Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who has bewitched me?

I forgot that God is big. Of course, I have been giving lip service to this, who doesn't? But, really in my heart of hearts, I have been giving in to despair. Despair is cunning. Certainly God is not big enough to actually rescue people from depression, broken homes, abusive situations, heartbreak, or a bad relationship. People need to trust God to help them, for sure, and they can't do it without Him, I know I can't, but people need to put in the effort and pull themselves up, do some hard work and then God will help them. I can't believe that I forgot, I actually forgot.

This thought pattern worked its way into ministry. In times and places where I should have been giving a situation over the Spirit, I was fretting, worrying, and brainstorming about ways to equip students to do some of the hard work to get themselves where they need to be. These are good things to do, but not, in an of itself, Biblical ministry. Biblical ministry flows from a heart that is being transformed into the image of Christ. Equipping people for hard internal work is only ministry insofar as it comes from a heart responsive to the Spirit and in line with what He is already doing. Somewhere along the way I stopped believing that God could step in and change complicated human situations. Of course, I did not say that nor did I think that I believed that, but I did. Belief is born out by actions, so my lack of trust, lack of inviting God into the situation, lack of expecting Him to work is fruit of  my believing that God was not going to act.

This transition has been so gradual that I can't tell you when I pulled out of this, or even when I noticed it was there. But, I can see it now. I can see it because I am at the end of my ability in so many situations. I have brainstormed and thought and counseled my way right to the end of everything I can brainstorm and think and counsel, and I have no other choice but to pray. Not just to pray because that is what I am supposed to do in ministry, but pray because I have nowhere else to go. And how many times to we do just that? Use real prayer as a last resort. Come on, girl, you know better than this. Well, obviously I don't know better, because here I am, remembering after some desperate praying that God is big enough to change lives and hearts.

I found in my desperation that God is acting and that He, of course, never stopped. I feel like the Galatians. Paul says to them "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? let me ask you this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing through faith? Havin gbegun with the Spirit are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain- if it really was in vain?" Harsh words, but they are so applicable for me so very often. I am always needing to be reminded to act in faith and in step with the Spirit and not with my own power. What is most encouraging to me is that in my desperation I am internally stepping back and seeing if anything really is changing. And in that stepping back there is so much freedom. This is my place- waiting for God to work, and in the mean time loving others, seeking God and giving as solid advice as I know how. How encouraging to remember that God is big enough to really change our lives, our circumstances and ourselves. And how foolish of me to forget. I was only running myself ragged when I could have been investing in the Spirit's work in my life and the lives of others. I wonder if trusting in the Spirit is ministry. I know that it feel like ministry when others have done it for me. I have such a short memory, but God is good and gracious and knows my weakness. He know that I am foolish and He is crazy about me anyway.

It is so much more energizing to minister from here. Here, where I am not working from my own power, but where I am listening and waiting and expecting God to move because I need Him to move. I have much more energy to wait for a real Savior than to try to make a solution myself. I have much more energy to invest in the reality life through the Spirit than to try to push life out of myself and others. Certainly, God calls us to work. I think that as Christians we have a call to tend to our lives, our emotions, our relationships and our internal worlds in a way that does not allow for sin to go unchecked. People are messy and broken and sinful. And I firmly believe that the Spirit calls us to the mat to face this reality and work on it. I am an advocate for counseling, loving confrontation, and the hard work that is involved in self-awareness, and building and maintaining healthy relationships. But I think that I let the discouragement of not seeing results from these things in the time I think they should have been there take away the trust that God is capable of changing people. Failure is not the best way ever to be reminded that God is big, but I am happy to be here.

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