For years, I’ve aspired to be like the faithful Sunday School teacher who serves her post for 50 years, loving generations of children, sharing the gospel with countless young people who gather at her table week after week.
I’ve day-dreamed about looking back over the years and noticing that my faithful involvement in a community, or a person, or a generation actually had some impact.
So far, it seems impossible to live the ideal of a long-term ministry.
Ministry seems to occur in fits and starts instead.
The trend is that a year or two after I sign up to help, lead, teach, or serve, circumstances require me to stop.
Most recently, I got all charged up about Women’s Ministry. I dog-eared every wonderful book about Women’s Ministry and listened to every podcast about Women’s Ministry. I prayed about and talked about and dug into Women’s Ministry with zeal. And then, I had to push “pause” on the whole shebang as I entered my third trimester of pregnancy and simply didn’t have the energy or focus to continue. Now, we are welcoming our sweet little newborn into our lives and I’m not quite sure when I’ll be able to return to the topic.
To be honest, I’ve wrestled with my tendency to “start and stop” ministry work. It has been disappointing to me. (And embarrassing at times.) I’ve heard people explain that these things happen “just for a season,” and yet I’ve wondered, Why can’t I stick with something over time?
Have you ever criticized yourself for the same thing?
I tearfully brought my regrets and shame before the Lord. I started apologizing for my fickle, short-term commitments. You can imagine my reassurance when I remembered that this is simply the nature of married life and motherhood.
Scripture is very honest about this.
“The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”
1 Corinthians 7:24
In the context of the entire Bible, we confidently know that God Himself ordains a married woman’s work to love her husband and her children. She must realize that her home, now, is her primary ministry.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” -from Titus 2
In light of this, I can see that sometimes I emerge into a season of energy and availability. Home-life thrives while I write, coordinate, teach, and serve. At those times, the Lord is gracious to open opportunities for me to work in the Church on a broader scale. Then, when a new baby arrives or a pressing need appears within our home, I must pull back into our home and hunker down for a while, focusing on our family and giving everything I’ve got to our home.
And it’s okay.
It’s more than okay… it’s just as it should be.
If I can faithfully serve my family over the years, all will be well. Additional opportunities to serve – even in fits and starts – will have their value as I give what I can when I can.
My heart is full of praise to God who gives us good work to do at home and abroad, who allows for short-stints in several directions as well as a long journey on one enduring road.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.