Monday, March 05, 2007

The Gospel is for Me

My first few months away from college have proven difficult for me spiritually. I think about this often, mainly trying to figure out why this is so I can "fix" it and feel better. Fortunately for me, God has my good in mind and has kept me in this place until he concludes doing the work and teaching the lessons he so deisres. This weekend, though, he gave me a glimpse into one of the reasons for this dry spell.

For nearly all of my final two and a half years in college, I found myself in some sort of official ministry. Now we all have personal ministries which are continuously ongoing, but during this time I had a label. Summershiner. Small Group Leader. C-Team Member. Activities Director. Large Group Coordinator. I took these labels and their consequent positions very seriously. Much of what I did during this time was done with the spiritual well-being of others in mind whether it were campers or small group members or large group attenders. I genuinely cared about these folks and that motivated me to work very hard out of my love for them. A large part of this work included maintaining my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

In September, my life situation pulled this large and rather supportive carpet out from under me. I promptly fell on my bum. Since returning from Boston, I have had no ministry label. I am now Ben, UNC graduate, Charlotte resident, Borders employee. This is a lie, as I am currently Ben, beloved child of God, servant of Jesus Christ, member of the advancement of the heavenly kingdom, but one finds it easy to forget these things amidst 40 hour work weeks.

These days, I no longer have a group of people to officially care for. I am around people all of the time, but my interactions with them are not nearly as in depth or intentional. The primary person that I have the opporutnity to care for at this moment in life is myself. The battles are no longer sacrificing my time for a friend or mustering up the courage to tell someone that Jesus is on their side. The battles are now sacrificing my time in order to spend time in prayer and scripture or resisting the tempations that come with too much free time.

To be blunt, this bores me. For a plethora of reasons, I have a skewed worldview where these battles do not matter. I do not value them. I do not get energized to fight them. I do not prayer over them. Thus, I consistently lose them. And as sin tends to do, this separates me from God. Hello, valley.

A friend told me on Friday that he works as a full-time minister of the Gospel because he cannot remember the Good News himself without telling it to people every day. Certain people can work for IBM and remember the Gospel, he said, but he is not one of them. On Saturday, another friend of mine said that perhaps the greatest spiritual gift is to have the ability to remember the Gospel in solitude. These two fellas get me. They articulate my post-September experience.

The apostle Paul, who had perhaps the most consuming ministry of anyone who ever lived, writes in Galatians 2:20 of the life which he lives "by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." For all his focus on the churches and people of the Mediterranean region, Paul knew that the Gospel was for him, that Jesus loved him and proved it on the cross. Paul's actions reveal that he knew the Gospel was for the world. This poignant phrase reveals that he knew it was for himself too.

I need to know that the Gospel is for me. Jesus loves me. He not only speaks my name; he gives it to me. He took the physical pain of the cross, the emotional pain of abandonment, and the spiritual pain of Hell for me. For me. He places his light yoke on me and goads me to live a life of faith and practical trust so that I may live an abundant life, a life free from the chains of impending death, insecurity, loneliness, purposelessness, despair, guilt - in short, a life free from all the things that plague me during times in the valley.

He cares about me that much.

This week, I want to remember Jesus and the cross. When my mind runs blank at work, I want to remember Paul's words in Galatians that Christ loved me. When the isolation of working in a world that tells me I am an alien, a foreigner, a closed mind, threatens me, I want to remember that Jesus thought enough of me to give himself up. When the dispair of 500,000 books that all flail to find some explanation for our existence begins to climb onto my narrow shoulders, I want to remember that it is a trustworthy statement deserving of full acceptance that Jesus Christ died for sinners among whom I am the foremost.

This week, I'm being selfish. The Gospel is mine. Not because I do not want the world to have it. It's just that I need to remember it so desperately.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her."

5 comments:

Strider said...

Just came across your page.

I really dig the title. I'm a big fan of T.S. Eliot (used to be able to recite huge chunks of it verbatim), although the Journey of the Magi summarises my own career frustrations right now.

Anyway, keep on hoping, keep on blogging, and keep on enjoying the many blessings of life.

Oakley said...

Glad to hear that you are making some time for yourself. I think one of the best ways i do this is by reading a chapter of the Bible and then meditation on it during a run/jog. I also sympathize with that feeling of being in a holding pattern for whatever plan God has. Just as a side note, all of the sermons from CCC are free online from their website if you ever need good perspective.

Jenn Pappa said...

Hey Ben,

Thanks for the post. It was inspiring.

Sometimes at work I think about "ministers" and I get so jealous. I would love a job where I get to remind myself of the gospel everyday and tell people about the Lord... then i remember I do have a job like that.

My pastor says a lot that when he joined the ministry he was actually stepping out of it. He says its his job to prepare me and others like me to share the gospel and to minister to people who don't know the gospel... he just gets to equip us to do that.

Maybe there are some holes there, but I like it when he says that because it reminds me that I'm in a battle where I get to be a key fighter, even if I don't get the recognition for it.

Anyways, I'm rambling.

Good post.

Alex said...

dude, who are these freaks that you're talking to?

Ben said...

I try to protect the names of people who interact with me. Not everyone likes to broadcast association with one such as me. I let them remain nameless. . . . unless they out themselves :)