A couple of months ago, I lost the help of the folks helping me run the ministry I started at my church last year. They need to move on, and I’m okay with that. We each have our own passions, callings, and priorities and it’s important that people are always free to follow what they believe is right for their lives. The timing, however, is pretty atrocious. Starting study, I need to be able to focus on when my assignments are due and on settling my son into preschool. I am instead finding myself trying to juggle these with needing to make some big decisions regarding the church ministry.
Consumed, obsessed, passionate, zealous, crazy, insane…
Some of these things have been said about me recently. The others have most likely been thought, even if not voiced directly to me. Heck, I sometimes say them to myself!
Have you ever thought about what Thomas Edison’s friends thought? Even those in the scientific circle. “Thomas, you’re obsessed with a light bulb. You moron. Like anything’s ever going to come out of that.” He tried thousands of times to get electricity to run a lightbulb. Literally thousands. And didn’t give up. Today, we applaud his dedication, his zeal, his passion. But back then, people probably just thought he was a little cook-coo. A little over the top. Try, sure, but why give your life to something so mundane, so weird, so socially uncool.
The thing is, if I was consumed by study or overly passionate about my son that would probably be okay, wouldn’t it? But because I am zealous over a ministry started to help the poorest of the poor, somehow it feels like that is too much. Sigh.
But sometimes I think people don’t always get just how much time a ministry takes (or anything new for that matter). If you don’t get it right, it will die out by default. It has to have just the right amount of regular contact, exciting news, etc without overloading people with too much. And when you’re left carrying most of the burden of it, yes, it does become all-consuming.
I am really pleased to have found the thing which I was made for after years of wondering.
But also scared. And I find myself wishing sometimes that I could just ignore it, and have it all fade away. Live a normal suburban life. Indulge in those little luxuries, be a little obsessed with my own life instead of something that doesn’t fit our societies standards so well. But I can’t.
If I don’t do this, no one else will.
If I don’t speak up, who will raise their voice?
Who will cry out for the destitute, the desperate?
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, how are we possibly ignoring this HUGE issue? The Bible refers to alleviating poverty over 3,000 times.
Yet we carry on with our daily lives, completely overlooking one of the single biggest commandments of Christianity. To release the captives, share our food with the hungry, champion the down and out. Perhaps even to give until we have nothing left to give (that’s what the New Testament church did).
I cannot in all conscience claim to be a follower of Christ if I do not love my neighbour as I love myself. I cannot follow the one who poured out his life, gave his everything for me if I am not prepared to sacrifice at least a little of my free time, my resources, my compassion.
If it was my son starving to death, I’d want someone to speak for him. I’d want someone to compel others to help us.
But what if I fail? What if it folds, doesn’t work? I’ve already given hours and hours to this. A whole year of planning and praying and talking with people and launching and running this ministry. There are plenty of other things I could have done instead. More personally fulfilling things, easier and less costly.
It’s hanging on the edge. It would be so easy to give up now. I tried. I really did. When I first launched this idea, people said it was amazing. We could go national, have a website, do all these amazing things, they said. It’s a good thing I did at least take the enthusiasm with a good dose of realism, because now those same people are too busy, too tired, too strapped for cash, too everything else. And I’m left with my ‘fabulous’ ministry, six months in with no one to help run it. And I find myself evaluating the cost. Is it worth it? Am I really making a difference? If I just wanted to raise money for the poor, I could have done that by doing carwashes. Or working, and giving what I earned. Seriously, with the amount of hours this has taken, that would have been a more productive/efficient way of raising funds! But I don’t want to just raise money. I already give quite a bit. I want to encourage others to give, to find God’s heart for those less fortunate than us, to realise and remember that we are some of the most blessed, prosperous people on earth. And that with privilege comes certain responsibilities (to borrow a quote from the movie Ever After).
But I can’t be at church every week, or even every month promoting it. I cant’ be chasing after other people, trying to make them do something they might just not be ready for. And there’s a thousand little things behind the scenes that have to be done to keep things running. Emails, phone calls, photo editing, texts, tracking donations, talking with supporters, working out what to present next…the list is almost unending. And it’s sucking away at my down-time. Down-time that I do actually need. I live a busy life, I do need some time that is not frazzled and rushed.
I could lose friends over this.
I could lose sleep.
I’m certainly losing free time.
When do you reach the point where enough is enough, where you say you’ve tried and it just didn’t work out?
And how do you tell whether something is worth it?
I really hope this is.
Because someone has to do it. This issue simply isn’t being raised in my church, or in the vast majority of other churches around our country and the Western world.
Ever watched Amazing Grace? It’s an incredible movie about William Wilberforce using his gifting and his passion in politics to fight for the abolition of slavery. But what hits me hard is the personal cost. He lost friends. His health was bad his whole life long. He lived in terrible emotional torment because he chose to open his heart to the call of God. Would he say it was worth it? Was it worth the personal torment, the hours of work, to see slavery banned? To know that it was no longer okay to treat humans as working collateral, cattle to be used and abused? I think he would say that it was. He did what God asked of him. But it came at great personal cost.
Am I prepared for the cost? Am I willing to give to this? Sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I decide to watch TV instead. But still, it sits there in the back of my mind. I am compelled to do something.
The thing is, just as clearly as I know that I’m called to champion the poorest of the poor, I also know I’m meant to study this Early Years Degree and I’m meant to be Munchkin’s Mummy. So there has to be room for those other two equally important things. My life has to have some balance between the vying needs of the three. Let alone my poor patient husband! We’ve been talking about it a lot lately, trying to decide what to do.
Right now, I’m wallowing in exhaustion and wondering why on earth I’m trying. The big question is when as an individual do you decide that you can’t carry it alone any more. Someone said to me this week that if you’ve got too many rocks in your wheelbarrow, if they are too heavy, then you need to leave some behind. That’s hard. I find myself wanting to give my rock to someone else. But what if they’ve already got too many themselves? Well then, could I carefully wrap my rock in a blanket and tuck it into a little hillside cave, a little note attached “Very important rock, please carry for me!?” Would someone come and pick it up? Or would it simply be forgotten?
Where is the fine line between commitment and burn-out? I don’t want to live a mediocre life, blaming circumstances or other’s actions for not doing what I’m passionate about. But neither do I want to do it to the point that I lose even all the passion that got this started. Sometimes people say to leave something like ministry. Leave it for a time, and come back to it when you’re older, when things are more settled, when you have more finances (you know, just add when……whatever the thing that would help the most in here). But I get the feeling that we do this too often. Too often we delay things, waiting for the ‘perfect’ opportunity that never actually comes. We spend our lives finding excuses for NOT doing what we believe in, for leaving it for another day. I don’t want to do that. But neither do I want to put everything into this, and then wish I’d spent that time doing something else. After all, that’s about as pointless as the first option, isn’t it? And despite what people might sometimes think about me, I do actually know that there are only so many hours in a day, and I am only capable of doing so many things in them (usually about half of my to-do list for any given day, hehe!). And I’m concerned that in all my efforts to DO SOMETHING for God, even something he is this passionately concerned about, that I could end up missing out on GOD HIMSELF. Because I could end up too busy to actually spend time with him. That would be tragic.
If your passion becomes a burden, then what? Can it turn around, and come full circle back to being a passion again, or does it end up dead? What do you do when something becomes too heavy to carry alone, and there seems to be a scarcity of helping hands?
I’m really not sure. I guess I’ll keep asking God.