Here’s where I was:
I remember a day when I was a sought-after speaker. I preached before thousands at a time, numerous times. My sermon tapes (back when cassettes were king) were widely circulated and my name was well-known in multiple circles. I shared the platform with a variety of Christian “celebrities” and exhorted professional athletes and could pack out churches for revival meetings.
Here’s where I am:
Most days I am quiet. I sit for hours…just listening. I have one ‘parishioner’ who regularly seeks me out. No church. No recognizable ministry. I’ve preached maybe four or five times.
In three years.
And I have never felt more content with myself, my marriage and my ministry.
Here’s how I got here:
Nope. No sordid story of moral failure. Didn’t run off with my secretary or funds from church coffers. Except for a time when an influential network of churches blackballed me for the heinous crime of accepting speaking engagements — outside the confines of our hallowed denomination — my record could not have been more clean and tidy.
But I was dying spiritually. And physically.
My identity was wrapped up in what I was doing.
Yeah, I was a husband and father somewhere in that list.
I would look at my calendar and gloat inside. I was so busy, I had no idea that of all the fields I was working, the garden closest to home was the most neglected. It didn’t make sense to speak that. It couldn’t be. I mean, that’s the plot right outside my window, right under my nose. It was fine as is. Right? When all the time, I was mostly oblivious to the prodigiousness of prodigality in my son and deaf to the internal cries of my beloved.
Somewhere in that space of time the Lord started knocking on my door. He, too, was vying for a place. It wasn’t a question of not being in the word. I read His love letter to me every day and read it from front to back twelve or fifteen years in a row at one stretch.
Aren’t I special?
Here’s the problem:
I was pretty much the manager of all my relationships. I controlled the times, the amounts, the boundaries and assessments. I liked where I was. I could ride this streak straight into glory, for all I cared. I liked pretty much everything about my life. As is.
So what was this discomfort pulling at me?
What, pray tell, was this gnawing?
Why the black hole?
What’s with this niggling discontent?
Turns out I was inside the story of a farm girl and the king who wooed her. You know the one. She’s dark from exposure, but the handsome king calls her lovely. He pretty much throws everything at her and her heart is ravished. Shulamite wouldn’t change a thing. She likes it as is.
The day comes when the king calls to her from behind the wall of her crib. She’s inside, behind the lattice, and, though she is mad about him, she cannot be bothered.
He calls. “Arise! Come away!”
He had things and places to show her.
But it wasn’t a good time for her. She managed the affair. He won her heart but she still touched its strings.
So He mounted his steed and rode on.
Here’s what I’m saying:
My ministry may have had its successes but my King was trying to awaken me from the mystique of ministry, calling me away from its activity – the fanaticism of freneticism – from clanging cymbals and hollow hallelujahs, to otherness. To set-apartedness. To more.
He needed me still. Quiet. Scaled back. Toned down.
Before He could slate my thirst He had to make me thirsty. I don’t know where I fit anymore. I’m too charismatic for some. A little Calvin, a little Arminian. Not dispensational enough. A legalist for the radical grace crowd and not traditional enough for others. What church would have me?
Ah, but that’s my head talking. My heart knows otherwise. And THIS is where my contentment comes in. I may not know where I fit, but I do fit. Because He has made a place for me. I just probably don’t fit where some think I should fit, or even where I’d like to fit.
He seems to be unplugging me from spots, then fitting me elsewhere. At times it feels as far as the small toenail is from the earlobe, but I fit. Wherever He wants me. I’m learning to “come away” when He calls. If I stay, I lose something. I lose His spontaneity, His nature to surprise.
If I stay, I start thinking I’ve got it figured out. I become self-assured, having Christ RIGHT WHERE I WANT HIM, which is the deadliest thing for a believer. Oh, and it’s hellishly deadly for denominations too.
Sometimes He is in the banqueting house. Other times, the palace or the gardens or the bedchamber. Occasionally He wants to go for a ride in the fields of wildflowers. Marvel of marvels, He doesn’t want to do it solo. He wants our company. But the catch is: the only way we can only hear the invitation, above the din, amid the clanging cymbals…
Is. To. Get.
I have a ministry friend who says “Do me, Lord” whenever the Holy Spirit challenges him.
Are YOU ready for Him to “do you”?