Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ten Years In
Yesterday I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my call to ministry. When I say I celebrated I really just mean that in a quiet place in my heart, I reflected on the last decade. Ten years of doing life with Jesus; ten years of marriage to this calling.
I was a senior in college, 21 years old. My local church held a girls’ retreat and that weekend God spoke clearly to my heart about our future together. Three times over the course of the weekend he called me, the first time and then twice more as I asked him, ‘are you sure?’
He was sure. And I was excited.
I was slow to believe the Lord when he first called because I felt so inadequate. Believe me when I say I am well acquainted with my shortcomings. I was not harboring any delusions about what a good minister I would make.
But what I heard the Lord say to me that weekend was, “I am going to use you in your shortcomings, in your inadequacies, in all your imperfections.” And I had the audacity to believe him, and he has rocked my world ever since and wrecked me for anything less than his plan for my life.
A decade in, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I have lived in three different states, served and loved college students on at least seven different campuses, eaten more pizza than Papa John himself, lost a bajillion hours of sleep, and counseled students on everything from same-sex attraction to whether they should get a tattoo.
Have I loved every single minute? No.
Would I trade one single minute of the last ten years for the life I had planned for myself? No.
I have learned many things in my life of ministry so far. I hope this list will encourage someone who is in need. If anyone can learn from my mistakes, let it be so!
1. What I know is far, far surpassed by that which I do not know. It’s funny that when I first experienced a call to ministry, I thought I knew stuff. I did not know stuff.
2. God doesn’t work according to a formula. You can do the exact same thing on two different campuses and get completely different results. You never know who he’s going to grab ahold of or when he’s going to show out. But you’d better be prepared when he does.
3. Prayer. Good grief, prayer. It changes things but most importantly it changes people, starting with me. There’s nothing more meaningful I do with students than pray over them in person, with my hand on them in some way. (Because I’m touchy-feely like that.)
4. Ministry is a weekly meeting about freshmen ministry. It’s also a middle-of-the-night phone call or someone crying in my office over a broken relationship. It’s easy to forget the purpose behind meetings or seemingly mundane tasks, and I have to remind myself that even the small things have meaning.
5. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the grace to grow. College students in particular do a lot of maturing over four years. I have to allow them to grow without continually bringing to mind who they used to be.
6. One of the first and most enduring pieces of advice I received when God first called me to ministry was to be real with people. That advice has never left me, and it’s one of my fundamental life goals. May I be allergic to fake.
7. Jesus. Occasionally I feel the need to announce to myself and everyone else, “I am bankrupt apart from Jesus Christ.” One of my spiritual mothers says it like this: “the only good in me is Jesus.” The moment my heart drifts away from this truth is the moment I’m in trouble. This is the foundation and the ceiling, the beginning and the end of both life and ministry. Jesus is the reason. Why in the world are we here otherwise?
Jesus, I am all in with you until it's time for me to come home. Let's do this thing.
"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel but our lives, as well, because you had become so dear to us." I Thessalonians 2.8