Recently my husband and I left full-time ministry as missionaries or in the pastorate for the first time in over 24 years. Both of us have struggled with some very serious health issues and leaving what we love and had been called to was very hard! It's been difficult in many ways that would be hard to even put in words, but there has been so much more than those problems to be thankful for. We don't know the future and whether or not we will return to full-time ministry, for now though we are resting and recovering from some painful times with the knowledge that we are willing to do whatever we are called to in the future.
One very important thing I have learned through all of our years together serving has really been brought to the forefront of my mind over and over lately. I think because many of the people we have ministered to and with have moved away or have now gone on to be with the Lord. Loosing people for any reason is something none of us likes to go through. It's a part of life though and we all have to deal with it, hopefully without regrets. And that is my point.
Time spent ministering to people is one thing I have never regretted. Time spent loving, caring, encouraging, laughing and even crying with others is something I cherish over and over. What I have regretted over the years has been not spending the time with others because I was "busy". I was busy with the things of ministry, the jobs that had to be done, the projects that had to be completed, the cleaning, the "stuff" of ministry.
It reminds me of what my Mom taught me about being with my children. A clean house, and organized house is important but not at the cost of time spent with your children enjoying them and they enjoying you. It's the same way with ministry. Time spent with people, even in difficult times, is precious. It can not be replaced or made up later. In your home there will always be mending, cleaning, laundry and more. In ministry there will always be a project that has be be completed, sometimes even a huge list of things to be done, but there may not always be the people. Without the people and loving and caring for them, what's the point of what you are doing?
I'll be honest, it took me a while to get that through my head. I can be very stubborn. For years I was just busy doing the work that needed to be done. I was not busy ministering.
I looked up the definition of ministering and here is what the 1828 Webster's dictionary said:
MINISTERING, ppr. 1. Attending and serving as a subordinate agent; serving under superior authority. 2. Affording aid or supplies; administering things needful.That definition really is what we as Believers are called to do daily and for the rest of our lives, even when it is hard and we don't feel like it. Even when there is a pile of work that still has to be done.
I am also reminded of an acronym I found years ago:
If I tried to list the number of times I got caught up in the "stuff" that had to be done and ignored the needs and feelings of others there wouldn't be enough blogs in the world to write it all down. I've messed up a lot, way more than I like to admit. That's exactly what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to be so caught up in so much stuff that we ignore the real reason of why we are doing what we are doing, the people and their needs physical, spiritual, and emotional. We get caught under his yoke of business and ignore the things that really count.
But I am thankful that my Lord "who began a good work in me" is not finished and through all those times I was busy and messed up I learned and grew and changed! I am not the same as I was when we began ministry over 24 years ago.
Does that mean I have it all together and always remember to not be "busy" anymore. The answer to that would be a resounding NO! I wish it wasn't, but to say otherwise would be a bold face lie. It does mean though that I am more and more aware of the needs of people around me taking time to sit and listen, hold a hand, cry a little, take a meal to someone, wash some dishes, or any number of other things that would truly minister to them, and to me. Sometimes just being there is all someone needs!
I would encourage you to think about why you do what you do each and every day. Having more free time lately has really helped me see some important things and I am glad for it. I miss being around the people we have ministered to for so long day in and day out. It's been a huge adjustment for both my husband and myself. But I am thankful for what the Lord has taught me through all of it.