Sunday, October 2, 2011

Laying it Down

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”- Matthew 10:39

I realize that it has been a while.  To say that I have been busy would be the understatement of the century.  These past two months, I have been losing myself.  I’ve given away my time.  I’ve given away my talents.  I’ve sacrificed my sleep, meals and moments with my family.  As I type here, I am beyond exhausted.  But I have never been more satisfied.  I have never been more sure of my path in life.  I have never been more complete.

Two months ago, I accepted a youth ministry position in my parish community.  I coordinate all the middle school youth events.  And yes, I realize that this confirms that I am actually crazy- special kind of crazy.  These kids are growing fast.  They want to find their place in the world at any cost.  They are questioning all the truths they have ever been taught.  And they are doing it in a rapidly changing and somewhat confusing world.  These young people seem lost, afraid, and unsure of themselves.  Yet, they are excited to be at the beginning of this great adventure.  And the Holy Spirit has called me to show them just how much God wants to be on that adventure with them.

The Lord has always spoken to me in grand ways through the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.  Through Mary’s eyes, I have seen the passion of the Lord.  I have seen the pain and suffering He endured for our sake and the love that drove Him to it.  That experience has taken me to a deeper understanding of that incredible infinite love the Lord possesses for us.  Now, once again, the Lord is using these mysteries to speak to me- to teach me about discipleship.  He is showing me what it is really like to give away one’s life and to lay it all down at the foot of the cross.

My garden was the chapel.  It was two in the morning.  It was just me and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  In that moment He told me what He wanted me to do.  He wanted me to be a core member on the middle school youth ministry team.  I tried to talk Him out of it.  I tried to tell Him that a girl with such a negative experience in her own high school youth group did not need to be involved.  I was damaged goods.  And the fact that I wasn’t raised Catholic made me all the more unfit for the job.  But He said, no.  He wanted me to do it.  So I did.  And while I was that volunteer, he kept bringing me back to the garden.  He kept showing me where I really fit.  He kept working through me in ways I never dreamed possible.  And then He asked if I would do this for real- if I would be a youth minister.  I balked.  I didn’t have the education or qualifications.  All I had was a music education degree.  He said that didn’t matter.  A position for middle school youth ministry became available in my community.  So I applied.  I was really doing it.

As disciples, we are called to teach as Jesus taught.  We are called to share our lives just as He shared His.  And in order to truly do that, we must come to terms with our own failings.  We must admit where we fail, work through that failure and allow God to have it and use it for His glory.  We must embrace humility and accept our crown of thorns.  Yesterday, I wore mine in front of 50 middle school kids.  I told them a story of how I deeply hurt a friend when I was their age.  I allowed God to use my unflattering story to speak to their hearts.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  But I happily wear that painful crown for His glory.

Life in ministry is not easy.  I got a taste of its demands as a volunteer.  But, in the last two months, I have experienced how great those demands can be.  It is time consuming.  It takes a lot of planning, prayer, and love.  It takes sacrifice.  I will not get rich in this line of work.  In fact, I can't even give up my day job for it.  Time has become a precious commodity.  Have you heard of the I am Second campaign?  Well, I’m not second.  I am third- God, others, me.  And between this ministry, my family and my day job, the others usually get the time.  Which leaves me a sleep deprived, financially challenged, and well drained shadow of a person.  But that is my cross.  It is the cross He asks me to take up and carry.  And He fills me with such joy, peace and love that I can carry it.  I can do the impossible.  And I do it for His glory.

I am a performer and I am addicted to the stage.  The attention the stage brings is intoxicating.  The natural high of a great performance is what I live for.  And I have discovered that it is what I have to die to.  It is not about me.  It is not about my message.  It is not about my agenda.  It is about His.  I have to put myself aside and speak the words He wants me to speak.  I have to seek Him out and listen to Him in the voices of others.  I have to be open to changing the plan as the Holy Spirit desires.  I have to get off the stage and let Him be the star of the show.  Last night, I got off the stage.  I adored the Blessed Sacrament alongside 50 middle school kids.  And all I had to do was worship.  He moved in that room- in those hearts in ways my words cannot.  All I had to do was be in the back of the room and worship with all my being.  My humanity wants that stage, but I must die to the stage so that He may be glorified.

Now, my more astute readers may have noticed I skipped the scourging at the pillar.  Although, I can find the garden, the crown of thorns, the cross and the crucifixion in my ministry experience, I can never step into the scourging.  I have always viewed the scourging as the undue torture of my Lord because of my sin.  I know that the entire passion experience was how he defeated our sin and won our salvation, but the scourging was hardest to watch.  My Lord was transformed from a strong, healthy man to weakened, bloody mess.  His pain in that moment was more than a normal human could bear. I think He has given me an understanding of His pain so that I may have a glimpse of His love.  And that awesome love is what keeps me going.  The love that drove him to accept that pain and become a bloody mess is what I pray he fills me with in abundance.  So much so that it may overflow from my life and touch the hearts of others- all for His glory.

My biggest role in this ministry is to live this life- not just teach about it.  It’s like swimming.  You can’t teach a person to swim through lecture and study.  You have to get in the water and swim with them.  And you can’t do that if you don’t know how to swim yourself.  We have to have a relationship with the living God if we want to pass along our faith to others.  We have to live the life and then share that life.  In doing so, we are greatly blessed.  The peace, love and joy that flows from sharing in the life of Christ is an intoxicating experience.  And that is the payoff to living a life of discipleship in ministry and giving up your life for His glory.

Glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

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