I love underdog stories and one of the best is a movie entitled Rudy. It is based on the true story of a young man who against all odds played one game for the Notre Dame football team. He wasn’t big enough and he wasn’t good enough but he stuck it out and was rewarded with this one game. There is a scene in that movie in which a priest tells Rudy, when he is discouraged about not being accepted to Notre Dame, that there are two truths of which he is certain.
The first is that there is a God and the second in the priest’s own words: “I’m not him.”
It seems like such a simple fact and yet all of us at times probably need to be reminded of its truth.
I’m not God and I can’t solve all of the problems of the world or even of my church.
I’m not God and I have to live with a certain amount of theological tension because there are things that I don’t know.
I’m not God and there are physical and emotional limitations that being human places on me.
I have been learning that last one again over the past few months.
Handling stress and other ministry challenges
I am so blessed in so many ways that every day I wake up with a sense of wonder. God has given me so many things that I don’t deserve. His “Amazing Grace” to quote John Newton extends far beyond my salvation. It touches every single area of my life.
God has given me a wonderful wife who blesses my life every single day that I live. We have been married for more than forty-six years and I think that I have come to appreciate her more every year that we are married.
When I was in my teens I read an article that stated that more than 80% of people went to jobs that they don’t enjoy. I made up my mind right there that whatever might be true of the job that I had, I was going to enjoy doing it. I have spent twenty-five years as a pastor, ten years working for a mission organization and three years working with small churches and I have loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute but most of them.
I have been able to touch some people’s lives over those years and that is such an awesome thing. The Almighty God, Creator of everything that exists, has allowed me to be part of his mission on this earth. That has given meaning to my life for which I am deeply thankful.
I could go on listing the blessings for a long time but I hope that you get the idea. I am a very blessed person.
Along with the blessings, however, has also come some stress. I have always handled that stress fairly well.
When I was young I worked for TransCanada Pipelines for a couple of years. It was an interesting job in that the gas going through the pipeline was going through under tremendous pressure. One always had to be careful because a broken line could easily kill someone. On each line there were release valves that allowed that pressure to be bled off before anyone actually worked on the line.
I have always had release valves in my life and I have always used them when the pressure built up too high. I believed that whatever I faced, those valves would enable me to release the pressure and carry on with my ministry.
Over the past few months I have been reminded that I am human just like everyone else. To paraphrase the priest in Rudy, I have a strong belief that there is a God but like so many of us, every once in a while I need a reminder that I am not he. God can handle whatever might come but being human I sometimes need some help.
Over the past few months I have not been as effective in my ministry as I would like. I have been facing pressures and not dealing with them very well.
I have been reminded that whenever we think about ministry we need to keep two verses in tension with each other.
The first are the words of the Apostle Paul in writing to the church in Philippi.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” 4:13 NIV
While Paul’s words are often taken out of context, they are still very challenging words.
But they need to be kept in balance with Psalm 103:15, 16
“As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”
We have the supernatural strength of God that we can draw upon but we are still just human with all the limitations that that brings.
I have written all of this to say that I find myself in need of a sabbatical to recharge my batteries. I am taking the next three months away from my normal work and limiting myself to non-stress inducing activities.
One of the things that I will not be doing during this period of time is writing this blog. I would like to thank each of you who have taken the time to read what I have written. My plan is to pick it up again in three months and I hope that you will start reading it again when that happens. It is my prayer that what I have written over the past couple of years has been an encouragement and at times a challenge to you.
Blessings on each of you and on your ministry. I will connect again in three months.