When Jason and I were talking about doing this book discussion on Rich Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel, one of the things that we really liked about the book was that it was a natural progression of the discussions we’ve been having for almost the last year. We spent months discussing two books that were about God working on the inside of us. This book progressed from discussing what God was doing inside of us to what God wanted to do through us, in the world. Now that we’re almost to the end, I can say that this book lived up to that expectation. Now as I feel like a weaver’s assistant, loosely and meticulously holding all of the threads in my hands, tying up the ends to see what the Master Weaver is going to create when we’re done.
Stearns talked a lot this week about commitment. This is something we’ve talked about here, so I’m going to opt to focus on some other things that he touched on, but didn’t linger on.
“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” (Henry Van Dyke as quoted on p. 257)
I went to my first missions conference when I was fifteen. I was a mess. I was a normal, awkward, moody teenager with a background of abuse that had stolen every drop of self-esteem and hope I’d ever had. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a life. But that week, when the leaders talked about the needs of the world and how each of us had talents that could meet those needs, something in me suddenly made sense. I wasn’t sure I had gifts or talents or skills that could be of use to anybody, but I was willing to give whatever I did have.
Fast forward more than a decade to my fourth mission trip. Honestly, I was still a complete and total mess. But I was willing to give God my mess and let Him figure out what to do with it. I packed my mess into a carry-on and a hideous yellow leather satchel, and went to Argentina. Suddenly, I found myself leading a station in the eye clinic that the leader felt I was trained enough to lead, but I wasn’t so sure. And so on the second night of the trip, as I lay at the hotel, I explained to God that I was in over my head. And because He was God, He changed my assignment:
The glasses will eventually break, but the prayer will last forever. Touch them all. Every patient that sits in your chair. Put your hand on them and pray for them.
The rest of the week, it became a joke among the team that I got all of the “hard” patients. I got all of the mentally disabled and handicapped patients. I got all of the ones that used walkers or canes. Each one, I would put my hand on their shoulder as I stood behind them and listened to them read the eye chart. And as they did, I’d pray silently for them, then treat them. Some were fairly easy. Some were incredibly difficult. And then, Yolanda walked in and handed me a note from her doctor, explaining that she was completely blind.
I was in no way prepared to treat a blind patient. But as I dug through our boxes to find the strongest lenses we had, I prayed for her. She walked out of the clinic that day screaming, jumping up and down, and seeing 20/20.
I was a mess, but when I gave my mess to God, He used it. The late Rufus Moseley said that when we give God our mess, He’ll make an asset out of the mess and unmess the messer. I’m living proof.
Where I work in full time ministry, often when we ask for volunteers the same few people raise their hands every time. It’s a well-known statistic in ministry that 10% of the people do 90% of the work. And I’m a firm believer that it’s because a lot of the other 90% just don’t understand that they really do have something to offer. When I got ready to go to Sudan last year, I had two middle aged ladies (not even old enough to retire!) tell me that they would donate to help me go because they felt they had passed the time in their life that they’d had anything to offer. Yet, that was so far from the truth! My favorite mission field nurse is an 80-something cancer survivor named Jerri. If she lost all of her teeth and had to use a walker, she would go with the team to just sit and hold the babies.
The point I’m trying to make today is this: you have something to offer. You may never feed sorghum to an AIDS orphan in Zimbabwe. (Or you might.) But you have something to offer where you are. The late Tommy Tyson (who I miss deeply and dearly) once told me that my workplace “is simply a framework to make Jesus known.” What does that mean? It means sharing love and hope and a smile. For those of us who work in ministry, it may mean offering tears, Kleenex, and prayers. For those who are called to the mission field, it may mean building churches or hospitals in Uganda or Haiti. But wherever you are, you have something to offer.
This post is part of our regular Wednesday book discussion. If you have written a response for Chapter 25, I welcome you to link it up below. I also encourage you to visit my co-facilitator, Jason, at his site, Connecting to Impact to see what he’s shared on this chapter.