Sometimes it takes very little for me to question God’s plan to use me. Like a Monday morning, for example. That’s a good enough reason to question why God would place me in ministry roles. I woke up exhausted and uncomfortable. The humidity of last night helped me not at all. I grumble as I think about the work that needs to be done today. I still haven’t established a regular Sabbath – I just find them when I can – and today is not it. I set up a meeting for this morning and there is Bible study tonight.
So I stumble out of my room when I hear that the dog and the pup have broken out of the kitchen (not my fault). I think about the fact that I need to return my car so that the repair shop can find out why it is doing the exact same thing as before the last repair two weeks ago (not my fault). That will mean a walk home. It’s cloudy. It’s humid. You do the math. As I start to get ready, the bathroom door nearly falls apart. It’s long overdue for replacement. Maybe I should do something about that. Make that a zillion and one on the list. The bathroom sink is a mess (not my fault). Then I see that the pup left some unappreciated presents in the dining room. Grumble…grumble. Did I mention it’s Monday? I’m almost ready to leave to drop off the car when the nachos I had last night (during my attempt to personally retreat where all I did was clean up my email) kick in. Really? Right now? And who is calling me before 8am? Why? It cannot be that important, can it?
We are all called to be ministers, but sometimes I ask God why that has to be all the time. Why can’t part-time ministry mean part-time? Because there are no part-time people. I studied Criminal Justice because people fascinate me. Now I’m surrounded by them. But God did not choose me because of my adequacy, he chose me because he had prepared me, blessed me, and I had the audacity to be obedient at one point in time. Well, two, actually. So here I am: an inadequate, grumbling, minister of grace on a Monday morning. Awesome.
As I drove the car to the shop, I took a way that allowed me to see that my friend and neighbor who hosts tonight’s Bible study is missing his dog. I saw the sign on a post and it reminded me that other people have things to face as well. Dogs missing. No work. Health struggles. Family problems. The list of possibilities is endless – and so is God’s grace. I sensed God telling me this: “As soon as I stop being good, you feel free to start complaining.” God IS good. If I remember that, I will understand that circumstances are only that – circumstances – tools used in God’s hands for good.
I drop off the car and am greeted with a smile. It’s a different experience for me – here in the city – to know by name and greet the people who provide a service to me. They provide a service to me. That just struck me. In my need, they are willing and able to help. That is a blessing. I began my walk home. On my walks, I have recently begun to pray for specific people and ask God to bless them. Very short, stream-of-conciousness type prayers. Today I felt compelled to pray for my enemies. I don’t know why. I began to call them to mind, names of past wounds that still have scars. Then came the moment of truth where I could not quite bring myself to ask God to bless them. As I wrestled with it, I finally gave a “Sure, go ahead” to their blessings. Pretty pathetic, right?
Then God asked me why I wanted to have him release blessings on them.
I hadn’t thought about that. I was praying with a very selfish motive. If they were blessed, they would (in my mind) be transformed for good, would never hurt anyone, and maybe they would find me and beg for mercy. That was my picture of how it should go. It began to rain. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t hear it, but I felt it. The lightest rain possible began to fall and I thought about the verse which tells us that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Then it hit me a little clearer: in order to truly love someone, I must first understand just how undeserving I am. I did not deserve love. I do not deserve grace. But God pours it out at his discretion. Who am I to withhold? That thought didn’t change the fact that it is Monday, nor did it clear my calendar, but it did give me perspective.
Half-way home and it began to rain a little harder. Now I could see it, and hear it. I crossed the street to take advantage of the trees on the other side. Then I was reminded of the lines of the song in church yesterday – “tower of refuge and strength.” The bottom line is, today as any day, I am undeserving. I am inadequate in my own strength. Yet God chooses to use me and pours out grace so that I’m a fitting vessel at times. I have grandiose visions of how God might use me sometimes, but how can he use me in grand ways if I can’t manage a Monday morning? Two blocks away from home and the clouds let loose for about 30 seconds. Pieces start to fall into place. Grace doesn’t come in packages we can control; it comes in a form that washes over us and that we are powerless to stop. I waved to my neighbor. He gets it. He was sitting on his porch, drinking morning coffee, and just taking it all in. That’s all God has ever asked of us when he pours out grace: take it all in.
P.S. It’s a little difficult to show in pictures that it rained on a bald man, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.