Can a woman in ministry experience a year of stripping? Should she even say such a thing or talk about a subject so controversial? As I sit here at my computer during the month of March 2015, I can without a doubt say, Yes, 2014 was my year of stripping. I’m sure I’ll get a few choice comments about this like I do every blog I’ve written about the Stripped Free Ministry and going into the strip clubs in Indianapolis to minister to the women there, but I hope you’ll continue to read on to make a very important discovery with me. I had no idea when Stripped Free launched back in April of 2014 that God was not only going to do a work in the lives of the women in the clubs we were going to meet, but He was going to do the biggest work in my own heart and life along the way. You see, Stripped Free is not just about the women inside the clubs, it’s about all women and that has become very clear to me over the past few months.
Let me recap 2014 for you so you can better understand what I mean. I’ll just give you the highlights. First, calling someone like me into strip clubs was a bold move on God’s part. I have a reputation of being a singer, speaker, pastor’s wife, not perfect by any sense of the imagination, but someone who would never go into a strip club. Why would she go into a club? People quickly began to misunderstand what I was doing and the judgments began to be hurled back and forth. “Is she actually stripping for Jesus? That’s awful!” (And laughable. No one in this ministry is taking her clothes off in the Name of Jesus. Just felt I should clarify that for the 100th time. Bless it.) “Can you still support their ministry if they’re going into strip clubs?” “You are helping Satan.” What? Now, I know the addition of this ministry was quite a stretch. Believe me, no one had a more difficult time wrapping their mind around all of this than me. Worship, singing, women’s conferences and……. strip clubs? At one point I sat in my bedroom by myself and had a very frank conversation with God. I told Him I didn’t even recognize my life anymore. This was a difficult and painful piece of ministry that I wasn’t sure I could be involved in for the long haul.
I found myself in an interesting limbo between those that had known me for many years and those that were meeting me for the very first time. Those who know me as Kim Tabor the singer/speaker looked at me quizzically when they found out I was going into strip clubs. Why? That was usually the first question out of their mouths. Then there were those meeting me for the first time inside the clubs or as a result of Stripped Free and after a long period of time they would somehow find out I have this other piece of my life involving music and worship in the church. Their first response? Really? And then there were those who thought Stripped Free was all I was doing and they worried that I had forsaken my other calling with the Church. I even had one woman ask, “Are you the Kim Tabor that used to be a singer?” That question was like a kick in the gut. Used to be a singer, I thought. Wow. What’s going on? Whose life am I living now?
This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but when you see your life going comfortably in one direction and all of sudden God drops something in your lap that you never saw coming, it tends to cause a little angst. Right or wrong, my identity had become wrapped up in what I saw as my primary role in ministry. I am a singer and speaker at conferences, worship services and other events that minister to the people in God’s Church. I know how to do those things. That’s where I’m most secure. This added role of going into the dark places of the clubs wasn’t anywhere on my radar. No one was more surprised than I was to have this added assignment. And trust me when I say no one is more insecure about her role in this piece of the ministry than me. At times I felt as if I was losing my identity. My stripping had begun…..
The pressure got turned up in September when for the first time in my life I lost my voice – completely. You want to make someone reevaluate things in their life? You take away the thing that’s defined them and that they have begun to unknowingly depend on. The thing that affects the way they make their living. You take that away and they begin to reevaluate very quickly and the fear and insecurity is overwhelming. I still had a major conference and a few other events to sing at over the fall. How was that going to happen when I couldn’t make a peep?
I went to my ENT and found out I had a nasty virus that landed in my vocal chords. The impact would last for 3 months, but thankfully I didn’t know that at the time. I had a conference to do 6 days after my diagnosis and that was my biggest concern. I remember asking the doctor if my voice would be back by then. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I don’t think so. Can anyone else do the conference?” He knew how awful my chords looked. I went home, got down on me knees on the family room floor and cried out to God from my heart since my voice was useless. I kept asking Him how this was going to work? I had a strong sense this conference was supposed to happen and I shouldn’t cancel even though I wasn’t sure how. That’s when I heard it. The familiar still small Voice that echoed in my heart and mind, “You’ll get your speaking voice back in time for the conference, but you won’t be able to sing.” What? How do I do a conference with no music? And in such a loving and tender way He responded to that question even before I officially asked it. Don’t ever think God doesn’t hear our every concern. He hears and He responds. He whispered again, “Do you think I need your voice in order to work and move?” I felt the lump in my throat as my eyes welled up with tears. That’s when I understood. I knew the answer to His question. Sure enough, it happened just as He said. I woke up 6 days later on Saturday morning and I had just enough voice to speak for 3 sessions, but I couldn’t sing one note. It was one of the most powerful conferences I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of and God made it obvious it had nothing to do with me. I felt the stripping once again…….
Little did I know this was just the beginning of God doing major heart work on me. Work I didn’t even know needed to be done. Add to the identity crisis I was going through, the death of a major influence in my life, the man who was like a second father to me. Phil Fair had been in my life for 25 years. He helped me get my first job, he was instrumental in me meeting my husband, Brian, and beginning Tabor Ministries. He’s been on our ministry board since day one and has been a mentor, friend and father figure. It’s hard to remember life before Phil. The Lord called him home this past October and I managed to squeak a song out at his funeral since he passed in the middle of my illness. Phil’s death rocked my world. It still doesn’t seem real. More stripping…….
As I look back I realize I was being stripped of people, my gifts, my identity, my definition of ministry and success, and even some of my dreams. It was an overwhelming and painful time. That’s when I really began to discover the deeper meaning behind this new ministry.
Friends, Stripped Free isn’t just for the women in the clubs, it’s for me, it’s for you, it’s for all women. Truthfully, it’s for all people. God used 2014 to strip me. He didn’t do it in a mean or condemning way. He did it in the most loving and compassionate way because He wants all of me. He wants me to be totally reliant on Him and He wants to be the deepest desire of my heart. That’s His desire for each of us.
Oswald Chambers sums it up in a beautiful way, “Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply ‘me’”? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself? Am I willing and determined to hand over my simple naked self to God? Once I am, He will immediately sanctify me completely, and my life will be free from being determined and persistent toward anything except God.” This is what it means to be Stripped Free.
The girls in the clubs sometime giggle when they see the name Stripped Free. They giggle because they think it’s cute and they understand how it relates to what they do. What they don’t realize is that the women handing them the cards with the name Stripped Free on them are being stripped themselves by a God who refuses to leave any of us just as we are. He sees all we can be and He knows we can only be our very best when we’re fully relying and pressing into Him. He is our best!
At one point in this stripping process I found myself on a boat dock one evening and I finally began to have a deeper understanding of what was happening. I needed to surrender. I told God I will go wherever He calls me to go no matter how dark. I will continue to use my gifts in whatever way He wants and will hold them loosely because they are ultimately His. I will trust Him no matter what. I brought Him all of myself on that dock. It’s what He wanted….complete surrender. My life is not my own. He can do as He pleases because I love and trust Him.
Am I still singing? Yes. Am I still speaking? Yes. Am I still going into strip clubs? Yes. For now, this is how my life looks and the opportunities I get today to share His love and freedom are sweeter than ever as I continue to be stripped and learn what it means to be simply “me.”
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