I was sitting on my newly renewed deck listening to the cardinal singing from my neighbour’s treetop. I gazed with deep satisfaction at the spirea bush we had transplanted several years ago. It was festooned with the most beautiful blossoms. Then I eyed our lilac tree. It now stands over six feet. I recalled planting it with my son as a Mothers’ Day gift almost a decade ago. It was a mere twig and for years we despaired that it would survive. For years I felt foolish as I carefully mowed around this twig stuck in the middle of the yard but eventually it decided to grow and now I gawp in wonder.
These are the pleasures I can enjoy because we have remained! We are experiencing the gift of stability. Throughout our married life we have often moved and each move brought with it a sense of excitement but excitement is overrated. I am finally learning that this ‘race’ we are in; goes not to those who run fast but to those who stand fast.
We have been blessed with this same kind of stability in our ministry. Rather than having a ‘call’ to a project we are called to a community. This stability is a call to “a long obedience in one direction”, as Eugene Petersen calls it. I do not mean that there is anything boring about stability. There is great variety in every day. The calling is to a certain place and a certain people. As we have spent the past number of years with the same community (people) in the same community (neighbourhood) we have seen much change. Like my spirea bush, we have witnessed some blossom into beauty. Others we nurture like my lilac, it may seem like wasted effort but we live in hope that like my lilac it will one day decide to grow. In faith we look forward. We look to the power of the cross which seems foolish to the world and we gawp in wonder! No transient mission, no microwave ministry, no short-term stints will be blessed with the deep, deep satisfaction of a stable, loyal, and grounded (quite literally) service.
There are, to be sure, some serious disappointments. People we love fall more often and further than we could have imagined but over time we see others rise to heights we could never have predicted. The disappointment is reminiscent of my early feelings about my lilac twig. Each harsh maritime winter portended its doom but today those fears are almost forgotten.
I am convinced that those in ministry move too often and too quickly. Stability, of place and people, is a blessed gift. Too few of us enjoy it!