Sunday, May 6, 2012
In my last post, Rachel (and Marcie) challenged us to rethink our mothering approach. Today I'd like to offer one more challenge, for mommas and non-mommas alike.
I'm in YET ANOTHER Beth Moore video-driven Bible study at my church: Fulfill Your Ministry. It is comprised of three videos that were recorded at one of her weekend conferences, with little to no homework. And, just in case you think, by the title, that it is about people who are "called" to ministry--you're right! It is! But did you know that if you are a believer in Christ, you are called to ministry? So this Bible study is for every single Christian. Every single one of us in the body of Christ has a calling. I wonder how long I was a part of the body of Christ before I REALLY believed this! I hope you really believe it. And I hope you know what it is or spend a lot of time in prayer figuring it out because I know we all want to finish the race and hear "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
In last night's video, Beth encouraged us to have a goal, a succinct life goal that we could measure everything against. Then, as we move through daily life, we can ask ourselves at each turn, "Does this help me reach my life goal?" These are NOT the life goals she's talking about...
I want to be married.
I want to have kids.
I want to own my own business.
I want to travel the world.
Her example was an acronym:
She said she wanted it to be apparent that God was all over her, that her life was completely found in Him (and I'm seriously paraphrasing).
I knew immediately what my goal was and it is two-fold:
1. Know and love God as much as I can this side of heaven.
2. Live a life that reflects Him to others.
Remember, that's my goal. I'm not saying I do those things well, but that is what I'm striving for.
And my goal is based on what I feel is my life ministry: sharing what I learn about God with others.
I had an awesome memory jogged to the surface of my brain this afternoon. I recalled a time in my life when I was a teenager and I felt God was telling me something. Something. But what? What, God? What in the world? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not doing something I should be doing? What??? I cried. I talked to my youth pastor; I talked to a camp counselor. I felt so many emotions that I can't quite express even now, but mostly I just was feeling pulled by God to give Him everything. It was not long after that experience (which took place during a youth retreat at Ridgecrest) that I went before my church and said I felt called to missions. Missions. I pictured myself SINGLE, in far-away lands, preferably Africa, pouring myself into learning the ways and language of a native people while teaching them the Bible and just loving them into salvation. I am literally laughing out loud as I type this. I had such a narrow, romantic view of missions. And the reality is...here I sit in America, married, two kids, no passport, no money, and no future prospects of any "missions."
But as soon as all this swirled through my brain today, I recalled my first year in this little town I've lovingly dubbed Madville--partly because I was mad when I realized I was moving from Cincinnati, OH to Smalltown, USA and partly because I about went mad (crazy) the first year we were here. So, I recalled that first year of part-time jobs and days filled with reading and praying. I recalled my mourning for lost inner-city ministry opportunities. I recalled the feeling of knowing next to no one. I recalled my longing for my former church. I recalled the Saturday-night struggle of deciding which church we would try the next morning. I recalled reluctantly visiting the big Baptist church on Main Street. I recalled a part-time children's ministry interim position. I recalled receiving a phone call from my pastor (who was not my pastor then), asking me if I would be interested in applying for the position of Children's Minister. I recalled standing before that Baptist congregation on a Sunday night, giving my testimony, convinced that I was giving them more reasons to vote against me than for me as I admitted my former pledge to never step foot in a Baptist church again. I recalled the complete awe in which I stood before my God who had flung open doors that literally seemed to be impenetrable walls between me and ministry. Then I recalled the struggles, the times I wanted to quit, the times I longed for Africa. But then...then I recalled words from a very dear friend. She will never know what those words meant to me then or what they still mean to me now. I was sharing my story with her: a commitment to missions, a run from God, a chase by God, a move to Smalltown, a position at a formal Baptist church, and my longing to be in Africa. She listened for a long time, then she finally said, "This is your mission field...THIS is your Africa." I weep even now as I type it.
We can have such a narrow view of what God is calling us to do, and if so, we may be very disappointed when our picture doesn't match up with our reality. I knew very early on that my calling was to share what very little I knew about my God with others. I still know this is what I am to do. But the way I imagined it and the way it is playing out are oh! so! very! different!
I was a children's minister in a big, formal Baptist church--you know the one with the intimidating architecture, starting with the three-story white columns and three sets of double doors at the entry to the sanctuary and ending with the large pipe organ that covers the entire front wall of the sanctuary. Not a thatch-roof hut.
I am no longer a "children's minister" by title, but in every sense of the word, I am in full-time children's ministry right inside my home. No foreign language necessary.
(But my daughter did ask if I knew how to speak "silently" the other day. I assumed she meant whispering, but slowly began to realize through the course of our discussion that she meant sign language. I was thrilled that I actually could teach her some signs.)
And I teach a Bible study class in said Baptist church, even though I've tried to weasel out of it innumerable times because God tells us that He holds teachers to a greater level of accountability. "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1). Sometimes that is enough to make me want to run! No, not sometimes. Every time I read that verse I want to run. Run, Forest, Run! I do not want to be judged more strictly. I can hardly imagine how well I would fair in a less strict judgment. But my point is that I am teaching in a air conditioned and/or heated room, sitting on plush chairs, and we all have at least one Bible in our hands (some of us have multiple translations on our Iphones or Ipads). We aren't swatting mosquitoes, or sitting on splintery wooden benches, or sweating in an open room cooled only by an occasional breeze.
So, I am sharing what little I know--at one time it was with the children at our church, and now it is with the children in my home and a few brave ladies who choose to hang with me in Bible study.
Immediately a verse comes to mind, and I'm paraphrasing from Isaiah 55, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways; My thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways higher than your ways." Only He can see the big picture, so maybe we should leave the painting up to Him. When we try to paint a picture of our futures, we can easily become confused and even disappointed when the reality doesn't match the picture in our minds. But, if we leave the brush in His hands, we can behold with awe the way He creates a masterpiece out of our lives, one careful stroke after another. As Beth said last night, the calling He has for us in impossible without Him. He is calling us to be a masterpiece. Think about that! Each of us holds within ourselves the potential to be a masterpiece! But we cannot create the masterpiece; only He can do that. If we want to be a beauty to behold, we best be taking our hands off the brush. His ways are better!
So, to tie this all up...we need to know our ministry; we need to have a life goal; and we need to let God be in control...all. the. time. That's my hang-up. I get an idea and just run with it! Never pausing to ask, "Is this your will, God?" I'm running around, painting some scribbles, all the while He has this beautiful picture in mind. He's just waiting for me to stop...and hand Him the brush.