I am happy to have realized something amazing as we come to the end of 2020, and kick off a new year.
For the past years I have always tried to look back and assess how things are going personally and ministry wise. This year has been a struggle in so many ways. It has be difficult, depressing, exhausting, and I could go on about everything that was thrown at us, but that is only part of the story.
This year seemed to start like most but then turned into something none of us could expect. I went from running services and programs to packing lunches and turning our buildings into places where people could have showers, use the washroom, and talk to someone. It is awesome to serve but it felt like we lost so much at the same time.
Over the past few days I have spent time in the homes of people struggling with addiction, with those that are hungry, with those in trouble with the law, with youth who have been taken out of their homes for reasons no young person should ever have to deal with, I have had to deal situations which need intervention, and more. This has become my norm. When 2020 started this is not how I thought I would be ending it.
So some days my mind is consumed by the things I feel we have lost. Some days I feel amazing as we have had the opportunity to help so many. Some days I have felt overwhelmed by the level of brokenness that is growing in the lives of those we work with. This year, for myself, and many ministers and church leaders has been trying to figure out how to gather in unique ways. It has taken up a huge amount of my time and has led to a lot of frustration, disappointment, and some successes.
I have to stop and reflect on what it all means. I am not likely the only one who does this, but as a follower of Jesus it is what I have chosen. The way I assess where I really am with life / ministry is this – I write down the answers to these questions, ‘If Jesus was present in my community today, where would He go, what would He be doing, and what would He be saying?’ Once I have my lists made, I then ask, ‘When have I been to these places, when have I done these things, when have I said these things?’
As I look back over 2020 I have become more thankful. I have realized God has given me, and you, an incredible gift. At the age of 50, after decades in ministry, for the first time in my life, my list of where I have been, what I have been spending time doing, and what I have been saying looks a little like my list of where I believe Jesus would be, what He would do, and say if He was here in my community.
I believe God has given me the opportunity to ‘learn to be’ what I have been trying to equip others to do. When I reflect on the year there are things that simply miraculous when I look back. There has been a shift. I don’t know what it means for our future as a Church, as we are facing the same struggles as most. However, if growing Spiritually means becoming more like Jesus then something good is happening.
The situations and places I mentioned at the beginning are heart breaking. However, at the end of 2020 there is a difference. I have spent time with the people and in the places I believe Jesus would be, not just talked about it. It is here, I believe I can be the Light God has called me to be. It is also true for you.
What shifted? Much of what I was doing for the past years in ministry was taken away, so we just served, fed, and talked to people. To even pretend this has not been incredibly painful would be lying. But as I reflect I can see on a personal level how the loss of some things is moving me to live more like Jesus in my personal life.
I want to encourage you today. God is giving us an opportunity to ‘Be Witnesses’. To be a witness of the Hope He brings. To be a witness of Sacrifice and Giving. To be a witness of Love, of Peace and Joy. To be a Witness of what the Kingdom of God is. To be a witness of the Transformation He brings. My prayer for all of us today is that, ‘God would use what appears to be hardship as the tool to help us grow, and give us greater opportunity to live like Jesus.
There will even be more opportunity in 2021.