I haven’t taken a non-working, non-relocation vacation in about seven years or so until just recently. Three years ago I moved from the Chicagoland area to Colorado Springs. The two years I was in Illinois I had the privilege of leading a youth group full of outstanding young adults. Although I was there for a short time, I was able to develop what seemed like strong relationships with some of the kids and their parents.
However, in course of a few months, life changed for me and I chose to move to Colorado. Life was certainly chaotic, and I felt like I was ministering to youth through the fog of confusion, depression, and difficulty.
As I’ve been here in the mountain west, the Lord has been doing some major life-alterations on me for these three years. Standing a few years away from my time in Illinois has revealed a lot of my character flaws, my sin, my issues that were stumbling blocks in my relationship with Christ. I am grateful for these eye-opening, painfully refreshing moments of revelation where grace meets the past.
While sorting all these things out, a lot of self-doubt had surfaced about my relationship with God, and any ministry that I thought I had done in the past. Satan, the deceiver, presented the lie to me that nothing I had done held any eternal value, that all the ministry that flowed from my heart was only flesh-generated and not God-directed. Pretty defeating thoughts, really.
This Easter I had the opportunity to fly out to Illinois to visit my old youth group. One of the families I enjoyed in the past offered to put me up for a week. The youth for over two years have pooled their loose change and various earnings to help pay for my plane tickets. Utterly humbling, completely uplifting!
The six days or so that I was there, I had the opportunity to hang out, eat an awesome Easter meal, unexpectedly sing in a quartet/quintet, watch a movie, go on a hike, play games. But I walked away incredibly blessed after my vacation because of the opportunities to encourage and to be encouraged.
As “divine appointments” go, I had distinct chances to have one-on-one conversations with several people, parents and youth. The Lord gave me words to say, gifts to share, and a listening ear. I was encouraged to encourage.
While speaking with one of the young men there, I felt compelled to ask how life was going, how this activity or that activity were, etc. But i felt particularly lead to ask, “So, how is your walk with the Lord going?”
Although it may seem like a small thing, what this guy said next blew me away. He commented, “I KNEW you were going to ask that!”
This eighteen-year old and I have a similar odd sense of humor, so we used to and still do wage bizarre pun battles, pranks, etc. But we also had enough depth in our friendship while I lived and ministered in Illinois that his spiritual well-being was of interest to me. For him to anticipate the question about his relationship with Jesus told me something. While I was living in a thick fog of circumstances and troubles, the Lord still used me to go beyond surface-level with the youth in church. Knowing that Satan had been lying to me about my ineffective ministry lifted a three-year old burden from my shoulders.
This vacation, on several different levels, was exactly what the doctor ordered. But the most important thing that the Lord gave me those six days was a reassurance that ministry is God’s idea, and God will minister through whomever He sees fit. He uses the troubled, the depressed, the stubborn. God’s work and His will are going to be done in spite of our weaknesses.
Thanks, Lord, for showing me the importance of deep relationships, ones that go beyond acquaintance status. Thanks, Lord, for working through me!