Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Organic ministry: even the slimy bits

How is it that I can have so much patience - and even joyful fulfillment - in answering the same questions over and over for 20 different students, but completely lose my temper when the home health care agency sends helpers to my house an hour late and ill-prepared?

It seems like all the selfish, demanding, ugly bits of me that I try to sacrifice for the sake of the ministry flair up in the "slimy bits" of my life - namely, doctor appointments, home health care, private pay agencies, in-home services, Medicaid paperwork, government/financial nitpicking, etc. I hate dealing with all of it, and I hate who I become when I have to deal with it.

And I condone and rationalize my attitude because, let's face it, the system is miserably broken and there isn't an ounce of common sense or personal compassion in any of it. No sane person would blame me if I wanted to scream and curse and ram holes into walls and become a raging pyromaniac because of it all.


The person I am in those slimy bits is like the Mr. Hyde counterpart to the person Christ has called me to be. I would never use that tone of voice or those choices of words with my students, my teens, my team, my roommates, or my neighbors. How can I justify being rude and demanding and resentful in one area of my life when it is so clearly inappropriate and sinful in every other area? How can I live as a follower of Jesus and still hold so tightly to something I think I deserve and have a right to be obnoxious about? I have been wrestling with this conflict - this glaring inconsistency - all morning, and literally made myself sick to my stomach because of it.

The thing about organic ministry is that it isn't a job that you get paid for per hour, that you clock in and out of, that you remove a uniform or nametag, that you leave the office and go home from each day, that you get weekends and holidays off from - it cannot be compartmentalized. It's a lifestyle, and whether I am sick, tired, irritated, or emotional, it's still the calling God's given me, and it is my responsibility to be as faithful to it as possible. I feel like Amy Carmichael had a lot to say about it, especially in the last years of her life... maybe I should reread Rose from Briar to be reminded. 

In the meantime, I'm praying for a change of heart, and a heaping double-measure of grace and kindness to spend on the home health care agency (whose collective neck I just felt like wringing today)... and all the other slimy bits.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

God's petri dish

"I'm sorry, I know I'm a mess... kind of a dork... I just want to be God's petri dish!" A dear friend said this to me as she was leaving my house the other day, after a great heart-to-heart over a cup of coffee. She giggled her goofy infectious giggle, shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes, and with a deep-dimpled grin and sparkling eyes she backed out of the door, still bubbling, "I don't even know what that means... something about growing... whatever, I love you!"

A petri dish, eh? Makes me think of experiments, growing, cultivating new things... I've been thinking this metaphor over, feeling like there is something deep and beautiful there, I'm just not sure what...

Today, I found myself reading Romans 8. It's one of my favorite passages to read, especially after a long week of being physically sick and weary.

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." - v. 16-25

Do you see what I saw?

We must suffer, we must have frustration, we must feel the bonds of decay and groan inwardly in this life. I will get very sick and lose strength; I will wrestle with the need to depend on the help and care of others. And you will suffer in your own ways too. We will regret our mistakes, mourn broken relationships, weep over injustice, and long for what we do not have.

The sufferings God allows in our lives are the specimens he puts in our petri dish - the verses say that we are subjected to it by his will. But the suffering has purpose. A scientist doesn't just toss any old thing in a dish... he chooses carefully what to add in, to observe and study the results.

And the purpose in these verses is to cultivate HOPE - hope that one day we will share in his glory; hope that we will be free; hope that we will be adopted into his family; hope that our bodies will be redeemed and glorified... Hope that life will not always be the way it is now.  And the good news is, hope that comes from the Lord does not disappoint us (Romans 5:5).

As I consider this, I smile and agree with my friend - I want to be God's petri dish, too. I want to be open and available for him to fill me according to his will, and then watch how he uses those things to grow and cultivate hope in my life... Father, take this simple, weak, and unimpressive girl, and create something beautiful and strong, to the praise of Your glory.