I recently traveled to the bottom of the world – Australia – or “Oz” as they say “down under.” It’s where my sister lives. And with her my nieces, Alex and Isabella. It was a wonderful time, both in terms of family bonding and in terms of, “Ok, it’s time for Uncle Stevie to go to the beach – who’s taking me!”
Golden miles of soft, clean sand with a crisp sun raining down, and sparkling waters roaring back and forth and all around my feet as I walked piles and piles of stress and exhaustion off of me. Such a good place to be in the presence of God. People playing, kids laughing in the waves, even the grumpy forced to smile. Birds showing off their exotic calls and colors in the lush tropical vegetation. It was a healing vacation. And more.
My mom and step-father were also there – on an extended vacation – and an aunt and uncle who live a little ways up the coast (he’s an Aussie). But the main reason to be there was Isabella. Isabella was graduating from High-School. Something to be proud of – very proud of when you consider what she went up against to get there. She could have written herself a cushy ride, based on what we’d all agree were significant obstacles – but she didn’t consider the easier alternative, choosing instead to summit those challenges by reaching inside and discovering a better version of herself.
I wanted to go and be there with her – for her – in that moment. To let her know how proud I am, how impressed by her simple courage and strength – and absence of pride. Of course there were obstacles and challenges of my own to face just in getting there. The planning, the deciding to go, the thinking not to, much wondering if the time, money and vacation could all be better spent, and the dread thought of the misery of too many hours in the air, all added up to wondering if a well-written letter might not achieve the same purpose with a fraction of the aggravation. Such is the depreciating math we sometimes measure these things by.
I’m glad I ignored the numbers and went anyway. What a blessing it was for me. What wonderful quiet hours I had, entranced on the beach and in the scenery. What joyful and deep interactions I was able to have with the ones I love. But more than that – more than what I got out of it – was the opportunity to give. To be able to share the love of God with those I wish most to feel it. Not that it was my doing, but I was there to see Him working through me and pouring into the lives of some of the children He loves, that don’t know Him. Yet.
So, I return to the States now thinking of ministry a little differently. In a way I had it upside-down. I thought before that the apex of ministry, what to strive for, was to be able to reach out to crowds of strangers. That preaching to a massive audience was tops. But now I’m thinking no. Now I’m thinking that the pinnacle of ministry, the very peak that each of us is called to, is to be able to share the love of God with our families. After all, our families are the ones that God has given us. We don’t get to choose them – and they can sometimes (often) be really annoying, or even hurtful, even abusive. Plus they know our ugly sides and weaknesses – so they can be almost impossible to reach. Only God can overcome all the obstacles to do it. Our part is easy – we just have to reach inside, discover a better version of ourselves, and let God perfect us until we become His sanctuary on the earth. Well, maybe that’s not so easy, but it sure is worth it.
Makes sense that I had to go all the way to a land that’s upside-down just to get my thinking turned right-side-up.
Love to you my dear family!