Today was the first time back at church after two weeks of weather closures. It was wonderful to see people, especially the children and their parents. Although many people were gone, we still had a decent crowd. The quiet Christmas week alone had primed me to be around the people I love. Hugs and smiles abounded as the children entered the building.
Last week was an unusually quiet week for me. Given the amount of snow we received I was prevented from any driving for seven days. Fortunately my power remained on so I was able to email and talk on the phone. For the most part, however, I remained alone. I am accustomed to being alone so it was not a source of stress for me, even though I would have preferred to be with my family at least for part of Christmas day. But it was not to be. I made the best of it, rejoicing in God’s gift of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Rather than focusing on the negative I chose to focus on the uplifting message of Christ who gave himself as a sacrifice. I knew that soon the snow and ice would melt and that I would once again be able to connect with others.
I was reminded again how much I love the people of my church and the community. I especially love the children and their families. Momentary frustrations pale in comparison to the joy of watching them grow in the Lord and in their love for each other. Although at times it can feel as though I am an outsider looking in, I recognize that God has deposited me in this community for a season to be an influence of grace and encouragement.
For me, being a children’s pastor and missionary is not about having a career or “being somebody” in the eyes of onlookers. It isn’t about job security or building wealth. It certainly isn’t about marketing my personality or growing brand recognition concerning my skillset. It is about laying down my life for the sake of others in such a way that only Jesus Christ will receive the glory, and my memory will fade into rightful obscurity. Indeed, he must increase, and I must decrease. Hard words for a proud person such as myself to digest, especially when I begin to recognize the harsh practical implications. But necessary.
Maybe this is one aspect of the cross which we are called to bear as we follow Jesus. In a culture which is driven by a success ethic, maybe God is reminding us that there are eternal values which far exceed in importance the desire to achieve personal fulfillment according to worldly standards of measurement. We must give of ourselves, not expecting anything in return. We must let God choose how he will meet our basic needs. Simplicity and loving relationships then will become the standard of fulfillment.