Often we talk about doing ministry. We talk about attending to the needs of people, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and then God says, "you're pretty good at talking it up, let's see the rubber hit the road..." and you're called to actually do something. Today was one of those days. Repeatedly actually. This morning after Bible study, I met with the chair of outreach. We were talking about possible mission projects, ways to expand our ministries, teaching and practicing prayer, and thinking about some long term projects/advocacy we could commit to. In the middle of that talk a man arrived at the office asking for, "the pastor". My secretary knew I was in a meeting and hesitated at first, but I had already gotten up to answer the door and heard his request. I introduced myself as "Debbie" and he greeted me and then again asked for the pastor. "I'm the pastor." Oh. Ok. So we talked about his needs and his request for prayer. His wife was still outside and I invited them both in to come and pray. I told the church member I assumed he'd be up for putting our conversation into practice and talking with and praying for this couple. They came in and shared their story. We talked and we prayed. And we set up a plan for them to get the money they needed without us having to give out cash.
After they left, the church member and I continued in our discussion. I don't typically say God "tests" us. I don't believe God puts big hurdles in our path or tries to derail us. But I do think there are times when we have to put our money where our mouth is and show we can do more than just talk about ministry. Today was one of those days and I was glad for it. Glad to remember that it's in the doing that we actually make a difference and that in the midst of our teaching and advocacy we have to continue to do.
Today was also a day where I was reminded I can only do so much. Reminded that I have limits (a fact I am never very fond of) and that sometimes I simply can't be in ministry. I guess I should rephrase that. Sometimes I can't be in ministry the way I would like. Sometimes I have to do minsitry by saying no. I hate saying no. Even more than that I hate the reasons that make me have to say no. I hate alcoholism. I hate rage. I hate homelessness. I hate the lack of mental healthcare. I hate drug abuse. I hate violence in homes.
I hate knowing someone needs serious and ongoing help, ministry, and support and having to turn them down because they "need too much" and we are not equipped to provide it. In the midst of saying no, this person who needs so much retorted, "Don't you think God would be mad at you for turning me away from a church?!" It tore my heart out. I don't think God was thrilled I turned him away. But I also don't think God was thrilled that he acted in such a way that we simply could not receive him at that time. I don't think that God was thrilled that the sacred space we had created for so many had been violated. I don't think God is ever thrilled when our relationships are broken and the only form of love we are left to share is "tough" love.