Rambling About When It Ain’t All Roses
There’s always been, in my mind, a certain romance of the idea.
See, Francis Schaeffer (yes, that Francis Schaeffer) came to a crisis in his spiritual life. According to him, in 1951 & 1952, after he’d been a pastor for 10 years or so, he noticed two things in particular:
First, he wasn’t seeing the fruit in those he served to the degree Scripture said should be so clearly a part of their lives.
Second, his own reality wasn’t what it once was.
In other words, the “it” of the spiritual life wasn’t clicking for him. Or those he served. Personally and professionally “it” just wasn’t “working.”
His solution is pretty romantic, all in all. Pretty extreme, too. He decided to go back and “rethink his entire position.” Mentally go all the way back to the days of his agnosticism. And use reason & logic. Walked outside. When it rained, he’d pace back and forth in his barn. Maybe that doesn’t have romance for you? Well, consider that he did this for two years in Champery, Switzerland…
And all’s well that ends well, too. Needless to say that those thoughts and journals and extensive prayer, etc. turned into a lifetime of being a “missionary to the intellectuals.” It was the basis for the rest of his life in ministry. Now, if only he’d sought some advice on some particular theological leanings I’ve come to differ in opinion with him about…but generally, all’s well that ends well.
I guess it’s an occupational hazard for those of us in ministry. When the bottom lines of our personal & professional lives can be summed up with the word LOVE…
…or in some way determined by whether or not our lives & our student’s lives are littered with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness & self-control…
…well, I guess you could say it’s easy to take a look around and not see those things in your own life. Or the lives of your students.
And I’m reading a lot that “feeds” this mindset. You read in our professional journals about how to “avoid burnout.” You see in our conferences that we need to manage our time better. You see that we should spend more time (interesting confluence of ideas, right?) “sitting a Jesus’ feet” and “being more like Mary than Martha.” I’ve been to youth ministry conferences where the introductory speaker said (for four years in a row) that he “knew we were all exhausted, tired, overworked and underpaid” and that their goal was to “refresh” us.
I was always mildly amused about this assumption.
I mean, I wasn’t exhausted by anything but the time change and travel plans.
I mean, I was having some “losses” in ministry. Personally and professionally. But I was having some “wins,” too.
I mean, I was working a lot of hours. But I wasn’t burning out.
I mean, some of my times in the Word and prayer were exhilarating, and sometimes I was simply checking the box that I’d done it.
I mean, sometimes the sermons were good and the worship was great. Sometimes not so much in either case. Sometimes a mix of good sermon/bad worship and vice-versa.
But, that’s part of the job. Frankly, it’s part of any job. The ups. The downs. The reflection on why you’re there and if you’re doing any good at all and the days that it seems like you’re all about to get fired or laid off and the days everybody gets a big, fat raise and/or a bonus.
And, this goes on for days. The days add up to weeks. Weeks add up to months. Months to years. Years to decades. You get the drift.
…this might be one of those days where I take a look around and there are issues. maybe I don’t see a lot of wins today, personally and professionally.
But, I don’t see a need to chuck it all and ponder those dark-night-of-the-soul kinds of things, eithe personally or professionally.
I just remember to have the perspective of a farmer. That long-term idea of cycles and elements beyond your ability to control. Just be faithful to what you gotta do right now, in the next hour…which will then extend to decades.
And I remember that spiritual formation is a slow business. What you see today might not be true tomorrow…human nature is a fickle muse. This goes for when it’s good and when the skies are gray, too. I’ve seen them both change on a dime. Personally and professionally.
And I trust God…
…and do the next thing.
And I think about some of those “wins.” And I pray for some of those “losses.”
Anyway, that’s where my thoughts kind of went this morning.
At least I had something today.
Or maybe it’d have been better to just leave it blank.