Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grinding

It was a fascinating metaphor. Poetically poignant and highly descriptive.

And sadly, soul-numbing in its accuracy.


"How do I feel? Well, I guess I'd describe it like a bike that has lost one of its gears."

We were having a deep conversation about our experiences of disillusionment in ministry. The kind of conversation that is born out of many years of friendship and shared history, as well as the common understanding of those who have gone through adverse situations in full-time vocational ministry.

"Don't get me wrong," my friend hastened to add. "As God has done His work in my own heart, I feel healed up, wiser, and ready to be as involved in ministry as He wants me to be. If a bicycle is the ministry metaphor, then I'm absolutely ready and willing to ride."

Then he paused for a few moments, gazing at some unknown spot on his kitchen floor, before quietly adding:
"But I feel like one of my 'gears' is gone, and I'm not sure if it will ever come back."
That statement/metaphor hit me like a ton of bricks. I found myself immediately identifying with the visceral picture he had just painted. Yeah, I could relate. Boy, could I.

At the same time, multiple half-formed objections -- usually based around an assumption that "recovery" equals "good as new" -- clamored for expression. There is a part of me (of us?) that balks at the idea of being among the "walking wounded". I could also recall well-intentioned bromides and slogans from would-be encouragers.

Not the appropriate tool for healing

Nobody wants to be considered "damaged goods"; to be placed indefinitely into some leper colony labelled "formerly useful". The sign-up sheet for "Bully Fodder 101" is remarkably blank.
"I aspire to weakness!" said nobody ever.
But wait... Nobody ever?

Wasn't there some guy in the New Testament...?

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

To all of us who at one time or another have felt like one of our gears is grinding badly -- or possibly permanently lost -- if God's power is truly revealed in our weakness, our incompleteness, and our grinding gears...

Would we be willing to say "Amen (so be it), ready and willing to ride, Lord"?

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