What to write? Hmm…such a dilemma. So much is bouncing around in my mind. My thoughts are here and there and everywhere and about everything. This has been a sad week with many goodbyes – some for now and some forever. The world has said goodbye to pop culture icons, and we said goodbye to an icon of our own – Uncle Willie. We are saying goodbye to a couple that has been like our kids. I feel like a part of me is missing now, and it’s an aspect of this vocation that I don’t like. Over the years, we have had our share of many sad goodbyes. In a church family, some children are raised and have to leave to “do the work of the Father.” We know that some are called to our house forever and some for just a season. When it’s time for them to move on and “leave the nest,” it’s an emotional conflict. I am happy that they’re fulfilling God’s plan but sad that they have to leave to do it. Just like when Ashton left for college, I was excited for her but sad for me. Separation is difficult, but it’s a necessary part of growth. To take away pain is to take away growth. A baby bird leaves the nest when it becomes over-crowded and uncomfortable, and the momma knows she must help it fly. We give roots and wings as parents and as pastors. Giving both has challenges but giving wings often comes with tears.
As parents and pastors we pay a price that the children never really understand or recognize. So many times I’ve told my kids, “You will understand when you have kids of your own.” Kids see things second-hand while we experience them first-hand. In other words, they assume some responsibilities but we bear the weight of all of them. We know when it comes time for them to go into the “real world,” we can’t be there to protect them from all the hurts and disappointments that “big grown-up life” hands them. The hardest thing is watching them fall down and knowing we can’t rush to pick them up and “kiss their boo-boo and make it all better.” Likewise, when we know people are launching into the ministry, those same parental feelings wash over us.
I always say that I don’t care for “the ministry” but love the work of the Gospel – they are definitely different. The work of the Gospel has God at the center but “the ministry” can’t always boast such. I don’t want to get on a rant here because I could! I have had years of watching people preach everything but the Gospel and do so for every reason except the redemption of mankind. The ministry of Jesus has no room for selfish ambition and self-promotion – aren’t we promoting Him, after all? Ministry is not a job, IT IS A CALLING and above all, it is an honor. Any person given such a privilege should treat it as such as we are accountable to God for our reasonable service and sacrifice.
My prayers go with you, dear children, and my heart will never leave you as you enter His work. Be of good courage and remember what Jesus said to Peter, “If you really love me, you will feed my sheep.” I echo what the Apostle Paul said, “I rejoice that the Gospel is preached.” Many centuries ago, St. Ignatius Loyola wrote this prayer for those called to selfless service in the name of the Lord:
“Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest; To give and not count the cost; To fight and not heed the wounds; To toil, and not seek for rest; To labour, and to ask for no reward, Save that of knowing that we do Thy will; Through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
May this be my prayer, my inspiration, and my living testament so that in all I do, God gets all the glory and honor forever and ever. May this be our anthem… our chorus… and our Amen.