Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sit still my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out.

I don't know about you, but sitting still is not something I do very well. Sitting still is not something that has much value in modern society; production, results, action, those are the things that we use to gauge how good of a job we're doing and, to some extent, make us feel worthy or important.

Production, results, and action are all things I really like too. For awhile in the 80's I worked in "production data entry". What that meant was at the start of my shift I would have a huge stack of invoices that needed to be entered into the computer. Huge. Like 3 feet high. And at end of my shift the stack would be gone. It was a mind numbing job, but the one thing I loved was I could point to the completed stack at the end of the day and say "look what I did!" I was a fast keyer, 16,000 kph and I never missed an opportunity to tell someone. (That means I hit a key 4 times every second...kapow!) It may not have been important work, certainly wasn't anything that was changing the world, but I got a sense of worth from plowing through that stack every day.

In the 90's I supervised a medical billing department for a group of surgeons - this is where I learned to loathe insurance companies. At the beginning of every monthly billing cycle we would see where our numbers were, that is how many dollars in claims were older than 60 days, and we would start making phone calls. Dialing for dollars our CFO used to say. At the beginning of the next billing cycle we would look at the numbers again and be able to tell if we did a good job or not. If the percentage went down, hooray for us! We rocked! If the percentage went up though, that meant digging into the accounts to see what needed to be tweaked. For the 6 years I managed the department, outstanding receivables stayed low and revenue remained high. Again, not Nobel work, but I was proud of how well my deparment ran. Results I could see and point to, on paper, every month. It made me feel good.

In both of those jobs I could assess the situation and make necessary changes to have a better outcome the next time. There were proven tactics that would make the outcome better. Look things over, implement the right tool and pat yourself on the back.

Hmmmm. How does that production and results mindset work in ministry? Not so well. People can't be pushed and manipulated like stacks of paper and numbers. They don't always respond the way we want them too; actually they very seldom respond the way we want them to. We have high hopes of changing the world, saving the world, making a difference, and at the end of the day we usually look at our pile of work and find it hasn't diminished a bit. We try to assess the situation, change the program, the angle, the approach, hoping "they'll get it" if we do it this way. When they don't, we shake our head and wonder what we're doing wrong.

From the time we started with Bridgetown, to now with Micah, we are tempted to (and many times do) count our successes. And when we do, it's discouraging. For all of the people we have interacted with, all of the hours we have spent in conversation, or teaching, or whatever, the number of "success" stories amount to only a few. We need to learn that success, then, needs to be measured by what we can't see; that exponential factor that some day, if we're lucky, we'll get to know how it all worked out. That's hard to hang on to sometimes and doesn't really allow you to pat yourself on the back at the end of the day. After all, you DON'T KNOW. Did you do a good job? Or were you a complete screw up, an utter failure?

And how does that production and results mindset work when it comes to parenting...I have always thought we were doing a good job, we have great kids! Everyone tells me how well behaved they are, how smart they are. They have always had grades at the top of their class. They have always made friends easily. They don't fight with each other, they're quiet and really low maintenance. Pat, pat, pat. What a great job we're doing!

Curve ball.

Like ministry, we are learning that our success in parenting needs to be measured by what can't see. Turns out that our kids, who are all of those great things, are dealing with things on the inside that we were oblivious to. Feeling like they don't matter, like ministry and Micah and Honduras and EVERYTHING are more important than they are. If they just do good enough, we'll see how awesome they are! And we do. What we failed to see is how human they are. We failed to see how hurt they are, how scared they are, how frustrated they are, and how lonely they are. Doing what I know how, I tried to assess the situation and come up with a quick fix, some guaranteed tweak that will make everything all better. Instead of finding a one size fits all solution, I came up empty handed. I have never been this far at the end of myself. I have no ideas, no agenda, absolutely no clue how to make things better, and finally, my prayers have become real. When you get to a point where you have absolutely no answers, you can sincerely look to the One who has them all.

God is speaking to me in my dreams, giving me insight and scripture to read when I wake up. One night it was Ecclesiastes; one day 1 Peter; and another it was Ruth.  The entire book of Ruth and one verse, 3:18, jumped off the page - "Then she said 'sit still my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.'"

I know, I know, totally out of context, but there it was, what I needed to hear- that I needed to stop my hand wringing and sit still and wait for the outcome, that The Man will not rest until the matter is brought to the proper conclusion.

I can't kiss this booboo and make it better, only God can.  The scab has been ripped off, the antiseptic is beginning to be poured on the wound. It stings. It hurts. But in the long run, there will be true healing.  As difficult as it is to see them hurting I need to trust God and allow Him to do His work in them through it.  Sit still, daughter, and wait. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Probably something you might not want to hear....but....why not focus on the kids right now and let the Lord show you that when you have the home situation in control, the outward confidence will be shown in your ministry. Remember that many people observe you closely and when the family situation is under control and the kids are happy, it will reflect outwardly not only for them, but also for you as leaders reflecting Jesus' love for all. When there is turmoil in the family, it may be difficult to convey the level of confidence and trust that is required. Praying for this situation to be resolved.

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