What’s Wrong With Me (and Possibly You)

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Gentle Reader,

This morning, I had an epiphany.

For the last several weeks I’ve grown increasingly frustrated. In the last two years I have gone through the loss of all of the “official” areas of ministry in which I was involved. Two women’s Bible study groups, a book discussion group, a church library project and board position.

Vaporized.

Most of the time I know that each of these losses has been intended for God’s glory and for my good, but there are more and more days lately when I just can’t stand it. I look at my husband, at his involvement with our church, and I actually feel jealous. I never thought I’d feel that way toward my spouse! But, yes, jealous. He’s in the worship band. He teaches the pre-schoolers. He leads a men’s Bible study group. He rocks babies in the nursery. He’s the “go to” guy while I sit and wonder if anyone would miss me if I just stopped attending services.

Now, I love my husband. I don’t begrudge him a single one of those activities. His increased activity is, I believe, ordained, just as my stillness is. Trouble is, I’ve had it drilled into my brain for so many years that a “good” Christian serves, and I worry that I’m slipping out of God’s favor. Or that I’m useless.

Chris and I were joking around about something as we each got ready for work this morning. I wish I could remember the context, but he eventually said, very seriously, “You would not be a good manager.” I agreed without hesitation. When I am at work, my focus is on the task. I like my coworkers (most days) and don’t usually have too much trouble interacting with them, but they are not the priority for me. I am kind, but would prefer to be uninterrupted when in the middle of a project.

I don’t like chit-chat. I don’t like wasting time. If there were a word strong enough to convey my hatred of meetings, I’d use that here. The very idea of managing people, of dealing with interpersonal conflicts and ensuring that everyone feels equally valued, makes me want to pull my hair out. I have a good work ethic and will do whatever is asked of me, but don’t make me part of your Human Resources team.

All day long, I pondered the stark truth of my lack of managerial skills. Then, the epiphany.

I have been frustrated in ministry, in finding my place and role within the Body, because I’ve been trying to do something that I’m not equipped to do. Take, for example, leading a Bible study group. If I sense apathy among the attendees, I have no desire to teach the lesson I’ve spent hours on. Instead of a joy, it has become a waste of time. Another pointless meeting. I resent the people I’m supposed to be loving and reaching out to.

This makes me think that there really is such a thing as a “people person.” Yes, yes, God wants us to love everyone. But must we all love the same? Chris never meets a stranger. He’s comfortable in just about any situation. He can converse on any matter of subjects and people feel at ease around him. Where he relishes going to a party, I often dread it.

So, I wonder if there is some way to use the abilities and the passions that God has given me in an “outside-the-box” sort of way. Is it loving to clean the sanctuary so that people are comfortable on Sunday morning? To create an attractive bulletin? To think long and hard about an encouraging word or Scripture passage to write in a card and send to a friend in need?

I’m starting to think so.

I’ll go even farther with this and confess that I limit God. I think we all do. We assume that serving Him means that we must be a great speaker or an amazing singer or at least the guy who operates the Power Point. But who blesses the speaker and the singer? Isn’t the person who brings the water bottler or the cup of coffee just as vital as the preacher or the worship leader?

This is quite embarrassing, for the idea of each person and each way of serving being deeply important should not be so revolutionary to me. I’ve read the passages. I’ve heard the sermon. I’ve got the theology degree. For whatever reason, I never really understood. Today the curtain is peeled back a little.

My journey to faith. (15)

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17 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Me (and Possibly You)

  1. You reminded me of a young man who went to my church for many years. He was quiet, always in the background. We knew he made the cassette tapes (I’m dating myself here) and “stuff”, but not really what. Then he passed. Only then did we realize just how much he did do and how very important all those little things you mentioned and others were. So yes, that glass of water and all the other little jobs are very important and possibly they need someone very special to do them because they aren’t always noticed, nor are they glamous. Usually the person doing them are simpley doing them for the Lord.

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  2. I never understand why Christians think that a “ministry” is limited to within the confines of their church. Technically, anything you do to help another person is a “ministry.” Also, we tend to think of having a “role” as a ministry, as if we can and should do only one or two fixed tasks and that’s our lot in life.

    Everytime you pick up a piece of litter on the sidewalk, everytime you smile at a stranger on the street, everytime you hold a door open for someone old and infirm, you are serving a “ministry” and thus serving God and human beings, which is pretty much what Jesus taught. None of that requires the slightest bit of personal recognition or even the awareness of your fellow church members. Neither does volunteering to visit sick people at a hospital once a week or donating canned goods to the local foodbank a couple of times a month.

    On the other hand, God will know…and you will know. The world is full of needs. Pick one and try to fulfill it, even to a small degree. Leave teaching Bible studies to someone else. It’s a niche task anyway. The world is full of so many more needs. Find out what you can do for someone, and then do it. Having a ministry couldn’t be simplier.

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    1. James,

      Your comment is profound to me. I have a book here at home called “Essential Judaism” and a good portion of it is devoted to explaining how so many of God’s commands really do center on loving others. That’s what He wants us to do, whatever form that takes.

      Tears are gathering in my eyes right now. I need to ask God to forgive me for my limitation of Him and believing that some ways of loving are better than others.

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      1. That’s an excellent connection you bring up, Marie. I’m convinced that from Christ’s point of view, we love by doing, and we do (his will) by loving.

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  3. My DEAR FRIEND Marie,

    Now 68 years old, it took me a very long time to fugure our what God has made known to YOU.

    A few years ago I too had a epiphany of a slightly different nature. BUT from the same messanger.

    It came as a surprise to me how simple [technically speaking] God has made it for His Beloved humanity.

    He gives us ONLY two choices [sorta the …I place before you Live and Death lesson…
    Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live”

    We tend to want to make God’s Will match ours when it must be the other way around. To this end it came to me that God therefore gives us ONLY two choices…. .1. We permit Him to be in -charge of our lives or 2. We unsurp God’s right and TAKE charge ourselves.

    When I was younger, I too had a very active church involvement. When I retired I was concerned about “how I would serve the Lord now.”

    As you know God has led me to a internet Ministry. Difffernt from your but with similar intent.

    ONLY God knows how many souls He permits us to TOUCH and change, and that my friend is as it ought to be.

    Marie, your where God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do. And God looks at it and proclaims: “And it is good.”

    God Bless you and thanks for what you do!

    Pat

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    1. “We tend to want to make God’s Will match ours when it must be the other way around.”

      I literally just finished listening to a sermon on this. I think God might be trying to tell me something!

      Thank you for your encouragement, Pat. The thought that God looks upon me (and you!) and proclaims what we do for Him as good is…wow. I have no words for that.

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  4. Dear Marie, my husband and I are complete opposites. He is the manager of many at his job, Deacon and Finance Committee at church (which are like full time jobs) he also has a wonderful voice but won’t sing for anyone. Me; I had the days of working for other people far too long until I hated it. I have trouble now with the public in general after working with them for so long. God has called me to “pray” and pray I do. Quietly, alone sitting with God is my favorite place in the world. Don’t ask me to go to a meeting, brunches, or dinners; that money in my view should be used to feed the hungry. I had more of that than I wanted. For 12 years as the Assistant to the Director of a Chamber of Commerce, social entertainment became work for me and mostly useless. For the first time in my life, sitting with God I feel like I am doing the most important work ever; and it isn’t work. It is my calling.

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  5. I read an interesting concept of ministry in a book on conversing with God, by Dallas Willard. He said that doing God’s will is a matter of just knowing what God wants done and doing it. It sounds to me like you might be on the journey in which you will discover it, because it involves knowing yourself and your gifts and knowing God.

    As I was reading the book the image of how that ministry would play out that came to me was a good friend and her husband, and the way they work together in the kitchen after supper. It is seamless and smooth, each doing their own task, and each zigging at the right time. If I try to help, even by clearing the table it upsets the whole balance. My job at their home is to 1/ enjoy dinner and 2/ to enjoy the floor show after supper. I would suggest that you take as your job right now to enjoy the ways that God’s nourishes you and to enjoy the way that others minister within the body and one day you will discover what God is asking you to do in perfect and seamless ministry with him.

    Much peace to you….

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    1. See a need, fill a need. (I think that comes from the Disney movie “Robots.”) I like that idea. I have been so stuck on a spiritual gift translating to a specific role that I’ve been blind to the needs I can serve. Peace to you as well!

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  6. First of all, you are definitly missed when we don’t see you in church. We, in our busyness just don’t say it often enough. I truly believe that God adored the service “unseen” (by other people that is). There are two people in my life (dad & gramma) that have served be better than any other — they were and are MY prayer warriors!

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  7. My first response to your post was to think, “been there, felt that.” I just now got to see all the comments your post generated. You shared your “embarrassment,” and look how many people felt a response to what you had to say!
    My second response was to think, “what about giving yourself credit for your “blogging ministry?” I have a feeling that, like me, you write because you feel that this is a talent God has given you, that blogging is a way to use your writing to serve Him, that He gives you the words to say that maybe some weeks just you need to hear, but often there is someone else out there who needs to hear it as well. Even if only one thing we ever write helps just one other person, isn’t it worth it?
    We just keep using the talents we feel God has given us to the best of our ability and stay still often enough to hear from Him if we are going in the direction He is intending or not. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I’ve never quite been able to look at this blog as a form of ministering to others, but I guess it is. And, really, that’s cool – God can use anything!

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  8. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He called Moses, a crappy speaker, to speak to Pharoah, but after Moses spoke to him, the Lord appointed Aaron as the primary speaker. I think He uses our gifts and abilities but other times challenges our limitations. This last summer the power of God came upon me and I preached to people at Huntington beach, open air style; and I’m not like that at all, I was amazed at what God can do with willingness. Then I was able to lead someone to Christ in Hollywood, I’m a terrible evangelist though! I have just found recently that my calling is more in the prophetic and in counseling/discipleship; but God can and has used me elsewhere (and I’m not one who’s good at hearing from God for that matter). I think we often have a wrong view of callings, we say ” I’m an intercessor” “I’m a prophet” ” I’m an evangelist” as if that’s the only thing we do. We definitely have our primary callings, but I think evangelists need to intercede sometimes, intercessors need to evangelize sometimes etc. I guess I have started to look at it as people having gift mixes, not just limited to one ministry but often primarily focused on one ministry. That being said, as an activity oriented person I tend to miss out on the intimacy of God, and according to John 15 we can’t bear fruit in ministry unless we have a vibrant love relationship with Jesus. I’m still finding the balance between spending time with the Lord and ministering.

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