The devil tried to trip me up this morning.
No, I wasn’t literally tripped by a little demon with a pitchfork. But in a moment that was marked by selfishness and a lack of love, I felt my soul battered and beaten to the point that I wondered if I was making any sort of difference in this world and if maybe I’ve been way off course for sometime now.
That’s usually how the devil gets at us. In a moment when we have the chance to love one another across huge gaps in agreement, the devil steps in and persuades us that we should live by an “all or nothing” mentality. If our fellow Christians don’t agree with us one hundred percent, we should just dismiss them all together.
And so this morning I woke up to an unpleasant situation that hurt me to core of my soul.
So, I did what I’ve been doing so much of lately: I prayed.
The prayer was simple. I just asked God if I was doing God’s will… and if so, where are the fruits?
Don’t get me wrong. I see the fruits of my ministry in all sorts of ways. As a minister, we have to be willing to look high and low for those positive impacts our ministries are making… if we don’t look for the good in all that we are doing we lose sight of God and we lose hope.
But as ministers, we sometimes put too much emphasis on numbers. I guess we all have these mad dreams that one day we’ll preach a sermon that will lead hundreds (thousands?) to God. We all secretly desire that the next program we launch will be the one that brings the whole town pouring through our doors.
And it’s okay to dream. Dreams are an important part of being a visionary. However, we must never let the dream steal the thunder from reality and overshadow the triumphs we experience in this world.
That’s pretty much where I was this morning… believing that one person’s nay-saying could only be outdone by the next Great Awakening beginning right in our little sanctuary.
After my prayer, I wallowed in self-pity for a little while. But I could not afford much time on such things because I have a busy weekend. So I pulled out my calendar and began trying to balance the next couple of days:
10:00-2:00pm–United Methodist Women Yard Sale & Hot Dog Sale
10:00am–Set up for Blessing of the Bikes
12:00pm–Blessing of the Bikes (lead worship)
9:30–Worship with Communion
11:00–Worship with Communion
2:00–Funeral & Reception Dinner
As I was frantically trying to figure out how I was going to fit everything in, and fighting the feelings of being inferior because I was going to have bail out on some of the behind-the-scenes work that happens in ministry, it suddenly dawned on me that the fruits of ministry are so abundant this weekend that they are literally overflowing.
I will have the pleasure of walking the path of faith with people at every stage in life: From pouring the waters of the new covenant over the head of an infant, fresh with life and possibility, to joining the hearts and lives of two beautiful young adults in holy matrimony, to celebrating the finished life of one of our saints and sending her home to be with the Lord. From the beginning of life to the end of life, I will be celebrating our faith at every step this weekend.
And then I realized something else: As United Methodists we have two sacraments, Holy Communion and Baptism. We will be celebrating both sacraments this Sunday–something that does not happen often.
As I sat in the living room of the young couple who will be marrying tomorrow, I had the chance to speak to a relative who is searching in his life for a reconnection to the faith of his childhood. The very same things over which the devil attacked me this morning were the very things that enabled me to have an in-depth and constructive conversation with this young man. In that moment, we could both feel the presence of Christ with us as we discussed openly and honestly, without judgement or fear of voicing opinions.
And as I sat down at my computer a few moments ago I could not help but notice that everything ministerial candidates spend years preparing for is all happening in one blessed weekend: sermons, sacraments, weddings, baptisms, funerals, outreach ministry, community building, fellowship, worship…
My cup really is running over right now. So much so that when I look at my schedule, my breath is taken away (with stress). But when I look at all that God is doing through me, my churches, and our shared ministries, my breath is taken away (with awe and wonder).
I may have woke up with the devil this morning… but as this evening begins I am clearly resting with the Lord.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you.