Ever get stuck? Like, REALLY stuck in ministry. You can’t see how to move forward, where things are going so you coast along on autopilot – delivering talks, planning activities, creating rotas, going to team meetings. It isn’t that you aren’t passionate about what you are doing and the young people you are serving. But you have a couple of nagging thoughts,
Is this the best I can hope for?
Is this “it” for me in ministry?
You feel stuck. Not so much bogged down as – actually – it’s pretty easy here. No pressure, you can just keep doing what you are doing and things will tick along. Carry on, you’re doing fine.
Is “fine” enough?
There is a GREAT quote about vision – it’s a really simple thought, but I love it because it echoes something very cool in scripture.
Don’t confuse the edge of your rut with the horizon.
It’s not that what we see and sense isn’t right there in front of us – it’s just a reminder that this really isn’t all there is. In God, there is always MORE.
Isaiah gets it,
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
Isaiah 64 : 1-4
When he is writing to the church in Corinth, Paul lobs in a bit of this passage,
However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2 : 9-10
It’s not an exact quote, Paul is putting it in his own words a bit – where he says “prepared” there is much more a sense of God taking action in response to those who wait on Him in the Isaiah passage – but the context for Paul is the strength, the wisdom, the understanding that is revealed only through the Spirit. We cannot conjure up a fresh vision for our youth ministry simply by wishing for it or hoping for something better – and, when God speaks to us through His Spirit in the natural, in our human understanding we might consider it BONKERS. Paul is saying you and I can’t conceive or imagine this.
There is more, but we have to see with the eyes of the Spirit. We have to wait on the Lord. We have to give up striving for it, reaching for it, straining for it.
So, back to that little quote “the edge of your rut”. What constrains you? What can you not see past? What stops you climbing out of this rut?
Your own failures?
The big ministry up the road?
The young people you consider “not ready”?
Your own comfort with “how things are”?
The Church leadership team?
You don’t know what might happen?
You aren’t sure God is with you?
Have you heard about the story of the donkey who fell in a hole? Well, pretty stupid donkey! His owner came along and saw the donkey braying away, trying to get purchase on the side of the hole and climb out – but he couldn’t. The owner thought to himself, “this donkey is no use to me in this hole, I’ll have to get rid of it”. He took up his rifle intending to shoot the donkey (I know, pretty drastic!) but, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he picked up a shovel and started throwing dirt in to the hole and all over the donkey hoping to bury it (Hmm, shot or buried alive – some choice for the donkey!)
Anyway, the donkey DOES have a choice at this point. This is it. My life is over, there is not point trying – I can’t get out of the hole, everything is against me. I’m done. The donkey could have just resigned himself to his fate.
Hang on a minute.
As the donkey shakes off the dirt landing on his back, he starts to create a mound of earth – the more the owner throws in dirt, the more the donkey throws off, the higher the mound of earth becomes.
Before long, the donkey walks up the mound and out of the hole (past the sweating, disbelieving owner!)
Alright, that is a nonsense story – but it makes a point about being stuck. Even as the worst is happening, might opportunities be perceived? When things feel at their most desperate is there still hope? In the midst of the grind of just trying to keep going are there glimpses of what the Spirit is doing that – if we could only “see” them with they eyes of Jesus our joy would be re-kindled?
I don’t know what your rut is, whether you see a true horizon of hope and promise or it is grey, drab and forlorn from where you are but take HEART.
Wait on the Lord.
Ask for His Spirit to equip you for what is right in front of you today.
Get tuned in to His prompting and follow where He leads you.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has in store for YOU, for the ministry you are giving your life for, for the young people you serve today and all they (and you) might become tomorrow.