Sunday, March 12, 2017

A personal reflection

Hello friends and supporters!

First of all, let me apologize about how late in the month my update is coming to you. The last six weeks or so have been difficult for me. I believe God is trying to teach me a number of things that I've been slow to learn, and I hope to share some of that with you now. This post will be more personal than my typical ones about our ministry, and I hope it ministers to you in some small way.

For as long as I can remember I've been a very laid back, care-free, and unhurried person. Blessed with that disposition, I never thought I'd struggle with anxiety. But recently I have. I do not have anxious thoughts or find myself consciously worrying about much of anything, but the last few months I have been regularly visited by what I can only describe as anxiety attacks in the middle of the night. No bad dreams or conscious thoughts precipitate these happenings, they are very physical. The first few times it happened I thought something was wrong with my heart since chest pain and an imminent sense of doom always accompanied the occurrences. After numerous visits to the cardiologist, I found out my heart is fine (praise God!). Having visited my normal doctor, he felt confident that what I was dealing with was in fact anxiety. That was surprising. I spoke with him about what I do in ministry, and other circumstances I was facing and it confirmed his suspicions. He told me to cut way back.

Initially, it seemed wrong for me to cut back. "I feel like I have plenty of time", I said to myself, "keep going and it'll work itself out". Well it didn't. It felt strange. I felt broken. What worked for me forever suddenly stopped working and I was left wondering why. Was God trying to tell me something? Was I being punished for some sin? Was I just in need of a vacation? I had plenty of questions, and no answers. Through it I continued to pray a prayer of resignation to God, "God, you're good. My life hinges on that fact. Have your way, whatever way, and let me trust you regardless of whether it feels like a help or a hurt. Whatever you're trying to teach me, I'm open to it." When we're faced with what we consider bad or difficult things, it's easy to feel betrayed by God. I do not believe a good father abandons his children; I do not believe our most gracious Father abandons us. The most valuable lessons I've learned in my life have been through the desert path, in pain and trouble, void of consolation for a time as in a fiery furnace. His refining process is for our good; the help often feels like a hurt, and if winning looks like what it looked like for Jesus, then we must expect the cost to be great.

Through this experience I've also realized that I tend to find my value in what I do rather than who I belong to. I subconsciously believe the lie that because I am a minister to a large and growing ministry that the responsibility for its welfare is my own. So I filled my schedule up with one-on-one meetings to make my rounds and help people along in their faith and through their many, complex, and sometimes devastating issues. That takes a toll on the heart and mind, and I hurt for people like it was me that was experiencing it. I said yes to far too many things and I couldn't quite see anything that was unimportant enough to cut. My pride informed my sense of duty and my busyness was the badge of importance that told me that I was useful to God, as if he was concerned in the least about my usefulness! God does not want us or love us for our usefulness, he loves us and wants us because we're his children, and he's a good Father. That's just his way, and it's good. It's hard to accept that though because then self-importance can't play the role it played in my old self. Also, how can I show God I'm worthy of some small amount of grace if I don't work myself ragged trying to prove it? God isn't a slave-driver. He doesn't care about quotas. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. If I would have been less concerned about what I was "doing for God", and more concerned about his provision for me, I don't think I'd be in the same spot.

So I'm broken. Nothing new here, just more broken than I realized (a recurring realization for me). God, seeing that brokenness, is moving me on the painful path from brokenness to healing. It's a lot like physical therapy. In my devotional times I was reading 1 Peter every day and failed to see the provision of God's word he set before me until recently. 1 Peter 1:6-9 says:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I'm reminded of a quote by Thomas a Kempis that says, "All men are frail; but thou shouldst reckon none so frail as thyself". I'm reminded of my weakness and frailty. I'm reminded that I need God desperately and that the ministry I am a part of is his ministry. And I'm reminded of the goodness of God as he takes me from Haran to Canaan one trial and one step at a time. He's good!

On a different note, Collin Focus has been a great encouragement to me. Our students and our staff team continue to learn and grow together with each new week. This, too, is a testimony to the fact that God's work will continue, even despite our shortcomings and weakness. Please continue to be in prayer for our team and for the students as we near the end of the semester. Thank you so much for your prayers and your support of God's work on the campus. You are greatly appreciated.

Yours in Christ,

1 comment: