What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace?
Over and over again I am reminded about our utter need for grace. In my own life and ministry the work I do would not be effective or positive if it were not for God’s grace. As someone who is beginning this journey of ministry I make more mistakes that I would care to admit, and yet somehow God takes my feeble and human attempts at faithfulness and transforms them mightily. This fall, I was called to the bedside of a congregation member who was actively dying and the family wanted me to say a prayer with him before he passed. In my vanity, I had worn this cute pair of boots, but they were very loud as I stepped into the room. Embarrassed, I tried to take them off so that I wouldn’t disturb the peacefulness and the quiet music in the background. By the time I got my boots off and moved over to the side of the bed and began my prayer, he was taking his last breath. At first, I was angry with myself for having worn the wrong shoes and for taking so long. But the first comment out of his son’s mouth was about how wonderful it was that his father had passed from this world in the midst of prayer.
My understanding of humanity has also been tried and tested in my congregational work. We welcomed a gentleman back into our congregation after he had been in some trouble. Overall, our congregation was very gracious and welcoming! After some time had passed, even connected with our community, he found himself in trouble once again. I think for the first time, I really saw the destructive powers of sin in someone’s life – sin that not only imprisoned his spirit, but also led once again to the imprisonment of his body. And yet through it all, we have continued to be in relationship with him. I was amazed by his power to seek and ask God’s forgiveness and the fact that he kept praying for us in the midst of his struggles.
I have also worked a lot with families in need in our area. As I work with them, I am reminded about how little power so many people have to change their lives. Sin (our own and that of others) digs us into deep holes and creates patterns that we cannot even imagine being different. It isolates us from the help we need and from relationships of love, kindness and mercy. Only by the grace of God can we as a church continue to have the patience to minister to these families and maintain the relationships… and only by the grace of God can their hearts and minds be transformed. But I am also reminded that as a part of this relationship there must be honesty and accountability – there must be confession and a desire for repentance in order for God’s grace to transform our lives.