Confessions of a (Recovering) Work-a-church-a-ministry-a-holic

Disclosure: Sometimes when I write, I write for anyone who will read it. And sometimes when I write I have a specific message meant for a specific group. Now certainly anyone is welcome to read this piece, but this is written for folks who might consider themselves one of God’s kids, and specifically someone who is working to serve Him with their lives. Today I am writing with you in mind…

This summer I made a trek out west…the midwest to be exact…desiring to reconnect with my Indiana roots. I drove around the streets and soaked up the delicious slowness. One night I was invited to a friend’s house. When we arrived there was a scampering of little feet running up and down steps, there were giggles and basketballs bouncing on a court out back. The wine flowed freely and the laughter was contagious. The twinkle lights outlining the deck gave a perfect glow. The love communicated through this group of friends was evident. This was not a special night it was their typical Saturday night. It was slow, it was infectious and it spoke directly to my soul.

Funny how I am forty and feeling like I am JUST learning some huge life lessons. Is it is a rite of passage or did I miss the memo being passed down from those older and wiser? I am learning about myself, about priorities, about family and friends, about ministry and relationship…about life. If you’ll hang with me I will share more of these lessons through this channel over the upcoming weeks and months.

Here’s the thing…I wish I would have learned this sooner. My life would have felt different–or at least I could have modeled better behavior for those who followed or were watching. I desire for those I love who are just a few steps behind on this journey to latch on and learn FASTER than I learned…to prevent headache and heartache and confusion.

Most of us have been taught your life IS ministry…and in some ways it is…but maybe not how you are thinking. See, we also have been taught ministry trumps all. Living day to day in this reality means no rest for the weary, ever. You get the call you go. Yet, there will aways be more needs than there is time to fulfill. The busyness box stuffed with good things causes us to trade better for best. (And you will know it, because “better” actually turns you bitter.) Those closest to us feel the effects of this most profoundly. The littles that look to us for their needs and wants have a blurred and confused understanding of service and ministry as we give of ourselves until depleted and leave nothing left for their precious hearts at home. And so it goes, our slow Saturday nights are gobbled up by things we feel obligated to do…or may even find great joy in doing…but at what cost? And here’s the kicker…we act like WE are the victims of the schedule we have created. We are exhausted and over-extended but we were the ones who said yes to all.of.the.things.

When my mind is swirling and cluttered…I find books to center and calm me. Transparent authors have been fantastic guides. Lewis and Lamott, the list runs long…so many welcomed truth tellers. I have found the words ofthis woman extremely timely on some of these subjects…in her book Present Over Perfect  Shauna Niequist declares,

You don’t have to sacrifice your spirit, your joy, your soul, your family, your marriage on the altar of ministry. Just because you have the CAPACITY to do it doesn’t mean you have to. (157)

There is something about the American dream, there is something in the fabric of our culture that has birthed a mantra. A “self-made-ness” mantra that has seeped in to our spiritual culture and the rush and the push and the drive and the DO threatens our very soul.

She goes on,

I have seen a thousand examples of fruit in the churches and starvation in their marriages and families. I would not call that blessed, or whole or healthy, or God’s intent. (158)

To be clear it expands farther than the church proper, it is the western missionary work we saw in Uganda, it is in the para-church organizations, it is in our small groups, our committees/service projects, and it is in our homes. We are human beings not human doings. And to be clear, doing things for God does not equate relationship with God. But internal and external voices tell us we must do more, we must be more. And if you are looking to attract others to faith…I can assure you they are not interested in the rush, the chaotic, the overwhelmed, and the busy life we present in the name of God. Sit in that statement for a moment. I think our friends watching are far more interested in the intentional, in the small, in the meals, in the moments. In the times around the table…or sitting on the deck under the stars. That is where He shines brightest.

When we slow down we see faces. We see hurts and hardships. When we slow down we raise the white flag acknowledging our inadequacies and our inabilities to be all things to all people. This actually become a freeing and refreshing reality. Speed keeps us from truly feeling the feels. And it gives a false sense of worth…so we put our heads down moving forward knowing this can’t be all there is to life…all the while, despite our best intentions, I believe others are watching who are not likely very impressed.

For the past year I have fought for many things…but one is the desire to be authentic…to feel the feels. Giving myself permission to ask, question, doubt, and discover. The search for authenticity required slowness and silence. It required doing wildly unpopular things like saying “no” and “not for this season.” It required questioning the status quo…even the Christian status quo…and the very roots of my theology. I feel as if I am landing on the soft side of this thing with God…more ready than ever to walk with Him. I am ready to feel the safety and security of my tribes’ embrace…and to do this in the comfort of my deck chair out back…sipping on sweet tea or something stronger…knowing that in this slowness I am being more authentically who I was made to be and not doing what I think God is expecting me to do.

For those who find this incredibly obvious…I am thrilled for you. Oh how I wish I could have learned this earlier. This is written with so many and yet no one specifically in mind…if a tiny truth popped off the page then terrific…take it and let it soak in to your soul. But for those who are tired, (exhausted even), I feel you, and there is no way God intends for you to wear your body out for his namesake. He doesn’t love you for what you do…but cause you’re His.

Recently Chris and I have vowed to love the life we live…and he keeps saying, “if we don’t it’s our fault.” So here’s to learning to slow down and stop doing things for God…and working to simply be His kid. Here’s to laying out a life we love…with sweet days and nights around tables and on back porches. No doubt adventures will flow out of that time…but it begins in the slowness and soulfulness of seeing Him and seeing others the way we were designed to live.

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