Monday, June 21, 2010

Manifestation

As you can tell from the date of my last blog entry, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or not that I haven’t intended to write something. And it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just been difficult for me to write lately. To be honest, I’m going through a difficult time in my life. Right now, I would classify life as spiritually chaotic, and when I struggle through times like this, my first inclination is to isolate myself. Since writing has become a manner of communication for me, isolation from the written word has almost become inevitable.

Over the last week or so, several people have asked why my blogs have not been as frequent as usual. To my surprise, some people have even mentioned that they’ve missed them and have encouraged me to get back on a regular schedule again. With all that said, the inevitable question arose: “What am I going to write about?” I posed this question to a good friend of mine, and he replied with the frustratingly obvious: “Why not write about what’s going on in your life right now? What are you having the most trouble with”. I hesitated, and reluctantly the answer became the theme of this blog: I have trouble allowing people to minister to me.

Being in vocational ministry has been much more difficult than I ever thought. Many of the stories that I heard while in seminary have become all too real as I attempt to carve out the ministry that God wants for me. There are times when it can be very lonely and painful, often causing me to question whether or not I want to endure this journey much longer. However, after pouring my heart out to God in prayer, He quickly reminds me of how ridiculous that consideration really is. This is what He created me for, and in reality there is nothing more I would rather do with the rest of my life.

Despite the isolation and times when I feel like I’m in this alone, there are always a handful of people who have offered to take my hand as I walk through this valley. A few are fellow pastors, but most are just friends and acquaintances that I’ve known through my journey of life. And ironically, that’s where I find the most difficulty. Like I said, I have trouble allowing others to minister to me; especially those that are not in ministry as I am. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I believe that everyone has to have a theological background to offer Godly ministry. Some of the most wise and loving people I know have never darkened the door of a seminary or served a day on a church staff.

The problem lies inside me, and is mixed with pride, selfishness and arrogance that automatically want to construct walls as I isolate myself further. I guess I feel that since I’m a minister in the church, I need to have everything together, under control and figured out; whatever that means. I need to be the one that's ministering to others, not being so weak that others have to minister to me, right? Well, let me explain how ridiculous I have found this to be.

Scripture tells us that the Church is the “Body of Christ”, and I believe this to be true in a very literal sense. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, that we “are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.” In essence, the Church represents Christ as flesh and blood while He is not physically present on earth. That designation carries the responsibility of acting in the same ways that He acted when he walked the earth. When we offer loving ministry to one another, we are literally manifesting God to each other. And consequently, when we refuse ministry from others, we refuse to allow God to work through someone else, and deny them the opportunity to be used by God.

What I realize is that not only have I been denying others to allow God to work through them, but in essence, I’ve been denying God to speak to me directly. As I call out to God in prayer, “Why are you so silent? Why are you not answering my prayers?”, I am ignoring His voice being poured out through others that He has chosen to use in a divine way. He reminds me that He is present in those that care for me, with hands and feet. Christ with flesh on. It’s Him.

Through the people that reach out to me, I see the reality of 2 Corinthians 1:4. It says that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” The reality is that we all walk through dark times as we journey through this life. Sometimes we are comforted. Sometimes we need comforting. But could it be that God is working through others to comfort me, so that I can then have the peace to again comfort others? Is ministry somewhat of a give-and-take experience as we allow God to work through each other? Could it be that we are all just children of a living God that longs to exhibit His power through each and every one of us in a serendipitous ministry of brothers and sisters in Christ revealing and manifesting God to the world?

So I will choose to receive ministry from anyone who is called to care for me. Because as I do, I have the opportunity to see God speaking to me in the flesh. Hands and feet. Lovingly breaking through the human realm to touch me and reach my deepest need.

Thank you to all who have ministered to me and been Christ with flesh and bones.

3 comments:

vicki said...

hey jake! really appreciate your sharing of your heart. two good friends of mine pastor an inner city church in my city. they are married. but ken has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. they have many needs, even though their type of ministry has been very significant to so many people. my friend revealed to me that it is hard for her to receive ministry/love from others. she is used to being the one 'giving'. and i have invited her to consider the gift she might others to let them minister to she and ken. this conversation with her reminded me of some of what you wrote. i think it really is meaningful to receive from others - to let others have the opportunity to love and give. and you are so right - that this is not dependent upon a degree... just on open and receptive hearts. i walk with you.

Cheryl Ensom said...

Great post, Jake....love that gut-level honesty. I've been thinking lately about something kind of similar to what you write about here: the place I feel most loved and accepted is in the arms/hearts/presents of regular folks. When I really could have used support, love, actual physical help, etc. it was NOT from church. Overall people in my former church ignored me, didn't bother to check on me and basically took a posture of standing with their arms folded, waiting for me to "return" on THEIR terms.

By contrast, I received love and acceptance from individuals. Just regular people. Interestingly, several of these people had undergone the same sort of judgment/abandonment by the church, as well, yet they were the ones that met me in the middle of my need.

Here's something I've realized as I've thought about all this...

I feel more loved when people just offer their love for no good reason than I do if a person "in the ministry" offers love to me on behalf of the church or even God. The person who is "in the ministry" is "supposed to" reach out to me, call me, offer love to me, etc. The person who is NOT in the ministry has no such formal calling/duty/responsibility. They are simply acting from the HEART. They didn't see me as a ministry opportunity or my needs as fertile ground in which they can plant seeds that will lead to me becoming involved in church or even believe something they think I "ought" to believe. They saw ME. Just me! They were moved by me. Personally. They aren't paid to minister to "people like me."

Anyway, that's just what I've been thinking about and it's interesting how it is a bit parallel to what you wrote. Hope it makes sense...

You are in a place of need. That need moves people. If you recieve what they are offering you, you are showing that you are human. And guess who people turn to when THEY are in pain? Humans. :) And you're a great human, Jake. :)

Anonymous said...

This is true naked theology! I love it! The beauty of Christ is only seen when we take off all of our own perceptions of Who Christ is and how He works and allow Him to be Who He truly is and show us how He truly works. I am learning this too, it is hard, but knowing even a small part of who He truly is makes it all worth it. As Paul says, " what is more, I consider everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things"(Phil.3:8).