer to learn more, but that’s not my purpose today.
I want to tell you the story of my personal karate experience.
You see, when the ABKA started at our church, my son wanted to take karate. However, because of his age at the time, he was required to have a parent take the class with him.
And that’s how I became a karate student.
I can hear your laughter now. If you are thinking that I don’t seem like the karate chopping, board breaking, kata performing type, YOU WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY, 100% CORRECT.
But, I am a child-loving, out-of-your-comfort-zone, follow your dreams kind of mama. So, I purchased my gi (that’s a white karate uniform for those of you wondering), tied on my white belt, and proceeded to learn the various kicks and punches with my kids.
Soon, a tournament presented itself. My kids wanted to participate, but they were scared. So, in an effort to set the example, I signed up for the tournament. That’s where I earned my first fighting name: P Cubed. In case you are wondering, I was the only participant with pink, pedicured toenails—thus I became P3 for the Pink Pedicured Princess. I am certain my name struck fear into the hearts of my competitors!
My plan to encourage my children did work, however. When the next tournament rolled around, my kids were ready to participate. We tied on our orange belts (impressed, eh?), loaded up the car, and made the trek across the state.
The rules were simple: if you land a kick or punch in the appropriate area of the body, you score a point. The highest point total at the end of the match would win and advance to the next round. However, the face is off-limits at the orange belt level.
I drew a bye for my first round, but soon it was my turn to spar. I stepped into the ring with my competitor, and the fight began. I threw a right punch to the head—but she moved, and I landed it square on her right eye (off-limits). The ref stopped the fight to issue me a warning. One more shot to the face, and I would be disqualified from the competition.
Again, we stepped into the ring. Again, I threw a punch. Again, she moved. Again, I landed it square on her right eye—giving her quite a shiner. And I was disqualified. A great big DQ went up next to my name.
And that is how I earned my new name: DQ Dena.
Although that competition ended my karate career, I still use my name to keep my kids in control. The threat of unleashing DQ Dena on them will usually snap them right into line. It’s true. DQ Dena strikes fear into the hearts of my children—fear of total and complete humiliation in front of their friends.
Whatever it takes…
While I love to laugh about my karate experience and my disqualification, there’s another area of life in which I have struggled with feelings of being disqualified. You see, when I was ten years old, I felt God calling me to full-time ministry. I surrendered in that moment, and I knew that my life was on a path to serving God. I didn’t know specifics, but I knew that God would reveal his plans to me.
As a freshman in college, I remember sitting in church one evening and having an overwhelming sense that I was supposed to be a pastor’s wife. It was a thought that simply wouldn’t go away. I prayed that God would either confirm what I was sensing or take it away. Again and again, God confirmed that His plan was for me to serve as a pastor’s wife.
After nearly 17 years as a pastor’s wife, my marriage fell apart. Suddenly, I had lost most everything of importance—including my ministry. You see, I was raised in a denomination where divorce disqualifies you from ministry—regardless of the reasons for your divorce. My usefulness to God was over.
I struggled with reconciling God’s call on my life with my divorce. Why would a divorce—especially as a result of adultery which was biblical grounds for divorce—disqualify me from being used by God? Had I been relegated to a second class Christian? No pastor would marry a divorced woman, so I could never be a pastor’s wife again. Where did I fit in the grand scheme of God’s kingdom? Did I have to settle for living the rest of my life as a single woman, never to marry again if I wanted to serve God?
And that’s when I ran across Romans 11:29:
For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Romans 11:29
Those words ran through my mind night and day. God’s will and His call are irrevocable. If that is true, there is still a calling on my life. But how do I reconcile Romans 11:29 with scriptures that indicate leaders must be the “husband of just one wife” (Titus 1:6, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; )? Does that scripture apply to me? Does it only apply to those serving as leaders in the church? Why would God apply it only to men and not to women as well? So many questions, and yet so few answers.
I know there are people who will rise up against me and say that I have been disqualified from ministry because of my divorce, especially if I remarry one day. However, I am learning that what man may consider as a disqualification from ministry, God can actually use to qualify me for ministry.
How can God qualify someone through divorce? Or addiction? Or adultery? Or _(fill in the blank)_? God has used this time of pain to purify my heart. He has used it to wipe away the pride that caused me to believe I was better than others. He has cleansed me of my judgmental attitude toward those whose lives were not as “perfect” as mine. I have come to a place of understanding that even I need God’s forgiveness because—in and of myself—I am capable of great sin. I have experienced the love of a God who pursues the one sheep who walks away, the God who is faithful even when I am faithless. I have been the prodigal son and the prideful older son. I have experienced the grace of God and no longer need to prove that I am worthy. I walked through the fire and found my faith strengthened and purified. I have met the Great I Am—the One who meets my every need exactly when I need it.
Today, I know my Savior personally, intimately, experientially. He has walked me through the painful trials and tribulations of life, and I can say with absolute certainty that He is faithful!
While I still can’t answer all of the questions, I know that God has again planted a seed of ministry in my heart. Dreams of writing and speaking that had been pushed deep down into my sub-conscious mind have been brought to the surface, the passion burning brighter than ever. Doors of ministry seem to be flying open at every turn—opportunities that I have in no way pursued through any means except prayer. With every heartbeat, my passion grows, my dreams seem larger and closer, and the vision grows clearer.
Has divorce disqualified me from ministry? Only God can call, and only God can qualify. And, perhaps it is through the trials and tribulations of this life that He qualifies those He calls.
(Click here for some commentary on the phrase “husband of just one wife” from BibleGateway.com)