The last few blogs that I have posted have been on the serious side of things. Recently, Josh, my 10 year-old adopted son, helped me put things in perspective.
I have been going through a particularly difficult time in my ministry, with the passing of a good friend and having to conduct a difficult funeral (A Miracle of A Different Kind and No Fear In Death); the loss of two precious people to whom I had been witnessing (There Is No Time!); and witnessing to the son of my good friend who passed, a particularly difficult witness because his story tears at my heart as a Christian (No Fear In Death - Part 2 and Letter From A Seeker). Last Sunday, we were having dinner, me, my two adopted kids, my fiance, Terri, who I had recently asked to marry, and her two teenage daughters. I must have been particularly distant because Josh suddenly said, "Daddy, it is OK for you to kiss Terri you know? I mean now that you are engaged and everything."
This comment brought a gale of giggles and laughter from the kids around the table and a blush that caused poor Terri to turn two shades absolutely red. When all the silliness passed, I asked Josh, why he would say such a thing and he said, "Well you looked a little sad and Terri too, so I thought that maybe a kiss would make everything better."
Laughing, I leaned over and gave Terri a big wet one on the lips and she turned even redder!
This started a bunch of foolishness around the table, starting with Terri who would not be out done by a child and a silly fiance. "Well mister, you will have to do much better than that if you are going to make things better!" she replied with a laugh. To which her eldest daughter, Katie, said, "Yes, pretty lame if you ask me! Both of you need practice!"
This was followed by Melanie her younger sister who added, "Yes! Lots of practice and we will be your coaches and judges!"
Not to be left out, little Katherine chimed in and said, "I want kisses too!"
Soon we were all belly laughing with all kinds of rather silly comments about how one should pucker, and the need to take pictures so they can evaluate us and remind us what we were doing wrong! All in all, it was a great time of loving fun and teasing.
Later that evening as Terri and I sat in the living room having tea, Josh came in and climbed onto my lap. He put his arms around me and said, "Daddy, you care too much and sometimes it makes you sad. We are sad when you are sad." With that little piece of wisdom he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek as I held him close and kissed him back on his forehead and said, "I know sweetie, I am sorry I made you sad." To which he said, "It's OK Daddy, everything is better now." Then he hopped off my and ran to join the other kids, leaving two very sober adults in the room.
There was silence in the room for a while, then Terri moved closer to me on the couch, put her arms around me, looked at me with those irresistible grey-green eyes and said, "Darling, I guess both of us have been rather caught up in our ministry lately. I love you because of your heart, but sometimes you care so much that it breaks your heart and you hurt. When you do, I get caught up in it too. The kids see it too and they feel the same way" I had nothing to say, I only held her close for what seemed like eternity. Then Katie and Melanie walked in, smiled, and said, "OK you two, practice time is over, we have to go home, we have school tomorrow!" This comment brought about more laughter and teasing which brought Josh and Katherine scampering into the living room.
That night, after Terri and her kids have left and I had prayed with Josh and Katherine and tucked them into bed, I sat alone in my study, my mind filled with thoughts. Is is possible to care too much? What does Jesus expect of me? Didn't He give me a pastor's heart? It is times like these that I wish that I had seminary training. Being a layman who had been called into ministry, no pulled into ministry by His call, I sometimes feel inadequate and ill-prepared to do the tasks that He has called me to. Then I remembered a book that I had read, "Being Holy, being Human" by Jay Kesler. I got up, went to my bookshelf and pulled it down and began leafing through it. As I read, I began to remember some of the lessons and experiences he shared as a pastor. I put down the book and went to the Lord in prayer.
In a way, there is no such thing as caring too much in Christian Ministry. We serve because we care, there simply is no other way around it. What is too much when we are talking about loving people, loving the lost, and desiring that all come to a knowledge and loving relationship with God. On the other hand, it is very possible to care too much. One way is to care so much as to neglect our first love for God and the Truth that He represents. I know of well meaning Christians who have confused caring and loving the sinner to the point that they have condoned or excused the sin. Indeed, some have even gone so far as to deny God's Truth in the name of love and caring. Thankfully, this is not my problem. There is another way where we can care too much. Some have become so entangled with caring and loving either the people they work with or the ministry in which they are involved that they have neglected spending time with God. In the past, I have been guilty of this to my own detriment and to the detriment of the very people or ministry that I serve. I have found that when I get so caught up in the work that I neglect time with God either in His Word or prayer, I get spiritually depleted and begin to loose the wisdom, power, and endurance to do the very things that I care so much about. Praise God that this has not been my current failing. This brings me to my current failure in caring too much. My challenge is caring so much that I have forgotten that it is God who will accomplish all that needs to be accomplished and that it is not up to me. I have forgotten that I am only the vessel and it is He who pours out to fill that vessel. Josh reminded me that in caring for those whom I serve, I have allowed the problems and challenges to beset me to the point that I have neglected to care for those who love me. I have also let myself become so overwhelmed by sorrow and concern that I forgot that in Him we are victors. I forgot that it is His will that will be done, not mine. In so doing, I have let myself feel defeated and overwhelmed. I have forgotten that those whom the Lord has placed in my life to love me and support me and for me to uphold and support would also sense my sorrow and defeat and be negatively impacted as well. I forgot that I am truly blessed and it took my 10 year-old child to snap me out of it. Truly God uses the meek and innocent to accomplish what the "wise" cannot.
In His name,