Monday, September 07, 2009

Soul Weariness and Relearning Ministry, Part 1

Ever since GUPY ended I have been keenly aware of a weariness of soul that is not going away quickly. I'm used to being tired after a full summer, but usually have bounced back by now, and I feel that I am in a strange season right now. My job description has me in positions to regularly work with and care for the poor, but my heart wants little to do with the poor right now. I find myself saying no to most every request that comes my way, and I find myself cringing when I see someone in need sitting at the church. In the past my first reaction would be to try and help them (maybe fix them is a better phrase), but now I want to avoid them. With my spiritual tank empty and my physical tank slowly refilling, I have no desire to fix anyone and right now I don't believe very strongly that I could. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because there is no real power in me to fix anyone.

Part of me fears that my recent apathy towards the poor, even a disdain for the poor, has been lurking in my heart all along but I have simply been able to cover it up with conviction and energy and religion. When the tank is empty, when you can't fake it anymore, is what you find at the bottom of the barrel what was really there all along?

Another part of me feels like I am having to relearn what ministry is all about; not just ministry to the poor but ministry to anyone. For so long, I have equated ministry with fixing. How could I love someone if I didn't try to fix whatever it was that seemed to be wrong with them? It seemed unloving to simply listen, pray, and then leave them in the same state that I found them in. I think about one of our Wed night guests who is homeless. Each week they have the same prayer request for a job, shelter, good friends, President Obama, and world peace. There is only one part of that prayer request that I can affect right now - I could be his friend. But because I can't help with the job or shelter (or world peace), I shy away from this man.

Diane and I recently watched The Soloist, and near the end is a poignant scene where the reporter, who has been trying to fix the life of a homeless man for months, is told by his ex-wife to stop trying to fix the man and simply be his friend. I saw myself in that reporter, and I saw the great freedom that his ex-wife's advice offered. Freedom from fixing, freedom to simply love.

I wonder how firmly I really believe that God is the one who heals, fixes, brings growth? In my Stephen Ministry class, we have learned that we are the care-givers and that God alone is the cure-giver. My soul is so worn out from trying to cure that I am willing to let God take a crack at it.

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