I recently finished facilitating a half-day of teambuilding exercises at Erskine College for the Student Life Assistants (SLAs) who live in the residence halls there. Basically, the Dean of Students, who is a buddy of mine, called me after Ashley and I moved to Columbia and asked me to come in and work with his students, because (a) he had a need for someone to come in and do it, (b) he stated he knew of the quality of the work I was capable of from our previous experiences working together, and (c) he knew the students would appreciate and that I’d get a charge out of being able to tackle teambuilding from a faith-based perspective.
Now, once I was able to clear the cobwebs from my mind and focus on this, my first true student-affairs-driven activity in almost two and a half years, and after I shook the stage fright out of my system (I know that some of my friends may find me incapable of this, but come on; even I knew that I was going to be a bit rusty) I’ll admit it: I had fun. I enjoyed it a great deal, and I think the students may have been able to glean at least one bit of useful information from the three hours we had together. Did it inspire me to want to ditch my status as a stay-at-home dad and take up the mantle of working schlub in higher education again? …not really. Yeah, it reminded me of why I first got into working with students, and again, I had a WONDERFUL time (and about 87 quazillion additional ideas for the next opportunity if I get asked to do something like this again), but I’d still prefer to sing my kid to sleep any day of the week.
Anyway – what really struck me was one simple sentence uttered to me as I was walking out the door. I don’t recall who said it, but as I was waving goodbye to my batch of new BFFs, one of the SLAs just said, “Hey – best of luck to you in your ministry.”
Now, as anyone who has ever spoken at a conference or in public can attest, there are times when you just react to what is said to you. You’re so wrapped up in the moment, that the reality of a phrase spoken in passing might not hit you at the time that it is said. You may do what I did – namely, you smile, say something like “Hey, thanks, man” while continuing on your progress out the door…and then about four seconds after you’ve gotten out of sight, you begin to process what was said.
“Best of luck in my whotheheywhatnow?”
This one sentence really just affected me – not in a bad way, and not really because I was confused by the frame of reference I think he was giving it in (that of me being a stay-at-home parent, chronicling the exploits of Kai & me, detailing them for a book – but shh; that’s our little secret). What really hit me was that last word.
Not because I was offended by it. Not because I was haughty over it. Not because I was even unsure why he might call it such. I was just taken aback because, well, I’d never really seen it from that point of view.
To me, what I do and why I do it is just my life. It’s a tangible, physical manifestation of the love that I have. It’s not a burden, although it might induce a few headaches and frustrations every now and then. It’s not something I am required to do, but something I felt called to do. It’s as much a choice as it is my nature. It’s part of my identity, but it’s not really how I define myself.
It’s simply me.
Whether it’s an expression of or action precipitated by my faith, or me just smiling and sighing to myself to entertain Kai while I change his poopy diaper for the fifth time in a given afternoon, I just do. I just act. I’m just myself. It’s just me.
Which, once I stopped to think about, is poetically and beautifully comparable to how a certain Creator defined Himself: I Am.
And then I started to think: maybe the witness we as believers are supposed to have might be more effective if we simply and honestly just acted out of love, out of our nature, and out of our heart instead of trying to encapsulate what we do as a “ministry.” We who profess to believe sometimes get too hung up on what umbrella of “ministry” an action might take place under – and sadly, many times from the perspective of leadership in a church, what line item on a budget this ministry action should be paid, for not what effective action in love it should represent. When we stop to give money to someone, do we do it because it’s what our heart compels us to do, or do we do it in the name of and framework of a ministry? When we feed someone who is hungry, what would be a better answer to why we do it: “I do this out of love” or “I do this out of ministry.” Yes, I realize that to many people, these two terms can be interchangeable and at times mean the same.
I also realize that number of those people are already in the church.
I’m not stating all this to say “look at how cool and Christ-like I am in that I just act out of love.” That’s a little too Pharisee in the Temple for my tastes. I was just a little surprised when I stopped to look back at the trajectory of my life, taking account of those actions taken in love that have meant the most to me – everything from the 706 to That Thing at 8 – and I see that they could all be defined as ministries. Heck, a number of them WERE defined as ministries.
I simply saw them as extensions of myself. As expressions of myself.
As expressions of love.
And I thank God for this ignorance of humility.
And I wish that it could be manifest in more areas in my life.