Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Mud and Mire

Hey guys. Sorry it's been a while since my last entry; Julie and I have been on vacation for the past two weeks. Below is a letter I wrote and sent to a couple of you a few months ago and thought I would edit it and post it here. Recently a friend of mine has been ridiculing me for how "comfortable" he presumes my work to be in comparison to his manual labor/maintenance job. He breaks a sweat every day when he goes to work- always coming home dirty from fixing a toilet, or installing a sprinkler system, or hauling furniture up three flights of stairs. "You can't possibly understand how hard my job is, Ryan," he says, "I don't get to sit in a comfy chair in the air conditioning all day like you do, I'm literally shoveling other people's 'crap' all day long." Little did he know that I was engaged in discipleship (for definition, see "shoveling other people's crap") at that very moment. Here's a copy of a letter I sent in the midst of a particularly trying day in ministry- yes, from my "comfy armchair":

I feel like ever since I started working at Rio, almost 2 years ago, I am constantly engaged in discipleship-related confrontations. There have been so many hard conversations, life burdens to shoulder with people, and a LOT of criticism about a lot of things I do. Many of you guys will know exactly what I mean: there’s someone you’re discipling and your heart is so burdened for them and their troubles that you lose sleep over them. Last night, and for several nights now, my sleep has been labored with concern for one guy in particular who's on our Worship Team. He’s said some offensive things to me recently which, more important than the offense, revealed some things about the condition of his heart. This morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck, not only from not sleeping well, but because the last burden on my mind before bed last night was also the first thought I had when I opened my eyes this morning: “I need to talk with him today.” I would be neglecting my calling NOT to.

So, when I got to work this morning at 7:20am, I called him and asked him if he would squeeze in a meeting with me before he went off to work. We met, our conversation was terribly difficult and only moderately productive. I felt like an emotional rag doll when I returned to my office and the phone rang as I unlocked the door. On the other end of the phone was another member of our worship team who would require 20 minutes in conversation of the heavy-lifting sort. When I hung up the phone I was no longer a rag doll, I was on my way to numb. I took a deep breath, opened my calendar and saw that I have a lunch meeting today with a new guy in our church who wants to be in the Worship Team. And it was in that moment, when I should have felt overwhelmed at the thought of taking on yet ANOTHER “disciple”, that I realized something new and miraculous “sprouting up in my soul.”

I had already lost sleep over the one guy, been down in the trenches with two team members before 9:00am, and now I was LOOKING FORWARD to adding one more person to the team- a person whose mud and mire I would voluntarily lay all comforts aside to help him wade through. I don’t have to meet with him today- I could call it off and tell him we don’t need anymore guitar players, “go take a hike, I’ve had a hard day and too many conversations.” And yet somehow a passion burns inside of me to be bruised walking through another person’s abuses, restless in another person’s sin, and utterly exhausted under another person’s burden. This can only be the calling of God.

It reminded me of how I feel about yard work. I know it’s cliché, but not without good reason. What is it that drives me to drag my half-asleep body out of bed on a Saturday morning and spend my entire day pulling weeds that are only going to keep cropping up? Even more perplexing: how can I spend my entire God-given Saturday morning of rest exhausted in the dirt, and still sense a deep satisfaction at the end of the day? There’s something about being dirty and sweaty, and being sore and getting cut that makes you simultaneously hate and love the work you do. That’s how I feel about ministry this morning: like I’ve been down in the dirt pulling other people’s weeds, knowing that more will sprout up tomorrow, getting cut in the process, and yet looking forward to God adding more and more fields to my work of harvesting.

What madness our ministry must appear to unbelievers who haven’t personally experienced the call of the Lord.

I love you guys. I can’t tell you how much it helps me- especially on days like today- to know that you’re down “in the mud and mire” with me.


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