Sunday, October 24, 2010

Walmart Greeter Ministry

Today was a challenging and busy day.  Prior to an afternoon of family bowling and concert going, I was the guest preacher this morning at our church to a surprisingly larger group than I had anticipated, as many were out of town today.  Mind you, larger in our little church is not what most would think of as larger.  It was stressful, as doing something new and unfamiliar always is.  I lack confidence, and it shows.  I lack skill, and it shows.  I lack depth, and it shows.  What I don't lack is a desire for others to know God...and maybe that shows.  I'll never really be good at this preaching thing, but at least I can say I have made the attempt, I have stood at the precipice and jumped even if it feels like it is without a parachute strapped to my back.

I still have yet to figure out what my gifts for ministry are, where I should be headed...if any specific direction. The only thing that keeps me going in light of all I lack is the firm belief that God uses every single one of us in ways we often don't realize ourselves.  If I can believe that about others, and I do, than certainly I must believe that it also applies to me.

This "God Thing" that has caught me is something I would have laughed out loud about 10 years ago, considering myself "done" with all that hypocrisy that seemed to typically come part and parcel with Christianity.  I had this ridiculously false understanding of what it meant to be Christian, and a completely immature perspective on how Christianity intersects with our day to day life.  I found not an ounce of peace when I attended church in my younger years, I had more questions that never seemed to be answered, and while I felt connected to God, that felt very much separate from "church".

Life kicked me around a lot, I began to see the human struggle we all have in a very different light, and somewhere along the line all that "Jesus Stuff" crept in and hunkered down for a stay.  The transformation was not sudden or immediately obvious.  It was a gradual reckoning with all I had believed, a complete reconstruction after demolition left only the skeletal framework.  The new House of Faith that was created from that point was so totally different, so tangible and touchable, and if you asked me how it happened I doubt I could explain it at all.

It sounds terribly corny to say, but I want others to have it if they want it.  I know there are other seekers out there like me who have spent years wondering what this Christian thing is all about, people who believe in God but think they don't believe in God "the right way" so how could they possibly belong to the "Club"...oh...yea...ahem...I mean "Church".  What breaks my heart, literally rents it in two, is that anyone would ever have been made to feel there is a "right way" to believe in God, and that they feel alone in their own faith journey that looks EXACTLY the way God wants it to look, regardless of what anyone says. 

It is NOT that I want to push people into converting to my way of thinking.  It is that I know the ache that comes from feeling so desperately in need of something you can't name, and what it is like to feel you can never live up to some sort of man-made standard to wear the label "Christian". 

It's not about a label, it's not about other Christians and their opinions.  It's about knowing God... feeling God...hearing God...and that is not about anything anyone else tells you it ought to be.  There is no right or wrong way to hear God, for we all encounter the Holy in different ways.   I happen to encounter God in interaction with others, some find God in nature, or music, or art, or the written word.  God reaches us where we can be most easily reached, and our relationship with the Spirit doesn't have to pass anyone else's litmus test to be deemed valid.

I don't know why it has become important to me to try and help others as they travel their path to get to know God better.  I don't understand it at all, but it matters to me a great deal.  Perhaps it was those years of prayer that caused me to question if I was "doing it right", or maybe it was feeling so certain of God's existence and yet also feeling so very isolated as I attempted to put it all together for myself.  That sort of pain is the kind we all rarely talk about with rare exceptions.

I'll never see myself as an honest-to-goodness minister.  I think I will be fortunate if I can move past seeing myself as anything more than the equivalent of a metaphorical Walmart Greeter, someone who does nothing more than direct God Shoppers to the correct department where their more difficult questions can be answered by the real experts in Photo or Pharmacy.

But you know what?  Without that gate keeper, how do people find their way?  Oh sure, eventually they would take their shopping cart and end up in the right area, but how much longer would it take?  Maybe my only true role might be to simply help shorten that search for the right department.  And the sooner the customer can find what they are looking for and speak to a true expert, the sooner they can be done with the search and rest with their new found treasure.  In this case, that treasure would not be a new digital camera or the latest hair restoration would be something of infinite value, they'd walk away with a little package of God held in their hands.  To be even remotely associated with that, no matter how far removed, would be a privilege of the highest order.

So I head off to bed tonight sleepily content as I recognize God never asked us to do something perfectly, but to simply be willing to do it.  Where I can't manage perfection, I can excel at willingness.  Guess that's where I'll be sitting for awhile.

Perfection is overrated anyway.


Anonymous said...

"I lack depth, and it shows."


I don't think God has a specific path for your ministry any more than there is a specific "right" path to approach God. God is laying before you multiple paths and choices, and you are responding in a deep and meaningful way to those opportunities. Maybe the only time you will see your path will be after this life when you are given a glimpse back, and like an aerial view, you will see the bright, shining but meandering path your ministry and life has taken.

I'm right with you on "Perfection is overrated anyway."

Of course, I would say that.


Dee said...

Cindy you lack a lot of things, but not depth! I wish I could wave a magic wand and help you be more self-confident. You may not be wealthy or well-educated but neither was Jesus. Stand tall and proud, knowing you have done amazing things and continue to do them. Preaching will get easier, with experience. Preach every day - to the puppy, if no-one else. Just like writing, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Karen said...

'll never see myself as an honest-to-goodness minister."

Experience has taught me to "never say never." I said I'd never be a minister. That I'd never preach. That I'd never live anywhere except in the West.

I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the day will come when you say about your ministry "never came!"

Anonymous said...

Yep, preachin is new to you. But I imagine it's a skill that, with practice, can be learned . . . and based on your writing, am having a hard time believing you totally bombed!

Please, please, please, check that lack of self-confidence at the door. Why do you suppose so many people tune into your blog? For your "lack of depth?"

You have so much to give. Don't doubt it for an instant. Christianity needs more voices like yours.

Anonymous said...

As one who sat in rapt attention listening when you were in the pulpit, I also differ with your evaluation. From the perspective of a former toastmaster, I predict that with practice you'll continue to become the polished speaker you may wish to be.

AND, the content of your sermon was so filled with thoughtful reminders and new approaches to the topic that I came home with several key points to ponder through the week. For me, that is the measure of a meaningful sermon.

I applaud your willingness to approach the unknown future of your ministry. It has brought a whole new texture to your life and you are modeling for your children, in many ways, about taking risks and trusting that God will be be there for you.

Bless you for all you do!

Much love,