Sunday, June 28, 2015

Let's get messy

Ministry is messy.  People's lives are messy and when you build relationships with them you often have to walk through their mess.  The mess makes it easy to get jaded and burned out.  We have walked with teens and families through many losses and changes in life.  Many of those experiences have forever changed us and those families.  We often cry and lose sleep over the issues that are facing those we serve.  Sometimes it is hard to see past the hurt of those we serve.  It can also be hard to see past the pity parties and complaints that we are subjected to.  Many times you want to throw your hands up, walk away, and hide.  If you serve in ministry and you haven't felt this way you are either brand new and haven't gotten there yet or you are lying to yourself.  (Yes, I just made that bold statement.  Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that.)

Right now, however, is another season for me.  It's been one of those where the Lord reminds me over and over again of the sweet privilege of being a part of peoples' lives. He's reminding me of the rewards of being faithful to not give up when it gets messy. That is not to say that things are drama free (is ministry ever drama free?), it's just that I'm being open to seeing the blessings in it all.  

Earlier this month I attended an incredible wedding.  As the wife of a former youth pastor, we are often invited to or asked to participate in weddings of former students. Usually, we are close to either the bride or the groom.  One or the other was a part of our ministry and we may not have met the spouse until wedding prep began. 
Snagged from Ashely's Facebook page

 Aaron and Ashley, were different though.  Aaron had been in our ministry since middle school and Ashley joined the group when she was in high school. They met in the youth group, summer beach camp to be exact.  We watched their relationship grow and bloom over the years and were more than thrilled when we got a call from Aaron last summer. He told Bryan that he was planning to propose and wanted to make sure that Bryan would be available to perform the service.  A few days later, their engagement video went viral.  You can watch it here.

Both Aaron and Ashley were very involved in the youth group and we were able to spend a lot of time with them over the years.  I couldn't help but cry as I watched Ashley walk down the aisle.  It felt like my own children were getting married.  There was something extra special about the night.  It was perfectly them.  Some of the tears came from the realization that it is such a privilege to be a part of these kids lives.  

I wish I could adequately express what was going on in my heart and mind as I sat there.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to be a part of their lives.  Not only their lives but the lives of their families and of many of the other guests.  We had a youth group reunion outside the reception space.  

This picture represents hours spent in an urgent care office for bones broken at camp, tears over family problems, parents with serious legal issues and jail time, and struggles to finish high school to name a few.  I can't help but cry and smile as I look at that picture because it not only represents those issues I just listed, but it also represents three young men that are serving in ministry positions, youth and children's ministry volunteers, and former ministry leaders.  

Today was another one of those moments.  About three years ago a family walked into our church for the first time.  As we were talking to them we learned that their two youngest boys were foster children.  Over the next months and year we got to know them and their story.  Two years ago I had the privilege of sitting in the courtroom the day a judge made them a forever family.  Adoption and foster care are messy.  We've walked that road ourselves.  An adoption certificate doesn't make it any less messy.  Every day there are struggles as our kids have come from hard places.  Today marked another milestone for their family and another privilege for me.  I wasn't sitting today, but standing on the bank of the lake watching those two boys be baptized. Again, I was in tears thinking about how special the moment was and how lucky I was to be beside them.  

What I've realized over the last few weeks is that ministry is messy, but it is also a huge honor and privilege. Who else gets to be a part of so many pieces of people's lives? Embrace the mess and wade through it!  It's in the mess that you earn the privilege of sharing in the celebration.