Waiting For Your Ministry
The Quest For Fulfillment
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996.
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Chapter 1: The Quest For Fulfillment
Waiting For Your Ministry
The Quest For Fulfillment
This book has touched busy pastorsí hearts. Thatís bizarre. Obvious
achievers on the churchís payroll are nowhere near my target audience.
Though by some strange twist Iíve ended up with a book almost
everyone enjoys, this book is especially for you if . . .
* Youíve sung your greatest songs, thundered your finest speeches and touched the largest audience, while having a bath.
* You use a toothbrush with three bristles to prolong the most exciting part of your day.
* The last time you blessed someone was when you left early.
* After gallantly offering heaven your services, a postman sprouting angel wings appears. Trembling with excitement, you read the urgent dispatch:
* Having finally left the shelf, you are now out in the cold, sitting on ice on the back seat, contemplating an exciting move to the back burner, where you will remain off the boil until your dog has kittens and your pet snail wins the Kentucky Derby.
I know the hurts, frustrations and bewilderment of barren years seemingly devoid of any worthwhile contribution to heaven or humanity. Perhaps you are more blessed, but know the disappointment, even the devastation, of a lifeís work which is less than you had hoped. Then read on.
Suppress it, pervert it, do what you like with it, you were born to excel.
A new-born kangaroo, blind and hideously undeveloped, inches its way on its critical journey to its motherís pouch, spurred by some primeval instinct. An inner compulsion lures a moth to a light. Something within a bird stirs it to migrate half-way around the world with astounding precision. We, too, have an inborn urge. Itís goading us to accomplish something of outstanding significance.
Philosopher John Dewey identified Ďthe desire to be importantí as the deepest drive within us. Iím told even Freud, despite his preoccupation with sex, identified the desire for greatness as a significant human motivator. It surely represents one of our most fundamental needs.
Seeking a cure for cancer, smashing an Olympic record, and defacing a building are instances of the countless, often twisted, manifestations of a hunger divinely lodged within us.
When the light of Christ shines in our lives and divine life is sparked within us, a transformation is triggered, as dynamic and extensive as the one initiated when sperm meet ova. Fuddled minds are sensitized to the Spirit. Divine truths explode within us. Vague urges begin to mature. We arouse to the realization that the craving we were born with is actually a yearning to serve our Maker; a drive to reach our full potential; a yen to materialize our reason for coming to this planet. In short, pulsing within you is a yearning for ministry.
By Ďministry,í I mean a calling; a divinely ordained area of service that thrills the heart of God and touches needy humanity. It might not be full-time pastoral or missionary work, but from heavenís perspective, it is of equal stature. Whether full-time, part-time, or spare-time, a Ďministryí is sacred, fulfilling, and of immense significance. Irrespective of how recognized it is on earth, it will be forever honored by heaven.
I refer not just to serving God, but doing so to our highest capacity. It is far from easy. It stretches us to the limit. But for each of us it is the one type of service that gives Almighty God the greatest praise and us the greatest satisfaction. As a missionary can be in the will of God before becoming a missionary, so we can be in the will of God before entering our ministry. Our life consists of more than ministry, just as a plumberís life consists of more than plumbing. Nevertheless, it is one of the thrilling aspects of Christian life.
Though it would be valid to call all obedient service Ďministryí, I use the term in a narrower sense. Let me illustrate. With Christ-like grace and dignity, Joseph served God in Egypt as slave and prisoner, yet he could not, and should not, have viewed that as his destiny. Lodged within his heart, fired by a dream, was a divine restlessness which he dare not quench. Not all godly service, but his ultimate vocation, the earthly culmination of his yearnings, is the type of service on which this book focuses.
Itís not the task that makes the difference, but the call of God. Had Joseph a different calling, slavery might have been the Ďsomething moreí he craved from his youth, the assignment he was born for. If so, it would have been the one activity through which he could find completion. Though worldly voices shout that slaving is always inferior, when still and receptive to the Spiritís whispers, Joseph would know if God had endowed him with the rare ability to elevate slavery to a holy vocation.
Preaching with pens, the apostle Paul, John on Patmos and John Bunyan turned prisons into pulpits from which they shook the world. Likewise, Saint Ignatius, Madame Guyon and Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned while penned, inking their names into historyís pages. And the crucified Christ turned being treated like the lowest criminal into the highest ministry. So in theory, suffering unjust imprisonment could have been the ultimate for Joseph, carrying with it as much eternal acclamation as being Pharaohís right-hand man. To urge Joseph down that path, however, would be the devilís work, seducing him to abandon his dream of becoming a ruler. His faith in dreams was critical. It was dream interpretation, you may recall, that secured his release and allowed him to fulfill his destiny. (Genesis 41:9 ff)
Perhaps, like Joseph in prison, you are already serving God, but it somehow feels hollow, as though youíre still in the Ďwaitingí stage of your life. Fellow workers know they have arrived and they may try to comfort you, urging you to regard this as your destination, too. But though their motives are honorable and they may be reciting divine pronouncements about their own mission, they could be enticing you to miss your unique call.
Now you see my dilemma. One personís destiny is anotherís detour. The vocation of one is the temptation another of another. How can one book address people with such diverse calls? And if ministries differ, so do roadblocks to ministry. Some of us have cold feet, others a hot head, others a lukewarm spirit. A few, like baby bearís porridge, are just right. Some of us have never neared our vocation, while others, equally needy and promising, agonize over having seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and blown it.
Addressing such a diverse audience makes it inevitable that tensions run through this book, threatening to tear it apart. Yet to write separate books is even more hazardous. What if the wrong one reached you?
Thank God, thereís an answer. I rely heavily upon the Spirit of God, trusting him to spotlight those truths you specifically need. If you join your prayers with mine, God will use this book to speak to you.
Itís a solemn fact that my only reason for living is to glorify God, and until my calling became reality, I felt devastatingly convinced that my attempts to reach that goal were infinitesimal. My drive to glorify God was so stupendous I am amazed it didnít kill me. It came close. Since childhood it kept building and building and mostly its fulfillment consistently seemed impossible.
The torment I will soon gloss over dragged on for decades and the pain and soul-withering shame of being single and living with my mother lasted so ridiculously long that it was I my mid-fifties before I ever married. I am still, to put it mildly, socially awkward, and still haunted by inexplicable health restrictions that make me feel a lazy freak. I have, however, come to treasure trials. I wouldnít swap them for the most stupendous mountain-top experiences anyone has ever had.
You would not believe how dependent I was on reading and re-reading this book day after day, year after year after year. Itís as though God wrote it for me, rather than the other way around.
I was 43 when the Lord finally began to end my frustration and give me the ministry I had unknowingly been preparing for from birth. The moment these opportunities arrived Ė back in 1995 Ė I stopped adding to this book. So, except for these few words in a different color and the tiniest changes such as removing references to outdated technology, the entire book was written during my dark days. I feel that makes it more authentic.
A nagging issue that kept me from publishing this book is that I could never feel at peace about charging for something that I believe many people need. I kept being told that almost everyone will instinctively dismiss a free book as being of low quality, and I had no idea how to distribute it without the services of a normal publisher anyhow. Finally the Internet arrived, in which distribution is a breeze and it is common for written material to be provided without charge (except for advertisements, which I refuse but the absence isnít seem particularly noticeable). Suddenly the whole world opened to me. Now, every day, people with all sorts of problems e-mail me. I have written literally hundreds of new webpages but in my reply I often just paste a few appropriate quotes from this book and people write back detailing how God powerfully used the quotes to touch them.
The Lord has given me a tenderness I simply wouldnít have, had my road been easy. The number of suicidal people who have written amazes me. The fact that I have been there myself gives me the edge. I am now so grateful for my every trial and the seemingly endless preparation.
I can add my wobbly testimony to Scriptureís authoritative declaration that God has answers. Nevertheless, I dare not exalt myself as an example that these principles really work. When all is revealed on Judgment Day there will be so many shocks and surprises that before that cataclysmic Day it is dangerous to guess who is truly spiritually successful and who is fake or self-deceived. So I beg you to do something are more thrilling and fulfilling than to look to a man: seek the heart of God as to whether truths in this book are of him.
Back to the original text:
The problem with rags to riches stories is that I can identify only with the rags. And I have this nagging suspicion that someone experiencing dazzling success soon forgets what wheezing in the smog of despair is really like.
This book is different. Iím not trying to imagine or remember what itís like to have problems. Iím thrashing about in them.
When it comes to feeling useless, Iím an expert. In second year high school, my class of forty students had a popularity poll. You already know who came bottom.
It took the first eighteen years of my life to muster the courage to ask a girl Ė any girl Ė out. She refused, of course. Once, to my amazement, someone agreed. Instead of being overjoyed, I belly flopped into a pool of pity for her, appalled that anyone could be so lonely as to consider a date with me.
That was my proud, carefree youth. Iíve come down many a notch since then. Depending on the country youíre from, you would call me a dole bludger, a welfare bum, a beggar, or a parasite Ė of the heavenly variety. I live off heavenís hand-outs and do nothing in return.
I realize no one can earn their keep spiritually. We could never repay God for the blessings received on the worst day of our life. But youíd think I could at least do a few odd jobs around the place. For excitement I take off my shoes and watch my toenails grow. Every time I call heaven to offer my services the line goes dead. Iím not sure what happens. If only I could hear some celestial music Iíd at least know Iíve been put on hold.
Some people collect stamps. I collect dust. My greatest achievements are outstanding Ė out standing in the rain. If youíve seen the old television series Some Mothers Do Have ĎEm, youíll recognize me as the Frank Spencer of the spiritual world.
Things started off so well Ė born to Christian parents, born again at age eight, sold-out to God, faithfully growing in spiritual knowledge, then four productive years at university in preparation for ministry. (Donít be put off by my education: the good thing about my IQ is that my only hope of being highbrow is a receding hairline.) University was followed by a yearís missionary work in Asia, after which came Bible college, enhanced by six months with another missionary group, then Ė
Nothing. Years and years of nothing. Books written which no one reads. Teaching cassettes made which nobody hears. Failure in every conceivable color. If youíre tired of success stories, youíd find my life refreshingly different.
After years without even secular employment, I finally got a job. Hour after hour, I balanced on a step-ladder, alone in a dust-clogged shed feeding a hungry machine. Five lonely years battling the din and dust of a shredder, filling its deadly jaws with armfuls of paper peppered with broken glass, rotten food and sometimes filth too repulsive to mention. Think of me as a full-time trashman on a part-time wage.
Itís outside working hours that many of us find fulfillment, gleefully chasing challenges. In my case, Iím usually flat out, up to my ears in blankets. Physical limitations confine me to lights out, up to eleven hours a night. When it comes to pursuing dreams Iím in a world of my own. I bring a whole new meaning to the term lay person as I bull-doze through problems, catnap through crises, and hibernate through triumphs. If Christian activists faced the death penalty, my greatest threat would be the electric blanket. With the drive of a V-8 and the fuel tank of a Tinker Toyģ, I must be the worldís laziest workaholic, fast becoming the Kingdomís Rip Van Wrinkle (and thatís no spelling error).
Marriage and family help soothe the gnawing ache; or so I assume. You guessed it. Never married. They say Iím quite a catch. (Not that thatís necessarily bad Ė most good offers have a catch.) I canít understand it. I reckon I look better than Casanova. Heís dead. With a few weeksí exception here and there, ever since childhood Iíve been convinced that no sane woman would want me and/or Iíd be such an inadequate husband that I dare not spoil someoneís life. But Iím still vain enough to think Iíve made a lot of women happy Ė everyone who has married someone else.
I see the achievements of people I grew up with and I cringe. At church a stranger introduces himself. I steel myself for the inevitable ĎAnd what do you do for a living?í At the door stands a pastor who knows how little I do. I slink out another way. I drive home alone. And agonize.
Envy me if you must, but drop pity. Though the truth keeps hiding from me, with God writing the punch lines, trials are hilarious. I often wish he preferred one-liners, but everything God does is big. Year after year he keeps building the tension until finally all of heaven explodes in rapturous laughter, rejoicing in Godís stunning resolution of the problem. Letís slip in a few giggles before the big one.
Anyone can miss the boat. Iíve missed the ocean. Iím lucky I found the planet.
I have a passion for a teaching ministry. The only word Iíve ever received from the Lord about it is, ĎLet not many of you become teachers.í (James 3:1) I offered myself to the Lord for full-time service more than three decades ago. My ever-growing longing for it has been as productive as a desert in a drought.
Then, after most of this book was written, I turned a corner. And hit a wall. I was thrust into a new job, making my former Ďpurgatoryí seem like paradise. Previously, my body was enslaved in degrading work, but my mind was almost free. Now theyíve got my mind as well. My ability to write has been mauled. Though writing to a non-existent audience is more therapy than ministry it seemed the one twig in my hand buoying my head above the fierce, grey waves of utter despair.
A young woman, attractive and popular, lit a match and plunged into lifelong darkness. Gas had been seeping into the room. The explosion ripped through her, searing and pulverizing a once-normal body. It hurt to see her plight. My greatest battle, however, was not fighting tears of compassion, but envy. Had I suffered like her I would probably receive a small pension and so, despite enormous restrictions, I might have more time to write.
I get a little negative at times. I once applied for a job at a local Psychiatric Hospital. The interviewers wanted someone with the ability to relate well with depressed, psychotic patients. As they showed me the door they mumbled something about me being over-qualified . . .
Then, while swirling in the vat of squashed hopes and crushed dreams, it slowly dawned that Iím not floating with the scum of humanity, but with its cream. I peeked at heavenís unemployment records. You wouldnít believe the big names theyíve had on their files. Scripture and the tomes of church history bulge with stories of spectacularly successful people who spent years languishing in heavenís job line. Iíve uncovered facts that affirm the light at the end of my tunnel isnít a freight train Ė itís sparkling success, glorious fulfillment. After years of prayerful seeking Iíve received answers with the power to revolutionize both your life and mine.
God is making a smart cookie. If Iím covered with spilt milk, thatís marvelous. If thereís egg on my face, itís a bonus. If Iím mixed up, Iím delighted. If Iím beaten, Iím making progress. If the heat is on, Iíll warm to my task. If Iím half-baked, something good is cooking. When I feel I could crumble, Iím nearing perfection. Everything is going my way.
As you slip through this book, various themes will rise and fall. Like waves on the sea shore, thoughts will recede, then reappear. I pray this rhythmical ebb and flow will prove as therapeutic to you as it has to me. Rather than lull you into a hypnotic sleep, however, these waves are breakers designed to jolt you awake.
Ezekiel feared his words were like a lullaby when his listeners needed a trumpet blast. (Ezekiel 33:31-33) Unlike Ezekiel, who brought accusation to the hardened, I bring comfort to the hurting, yet even I fear lullabies. Electrifying truths that lilt by without charging you with hope is my nightmare. My mission is to soothe down-trodden and confused souls and then see them to soar, not sleep. So I write staccato and use cymbals as well as violins. Instead of bridges tempting you to hurry on, I sometimes leave chasms, enticing you to pause and assimilate. My aim is to lift you, not for a month, but forever. For this to happen truths must hit with new force. The clash of rapidly changing subject matter should help. And when a vital truth is in danger of fading from your consciousness you need it to splash over you again. At least thatís my excuse for a book that reads like divine revelation filtered through a scrambled brain. As you ride its waves you will lurch and lunge like a tiny boat on a wild sea. That should keep you awake.
Youíll find the humor comes in waves, too. In fact, itís about to wave good-bye and duck out of sight for quite a while. It will rear its cheeky head again. (There was humor on every page until someone corrected my spelling.)
The book is peppered with Scripture references. These are an incentive to consult a book superior to mine. Occasionally, I will introduce a thought you would like to pursue a little deeper. Thatís your clue to check out a footnote. Another of my eccentricities is that since my creativity stops short of inventing facts, I believe your right to truth includes the right to know my source (someone must take the blame). Perhaps only one reader will benefit from some references, but I beg your indulgence. I long to serve that reader.
I have a nose for a good story (Iím told you could write most of War and Peace on it). So to add interest and substance, I cite the stories of nearly three hundred women and men. Each person was selected because a facet of their lives exemplifies a valuable principle. It is not an endorsement of their ministries or doctrine. Some are not even Christians. I take my lead from Godís book, crammed with accounts of idolaters and shabby saints. The Holy Book invites us to feast on Solomonís wisdom without partaking of his folly; to see divine power and mercy in the story of Jonah, the cold-hearted wimp; to be proud of David the giant-killer and ashamed of David the adulterer.
It is imperative that this book be life-changing, but my love-gift to you and the Lord is the pain and prayer joyfully dedicated to making the book entertaining and a delight to read. When God does something itís not just functional, but beautiful; not arid necessity but brimming with unexpected joys. He made the sun, for instance, not just an essential power-house but a warm bath of pleasure, delighting and inspiring all humanity. That divinely fashioned orb is more than a time-piece. Its rays donít just illuminate, they sparkle and dance, they paint rainbows and the ever-changing splendor of endless sunsets, splashing color through all the earth with unrestrained exuberance. Everything God does displays his inexhaustible creativity and generosity.
How I long to be more like Father!
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