I am in a new season in life when I am asking different questions from thirty years ago. For most, if not all of my life I have needed to be needed. Recently with the help of what could be viewed as disappointments, I am being stripped of this need (to be needed) and finding myself just willing to be available. Getting there has not come easy. It’s come at the expense of my self, my pride. Throughout my thirty years of ministry I am not accustomed to being marginalized, or looked over for someone younger with more years ahead of him. I am surprised (and honestly somewhat disappointed) when my opinion is not sought after by another pastor facing significant changes in his ministry.
These recent events, with the added benefit of growing older and growing up spiritually (finally) have forced me to ask some new questions. The questions that drove me into ministry (thirty years back) were:
- How can God get the most of this life?
- What difference will this life make in the grand scheme of God’s larger purposes?
- How many people will I impact on this journey?
- How will this world be a better place when God is finished with me?
I managed quite well, motivated by these questions until recently. Until I found myself not as needed as before. Until a younger buck was chosen over this graying one, and less people are looking to me to help them manage their own ministry decisions. Until I felt less significant to the greater purposes of God and noticed the world has not changed all that much during my lifetime.
I have honestly enjoyed this change. The pressure is off. When I look back and review the impact I have had, or not had, I feel less guilty about it. While I do feel less effective than I used to, the questions I am now asking make me okay with that. Now I am asking more refreshing questions which I am assuming will drive me perhaps for the next twenty or maybe even thirty years;
- Am I willing to go unnoticed the rest of my life? I hope so, because I do know from the past that I needed to be noticed. My history exposes a heart that gets frustrated when not recognized or given credit for something I felt I deserved. I long to be free of that.
- Am I willing to be ineffective the rest of my life? I don’t know. My story is one of a heart that measures holiness by the fruit of my labor, by the spiritual marks I have left. The post-sermon pat-on-the-back and the doubts about myself when I didn’t get one. One of my favorite authors is Brennan Manning. He lived in disappointments, fumbling through life as an alcoholic and most of his later years unnoticed, taking care of mentally handicapped young men. It’s no surprise Manning lived this kind of life. During his ordination his mentor, Larry Hines, prayed this blessing over Manning: May all your expectations be frustrated, May all your plans be thwarted, May all your desires be withered into nothingness, That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child, and can sing and dance in the love of God the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
- Am I willing to be unimpressed by God for the rest of my life? What I mean is, am I willing to live the rest of my life with his silence? What if He never shows up again? What if, from here on I see no visible proof of his presence? Will I still trust Him? We live for God things, an expression reserved more for when God delivers for us, not when he seems absent. Yet, is He not just as much in control when the cancer comes back, as when it’s in remission? I love what Larry Crabb writes in his book, Real Church. Our faith develops most strongly, and God is most glorified most fully when we feel only His absence, when every trace of His presence vanishes and our resolve to trust continues. I long to be at that place where I can live the rest of my life without one more God Thing, because what I have in Him and what I know about Him is enough to last me, not just a lifetime, but for all eternity. I hope so! It’s at least what I want to rest in during this next and possibly last phase of my life.