Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Heartache of Ministry

It seems that if ministry is your heartbeat, especially church ministry, the Enemy is going to come against you through politics, backstabbing, and betrayal. Most of the friends I look to for wisdom and counsel have been in lay or career ministry at some point, and well over half of them have been deeply wounded by others in the church. My own ministry experience is no exception.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't feel at least a twinge of heart-wrenching sadness over the church I worked for two summers ago and the way things ended there. In regards to the politics and betrayal, God has been good to lend His healing balm. But concerning my relationships with those kids--my desire for them to know how fiercely I still love them, and thereby to know how much more their Father and Creator does--it tears my heart out. I understand, I think, that fiery devotion of Paul's for the believers in Rome. He so wanted to be with them, to hold them to his chest in brotherly love, and to instruct them in the ways of Christ. But he could not get to them. I feel that same burden and must continue to believe that "he is able to guard that which I've entrusted to Him" (I Timothy 1:12).

The other part of the enduring sadness is a longing. My summer with those kids bespoke something other-worldly, that glory known before the Fall. It's as if God whispered to my heart, "Do you feel that? This is what you were made for. This is what I had in mind when I knit you together." I think maybe it was so me because I was so out of my element--a sense of adventure--doing something I was good at--a sense of purpose. It was without a doubt the most beautiful season, not to mention the most fun summer of my life. It was formative in understanding my life's calling: I know that I must mentor and teach and challenge and nurture and venture out if I am to manifest even a hint of the glory God put in me before time began and restored by the blood of the Lamb.

That season was punctuated with two pivotal bookends: a painful sophomore year at school and a difficult but also beautiful semester in Italy. During my sophomore year, a time when I regularly cried myself to sleep and wondered what the Lord could possibly have in store for me that I needed the discipline of such a desert, I read Psalms 65:9-13 and my heart was deeply ministered to.

"You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly...You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty and your carts overflow with abundance." And crown that difficult year with His bounty He did! That summer was the abundance I had waited for.

Perhaps God, in His knowing that all good things in this life must come to an end so that we may someday take hold of what is better in eternity, applies that same principle to the here and now. Maybe He had to end my time at the church so that I could move on to the next assignment. What if they had hired me (as opposed to throwing me out!) upon my return from Italy? I would have missed out on Third Pres and on Tri Delt things and on Nashville and Forest Hills BC. Part of me feels it would have been worth it, but that's probably the same part that doesn't fully understand how far Heaven will outweigh this life.

"...yet I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that Day" (I Timothy 1:12).

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