I’ve been guilty of it so many times, thinking I’m in charge of my event. Thinking if I’m not there then there is no possible way the show can go on. I’ve lived with fear gripping my heart that I haven’t done enough or I haven’t done well enough or I just haven’t done “it” (whatever that elusive “it” is). I’ve had those moments staring into the eyes of my audience knowing I’m bombing and not knowing how to fix it. I’ve walked away from days fully aware we had a loss. I’ve had my stomach turn and my heart be heavy knowing it just didn’t work.
Can anyone out there relate?
The older I get (geez, I sound ancient) the more I realize I’m very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to think I matter but I’m realizing more and more that while I’m important and God desires to use me he certainly doesn’t need me. In fact, let’s be honest, there are times I’m quite sure God has simply worked around me to accomplish his purposes. He hasn’t shoved me out of the way but neither has he needed me.
In ministry there is this very convenient trap we can fall into (some of us simply jump right into the trap). This trap tells us that things rise and fall on us. We’re in ministry so we’re important. After all, we’re doing the Lord’s work. There are two sides to this trap. We can fall into despair. So, if our VBS doesn’t have the right numbers, it’s our fault. If our summer camp volunteers aren’t awesome, it’s our fault. If our kid’s programs don’t attract new families, it’s on us. The flip side of that is pride. So, when 20 kids find Jesus at VBS, it’s because of us. When 5 new families make our church their church home, it’s because of us. When a program runs smoothly and accomplishes exactly what we want it to, it’s our win. On either side we’re not only taking ourselves too seriously, we’re putting ourselves in God’s spot.
Pause. Anyone else see a problem with that?
You guys, we’re not God. I know, I know I’m blowing you away with the wisdom I’m dropping right now. Think about it, we are not God. We were never once created in God’s image to be God. We were created to reflect him, not take the place of him. Stop it. Stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s his ministry, it’s his kids, it’s his church, it’s his job, it’s about him, not about you.
I just finished up my 39th camp as a camp speaker. I have one more to go this summer. I’ve learned a few things in 39 camps and in almost 15 years of full-time ministry (geez, I am old).
- I take myself too seriously. There is a difference between being prepared and then over preparing to the degree that I agonize and navel gaze until I couldn’t hear the Holy Spirit even if he was yelling at me. I try to be prepared as possible and as interruptible as possible. It’s His show, it’s not mine. I won’t get up there unprepared but neither will I get up there gripping my notes so tightly I can’t open my hands in a surrender that says “use me”.
- Inevitably my feelings will lie to me. At least one night at every camp I walk away feeling like I bombed. Every. Single. Week. I go back to my room or cabin knowing the whole night was “eh”. I’ve come to expect it now. Now that I know what to expect it doesn’t make me nearly as sick to my stomach. I’m prepared for it. I’m also fully aware that, based on experience, it is most often the nights where I don’t feel good about how it went that God moved powerfully. It’s the most beautiful reminder that he doesn’t need me. So I pitch my feelings at God’s feet, tell Satan “not today!”, and rest in the knowledge that what I can’t see or feel is 100 times more important than what I can see or feel.
- I’m called to obedience not splashiness. As a speaker in my flesh wants to be flashy. I want to be remembered and noticed. I want people to say, “nobody else is as good as Miss Mel”. I’ve spent my moments wishing I knew magic tricks or could make a fountain by spraying water out of my nose or ANYTHING exciting. And then I remember, I’m not called to be splashy, I’m called to be obedient. So I get up there and I do me. I use the gifts and talents God’s graciously given me and I obediently use them to point back to him. I remember that flash fades but obedience puts me in the humble and right position where they forget me and remember him.
- God is weaving the bigger picture I may never see. I was 5 years old when at a VBS somebody used a puppet to tell the story of Jesus and I chose to start a relationship with him that night. I never told the person behind the puppet, I don’t even know who was behind the puppet, but God used them to change my life forever. When we work with kids we’re planting seeds and making impressions in wet cement that we will most likely never see. In Hebrews 11 it talks about the great men and women of faith and it says that all of them died still not seeing all God had promised. They were known for their faith in the journey, not the outcome. I’m convinced that faithfulness looks a lot more like putting one foot in front of the other in obedience and a lot less like one good moment at a camp or an event. It’s about the day to day. It’s about trusting that the good God I serve is weaving something much bigger in the lives of those I speak to. For some, I’m just another voice. For others, I might be the voice that plants a seed that changes their life forever. And it’s ok if I never know.
Sometimes I write blogs that are aimed directly at myself. So, I’m preaching to myself today and allowing you to listen in. The theme of my summer has been to not take myself so seriously. I want to be prepared and obedient and honest and then I want to step back and let God do the rest of the work. God doesn’t need me. He will accomplish what he desires to accomplish, with or without me. So I give myself permission to go for a swim during free time with the kiddos instead of agonizing over every detail of my message. I call my boyfriend (I may be old but that makes me sound like I’m 14) instead of wasting my time worrying about how the night went. I sleep better at night knowing that God does the work. I’m learning to chill a little more, rest a little easier, and trust my sweet Jesus even more. Join me?
Passionate about the church and about kids, Melissa J. MacDonald travels extensively speaking, training, coaching, and consulting. With a fresh and unique perspective Melissa boldly calls the church to be The Church everywhere she goes. She’s been to over 30 countries and seeks out the best ethnic food in every city she visits. Melissa currently serves as the National Children’s Disciplemaking Specialist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Find out more at www.melissajmacdonald.com.