My life’s work is supposed to be about people. Like a pastor, I enter people’s lives for a time noticing the contours of their soul, the formation or deformation of Christ within. Somewhere in there I ask questions and make observations eventually challenging and hopefully disrupting their beliefs about God and what He is about in their world. My desire is to draw others into a fuller life in Christ (kind of like what Paul talks about in Eph. 3:19). Individuals and families come to us for a time and we try to go to them as God makes funds available. That energizes me.
What de-energizes me is the administration of our organization and even my own generated stuff. One agency wants a report from my time in Cambodia and Laos. I need to keep track of the stories I hear anyway. Another organization asked that we (my wife and I) provide soul care for their conference… more admin (scheduling flights, planning talks, coordinating events, etc.). And then there is the endless flow of email traffic that can pile up when unaddressed for any length of time. Like the ocean, I dare not turn my back on it too long or I get zapped with something ‘crucial’.
But if I’m going to listen well to people’s stories and enter their lives as the Spirit leads, I need to be listening to the Spirit. And I can’t listen well to the Spirit if I’m too busy. Something has to give. I need to let go of some good things to make room for better things – so that the good things I do, I will do well. It’s not easy. In fact, I don’t know what to jettison. I like it all… Or do I?
Lately I’ve been wondering why I’m having trouble letting go of some things. If it de-energizes me, why do I delve into it and sometimes even create more to do? Am I so ego driven that I secretly believe I’m necessary to a person’s growth and so say “yes” to every request that comes my way? Or is it that I’m too lazy to say “no” and then secretly ‘blame’ my plight on those who seem to keep asking for time? As a supported missionary, I confess I feel the pressure (mostly internal but present in many conversations nonetheless) to make the church’s investment in me worth it. Yet, I wonder if by giving in to the pressure I’m also setting in motion my own demise? Is my work truly of the Spirit when I don’t even have time to talk to Him much less listen? That’s a sobering thought!
We had a supporter hear us talk about the necessity of prayer and our growing belief that time with God in prayer was more strategic than a well planned event or sermon. He dropped his $200 per month saying, “I don’t pay you to pray”. That hurt. The voices inside my head scolded me for talking openly about my growing convictions. But why should time in prayer be considered a bad thing? If we are merely entering the work God has already started, doesn’t it seem right for us to get clear on what He’s up to so as to better join the fun and not get in the way? I think that takes a bit of time; maybe even more time than I think I have at the moment.
And then there’s the still small voice whispering, “Apart from me, you can do nothing…”
If you’ll excuse me, I have a prior commitment. I’ll talk to you a little later.