Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 55

What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 4-5.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 4: 1-5, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. But we have rejected 3 shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

I can tell you when I knew.

See, I’d graduated university and headed off for seminary long before the days of e-mail or Skype or mobile phones. My girlfriend and I had to communicate by letters or photos on the desk or using the hall phone in my dorm since she had another year of college to finish up. 660 miles of distance between us.

Anyway, her parents had given her a trip to Dallas for her birthday after we’d been apart for nearly two months. Back in the day, you could go and wait for your friends or family where the plane unloaded…right there at the gate. She came off the plane and I knew.

I knew that was the girl I wanted to marry.

And I knew this was going to be a “make-or-break” weekend for our relationship. We’d talk about what we thought our marriage would be like…specifically what it would be like to marry a youth minister. I’d known enough youth ministers and their wives to know we should give serious discussion to the demands a ministry puts on a wife and family.

So, we ate dinner at a restaurant atop Dallas’ landmark Reunion Tower (it spun around to give you different views of the city) and discussed what we thought that lifestyle would be like.

What we didn’t know is that we were pretty much pooling ignorance. The poor girl agreed to a lot of things that weren’t reality…

…but make no mistake: If we’d read this section of scripture that night, we’d have been a little more informed, that’s for sure.

The first section is from verses 1-4…the pastor’s life is living in a fishbowl. We live “out loud” in front of a watching world. All too often, people think this lifestyle is one lived in the spotlight with the whole world applauding your performance. Hardly, kiddos. We’ve had people watch whether or not we were singing in the service or watching how we interacted together or what movies we came out of. There’s a beauty in that, though. Sure, it’s pressure. But, if you’re on the up-and-up, it’s also a joy. It’s one of the reasons we have teenagers into our home so much, because they get to see the people they love and the message they give as the same thing. Verses 5-7 remind us that the spotlight is never a reality if you’re doing it. Unless that spotlight shines on Christ then it’s a colossal waste of time.

The section in verses 8-11 are a reminder that there will be all sorts of circumstances in ministry. Our first home didn’t have a dishwasher or central air conditioning (which mattered in Birmingham, AL) and now we have both (which matters in Dallas, TX). We’ve had times when ministry was easy and it seemed like every kid was growing, followed by times when it was very hard and it seemed like every kid wasn’t even close to even an elementary understanding of anything we were talking about. We’ve had congregations that overworked us and underpaid us and we’ve had a congregation (our current one) that goes to great lengths to show me love, and after 15 years they are aware of all my warts. There have been times of tremendous joy and deep mourning. The pastor will live life in a community…the good, the bad and the ugly of all of it.

Verses 16-18 are that reminder that even though we’re in the midst of all the wins and losses that life with those we love brings our way, we’re to view it entirely in a different perspective. This isn’t all there is here, man. I still am drawn to that quote I use so frequently from author Douglas Coupland: The only valid viewpoint for any decision is eternity. Manlive is that ever true. Because that whole king coming back thing and eternity and all that jazz is either true or we’re all living a lie anyway.

And going into chapter 5, we see that famous verse that we walk by faith and not by sight…and brother, that is another thing about ministry. You can’t ever really gauge results by what you’re currently seeing. People are good actors, especially at church and double especially around the pastors at their church. You simply go along and preach the message and let the Holy Spirit have His way with people. There’s a spiritual world going on that we NEVER see…doesn’t make it any less true, though.

Then you get to verses 11-14 and you get another reality of ministry: That you can get discouraged easily if you only look at what people are showing you. In my own experience, I’m not sure that I understood exactly why this particular guy chose me to build into my life in a spiritual sense. I had no idea why he put up with as much immaturity as he did, or as much inconsideration as I gave him, as much stupid-head as I used. One day I asked him. His response was, “Well, for whatever reason, God showed me supernatural possibilities in a very ordinary kid.” I’ve hung my hat on that for almost 23 years.

Why bother? It’s simple. The love of Christ compels us in verse 14. When people ask me why I spend all day every day in student ministry, I always ask them why they assume that I have a choice. I mean, I love Christ. I’m unspeakably thankful for the work He did for me, is doing now in me, and will do for me in the future. I love teenagers. It seems like a pretty natural mix…like Reese’s chocolate and peanut butter.

Christ came that we might have life, and have life with abundance (again with the resurrection)…and we can’t live that life if God is dead. So, He rose again, lives through us now, and it’s pretty easy for me to see that chocolate and peanut butter mix that your love for God and them allows you to teach that life as an occupation? Beats my other options (which are two: slim and none), that’s for sure.

Lastly, we’re ambassadors for Christ. While He isn’t with us in the flesh, we can represent Him and tell others about Him.

We’ll live in the fishbowl. Not under spotlights.

We’ll have ups. We’ll have downs.

We won’t ever see the same world that other people see and the things they think are important in most cases really aren’t important at all. So, we’ll feel like odd ducks even among those who love us most.

We’ll spend most of our life together making decisions based on things we can’t really see…and we’ll often be misunderstood by even our own families.

And you’ll spend all day every day among people that you love talking about the Person you love most.

It’ll be your life.

That’s what we should’ve been talking about as the restaurant was spinning and giving us different views of downtown Dallas. Instead, we talked about paychecks and office hours and whether or not our kids would be able to live near grandparents.

We were young. And it was a wonderful night. Because I knew.

I knew.

Even if we had no idea how great our life would be together…because we undersold the richness of the lifestyle Paul described in these verses.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 6-7)