A friend in ministry was concerned about why she had so much more worry in her life now than when she was a child. Beyond the obvious issues of greater awareness, knowledge, and family responsibilites, there is also the aspect of worry based upon different phases of ministry. That led to this small book response, which is something I’ve been thinking through for a bit.
Initially many of us start out going what on earth did I get into with this… God, why did you put me here… or as I used to tell folks, call me Moses, I am the least qualified, get someone else, and then finding myself going ok God, I’m stuck here, now what? In Moses mode, everything is new, and its as if a firehose is coming at you in a different direction daily where no matter how much prior education or somewhat related experience, its like HELP!!!! For me, I found there really was little worry at such times. Its overload city, but God provides a way, provides the words, provides the direction. Talk about dependance and having to trust in Him.
I got it, but what about God’s role
As experience grows, there is a tendency to have less dependance on God. One knows things to say, not to say, when to just listen etc…The personal freakout factor decreases. Then one starts second guessing a bit… did I get the theology right on the money, did I do everything right in counseling, or when an outcome turns out badly,what did I do wrong. Or really second guessing and being gun shy after a recent bad outcome, where it was obvious I blew it. Worry will build… the solution of course is taking it to the cross, leaving it there, and returning to that dependence on God. Yep, I know easier said than done.
Oh shoot, there are personal issues, and they are mine!
There is also the aspect that with experience comes greater personal accountability as exemplified in Luke 12. It could be the little things in our lives that initially we fail to see, or gloss over, that over time are brought to light and become a bigger and bigger deal. We are all broken, we will remain so throughout our lifetime on earth… but issues we may not have even been aware of early on get illuminated and we have to work through them as experience builds. That can add to worry. Ie am I being a hypocrite in this, how do I fix this, man, it was so simple before, why is it so hard now etc. Where is God in this? Bishop Mike Rinehart wrote something a while back where he talked about pain causing spiritual growth. At first I went huh… that’s a tad narrow, now I go, um… yep. Some of those things can be a real bear and a half to work through, and it can take some time, more than a lifetime if one really thinks it through. I think the issue is, whether its worry of being found out, ie the proverbial broadcast to the mountain tops deal or worry as part of identifying and resolving said issues. The former is a big problem, the later is part of spiritual growth.
Talents, much is required
And likewise in Luke 12 where much is given, much is required… yep, with the increasing experience God grants to us, more is required. I remember back to my days at Imago Dei, where in I’d be up working all night doing the maintenance thing, and then get a early AM knock at my door to find out, whoa, I need to haul a load of canoes and a youth group to an offsite location, followed up by Bible orienteering that evening etc It be like, ok, a freezing cold shower, a quick load up of the gear, and lets roll, no worries, we’ll get it done one way or another. Today, I’d hit the brakes on that sort of deal, and go ok… we have a problem here, what do we do, instead of jumping in pedal to the metal and not thinking through the potential problems. Of course, their is a balance point… worrying for the sake of worrying, albeit common, is vastly different than prudent analysis based upon prior experience.
Also in Luke 12 there is the issue of greater expections, and this can lead to worry… People can come up with some pretty unreasonable expectations. Ie you’ve done this before, you can do it again… and then when it doesnt work out, one starts second guessing in a huge way. During my tenure, we nearly doubled in size, albeit the second derivative of active participation went negative (in other words, acceleration towards death) early on, and we had two major losses of members. I had no real worries over the 2 mass exodus periods, as they were expected, and in reality, were less than we figured (policy changes causing a split). The negative second derivative… I spent months worrying over that. What did we do wrong, what were we missing, and even today, I wonder, what did I miss,what could I have done differently, what could I have done better… Granted, we are called to preach the Gospel, and then leave the rest up to God, ie faith comes by hearing. But also we are not to put up stumbling blocks, and I sure rang up more than a few millstones. I guess in this case, its my own expectations more so than others, but it still tanks. And there in lies some of my own reticence to get back in the saddle. Yet, with experience comes further calling, to sit on that experience would be way uncool. I guess I need to take my own advice and take it to the cross and leave it there.
Is it time to move on?
And lastly is worrying over when its time to move on… How many times can one take their head and slam it into the wall. When does the spillover becomg problematic. Granted adversity is a given, and to add insult to injury worrying in and of itself can be self fullfilling and lead to a downward spiral, yet there often comes a point where one has to consider something different. Obviously dwelling on such is not cool, but then again neither is being oblivious to the situation at hand. Overstaying can result in a multitude of unintended consequences, just as bailing out too soon, and this too can lead to worry. My Baptist pastor friend says he uses effectiveness as a general guide, as it reduces the worry factor, and as such may make it easier to hear the still small voice. Ie, less me, more God as to when it is time. It seemed to work out pretty well for me last go round, so its a tool I likely will carry for a long time.