The past two days have been packed with ministry—ministry that varied from playing with toddlers at a park, to training college students to lead worship, to praying with a middle-aged woman for deliverance. I have worn a lot of hats already this week—and it is only Wednesday!
In the midst of it all, I had an emotional breakdown. Or a crisis of belief. Or maybe I was pitching a fit. I am really not sure. Let’s just say I shed a few tears. Okay, a lot of tears.
My weeping was related to a weariness that I cannot quite wrap my mind around, but it has something to do with the fact that most of what I do these days I do out of weakness.
What is the point of spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and past experiences when Jesus keeps asking me to do stuff for which I do not feel equipped? Why has He given me certain strengths and then put me in circumstances that require an entirely different skill set?
You know that feeling you get when you are in your sweet spot, doing that thing that makes you think: I was MADE to do this! Like the guy from Chariots of Fire who said, “God made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure.” You know, that feeling? I don’t get that feeling very often any more.
Right now I feel more like, “God made me fast, and then He sat me down in a chair, put a seat belt on me, and asked me to paint a sunset.” What?!? I do not paint! I cannot even draw stick figures. And besides that, I do not like sitting. Or seat belts. Or paintbrushes. (Speaking figuratively, of course.)
You see, it is not that “painting” is bad—it is just not my best thing. I am really glad that there are great painters in the world, and I value what they do. I think it is important work. But it is not my work. Or rather, it is not work that I am good at, nor is it work that I enjoy.
But it is the work that God has me doing today.
And so I am wrestling with the tension between being a humble servant (willing to do whatever God asks me to do) and being a gifted child of God (uniquely wired for a specific purpose).
Before I left the States, when working in ministry, I loved helping women discover their gifting and then equipping and empowering them to serve. I liked to see women operating out of their strengths because then they tended to be 1) highly effective in their ministry, 2) highly satisfied in their ministry, and 3) less likely to burn out.
I realize now that such an outlook on ministry was a luxury. I was in a church of 4500 people, where all the gift sets were represented and plentiful. I never had to ask a woman whose primary gift was hospitality to teach in the children’s program. I never had to put someone with a behind-the-scenes gift of service in an up-front teaching role. And I certainly did not have the prayer warriors bogged down with administrative tasks. But that was a luxury.
We currently serve in a church that has 17 founding members and about 40 regular attendees (not counting children under the age of 10). Among those members and attendees, many are still just discovering their gifts and are not yet equipped for ministry. So then what?
At the Last Supper, Jesus sat around the table with His disciples, knowing that before they could eat, the feet should be washed. I suppose everyone around that table could have said, “Hey, foot-washing is not my gift! Me? I am an apostle! A preacher! I have the gift of leadership!” And Jesus? He could have played the gifting trump card: “I am the Messiah, uniquely gifted to save the world from sin and death!” But Jesus did not do that. Instead, He quietly got up from the table, wrapped a towel around His waist, and did the work that needed to be done. No fanfare. No complaining. One minute He is turning over tables in the temple with passion and authority, the next minute He is caressing the dirty feet of His followers with tenderness and humility.
I want to be like Jesus. I want to be willing to do whatever God puts before me to do—trusting in His strength to give me what I need. But (insert whiny voice) I also want to do the things that I like to do, that I feel gifted to do, the things that let me feel God’s pleasure. That is the place from which my tears fell yesterday. That place, that desperate, hungry-for-His-pleasure place is crying for my attention, and I am not sure what to do about it. And I see no end in sight…and I am weary.
It is hard to do things that I am not good at! It is hard to be continually reminded of my own weaknesses! It is hard to feel like my entire ministry here is built on mediocrity because that is the best I can do! It is also hard to remember that I have any gifts at all. Those things that used to make me feel alive are gathering dust in a neglected corner of my life. Sometimes I gaze longingly in their direction, wondering if I will ever put them to use again.
God is silent on the matter.
And so I wake up each day, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward with a faith that belies this hidden struggle. God is active in His silence, filling all of my awkward, fumbling attempts at ministry with His enormous goodness and grace:
In the end, God will do His work whether through me or in spite of me. And any gift I have is worthless unless it is put to use by the Giver Himself. Either way—it is all by His grace and for His glory. Rather than gazing longingly at the unused gifts, I will try to turn my eyes once again to the Giver, and I will trust that He knows what He is doing. He can deal with my tears, my fits, and my weariness. He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Question to consider: How do you practically apply the fact that “He knows what He is doing” when you are “walking in weakness”?