Yesterday at our staff meeting we read the evaluations of the two teams of students who have spent the past three weeks serving with us. It is humbling to read how the Holy Spirit used us to impact lives in profound ways. What a blessing to be able to share our stories, our joys and especially our struggles, and watch God transform lives through them.Along with asking what students like best, we ask for any changes they’d like to see. One student wrote, “Please no bacon sandwiches!” Another wrote, “I’d like to have more days with bacon sandwiches.”
Reading those comments brought a rueful smile to my lips. To me, it was a perfect ‘microcosm’ of the challenges of ministry.We cannot simultaneously have both no bacon and more bacon sandwiches. If we eliminate them, someone will be disappointed. If we add more, someone else will be. If we keep it the same… yep, more disappointment!
Each of us has our own preconceived notions of what exactly a ministry or mission, a pastor or missionary, needs to do. When they don’t live up to our expectations, it is easy to feel disappointed and even betrayed. The problem is, of course, there are other voices, other opinions, which are very likely very different from ours!
The truth is, it is absolutely impossible to make everyone happy. I’m not sure why we even think it’s a standard to achieve, but we do. It hurts when others judge my motivations and decisions without taking the time to ask me for an explanation. It hurts when I am treated like a disappointment for not acting as someone expects or wants.Of course, I do the exact same thing. From my perspective, things are so clear and straightforward about what you should be doing. I have the right to weigh in and tell you my opinion, sought or not. If you do seek my counsel and then don’t do exactly as I suggest, well, I have the right to shake my head and predict disaster.
Jesus lived His life free of the pressures of trying to please man because He knew His purpose in coming. The focus, motivation, very life of Jesus was concerned with glorifying His Father. For this He emptied Himself, for this He submitted to rejection, to death, and to hell itself.Did Jesus’ single-minded focus sometimes leave people unhappy? Yeah, I think so. Remember Peter trying to ‘shush’ Him when He talked about having to die? But, thanks be to God, Jesus stayed faithful, and we have been redeemed by His blood, to the glory of God.
I pray that as I confront more no bacon/more bacon clashes, I will, first of all, be less judgmental, especially of those judging me. That I will understand that they have their own issues and agendas.Next, I pray I will put all of the expectations (of others and of myself!) in their proper place. And that is firmly beneath the agenda of God to bring Him glory through my life.
How should that look today, tomorrow, next month, next year? Ah, that is a mystery! That’s the adventure, isn’t it?
As we learn more and more to submit our wills to the will of God, I believe we will more and more live in the freedom of serving Him according to His expectations. The awesome news is that in this, we are not alone.God desires to see His glory proclaimed among the nations. When this is my agenda, too, I can trust that the Holy Spirit will work in me and through me to accomplish it. Focused on Him, the clashes can no longer hold me captive. What a challenge, what a promise!