One of the great things about returning from vacation to hear people say “I am so glad you are back! We missed you!” I’ve been having a lot of those conversations this week. I have also been hearing about how folks in our community leaned on each other to fill the void left by our temporary absence. As people began to recite how much our relationship means to them (and me) I was very thankful to God. We are seeing God at work in people’s lives! At no other time in my minister have I felt so blessed to see God so wonderfully at work.
I was pondering this, wondering how at this stage in my life when I seem to have less energy than I used to, “How are more things accomplished?” For the most part, I believe, it is the grace of God. Another factor though is that ministry requires less strain for me now.
As I was praying I had a memory of times with my younger brother. I was about 13 and he would have been 8. He used to like running right at me and I would bend down and scoop him up using his momentum to throw him over my shoulder. One day on a basketball course a much bigger and older boy wanted my basketball. I probably said something provocative (If you can believe it I was a ‘mouthy’ kid) and he charged at me. Without even thinking I bent and scooped this huge kid over my shoulder. We were both startled! I asked him “Do you still want my basketball?” He said, “No.” and I set him down. I felt the Lord was reminding me that it was ‘muscle memory’ that saved me on that occasion, and it is ‘muscle memory’ that makes me able to serve more with less energy.
I was chatting with a young pastor, I meet with regularly, and I was suggesting that we need always to be seeking to make our daily opportunities more ‘missional’. We ought to ask ourselves the question “How can this opportunity have added Kingdom Value? He looked at me like that was going to take a lot more effort each day but I am convinced that by training ourselves this type of thinking becomes ‘unthinking’. Seeking added value becomes a way of life that can become effortless if we but put in the effort.
I am grateful to be at a stage in my service that every day does not require the intellectual strain because this allows me to endure the spiritual and emotional rigors of ministry through Street Hope. I had great conversations with T. and M. Both these guys have “really blown it” lately. Their falls have had major consequences for many. Both these fellows are returning haltingly. We will have to walk out forgiveness, reconciliation, and sober holy lives. These words make neat categories but in practise they are messy and costly. To love these guys and the people they have hurt is tough going. It will require great spiritual and emotional resources and probably lots of ministry muscle memory!