Me…silent. That doesn’t sound right, does it? The two words don’t even sound right in the same sentence. It’s like me saying, Me…crying. The truth is that lately I’ve done a lot of that, too. Me…down. Also not much like me. As I write this, none of it sounds like me. I look at these words and realize they sound like someone else. What I have experienced the past few days, past few weeks…actually, past few months doesn’t seem real at times. My response has been…so unlike me.
Of late, I haven’t felt much like myself. Some of you can tell that from my statuses. Even before I posted anything on my status about it, I had people coming and asking me what was wrong, because they knew something was wrong in the Spirit. God always has to let people know what’s going on, or He knows I won’t say anything. I’m a fortress, a “good little soldier,” as we used to say. I go through things and as a rule, nobody ever knows about them. I’m a big advocate of keeping things among those you can trust and not going through everything as a public display. I hate drama, and I hate drama queens. So, I don’t talk. In fact, much of the time, people within my inner circle have to drag what is happening out of me. I’ll go through it, and through it, and not say anything. I’ll still talk, just not about that. I’ll still encounter things, I just won’t cry about them. I’ll feel things, think of things, but I don’t tend to respond to them.
Recent things have left me feeling so unlike myself, my response has showed. I absolutely hate it when I am not feeling like myself, and when I respond to things unlike myself. That tends to mean that something is going on that is somehow changing me.
I’ve had a “Minister, Interrupted” experience: one of those periods where circumstances come along and God uses them to stop us. I was going along on a certain path, fine, and suddenly God interrupted it. Minister, Interrupted means it’s time to stop just going along because something along that way is either hurting someone else around us, hurting us – or doing both. God wants to alert us so whatever is going on can stop – and in order to do that, He has to stop everything that may be around us.
These events have made me confront myself. I haven’t had to confront myself like this in the way that I am now doing for a very, very long time. The last time I remember having an experience like this was when I was young in ministry and trying to evangelize everyone by arguing with them. I used to tell people they had to become Christian because it was right and they had to leave whatever their own religion was because Christianity was better. I couldn’t tell them WHY it was better, or HOW it was better, and my life and state of being at the time certainly didn’t testify THAT it was better. I just wanted to be right. So, ten years ago, God put someone in my life who not only did not give into my right fight, knowing him challenged me in my methods, approach, and perspective on how to handle a lot of these matters.
When God first started challenging me on these things ten years ago, I didn’t like it. I did things the way I’d been taught, and those ways were the way I wanted to do them. It wasn’t as deep as thinking they were right or wrong; I just didn’t want to change. It didn’t matter to me that I was seriously isolating myself and nobody could stand to be around me because I was so disagreeable. As God challenged me to start looking differently at things, I had no choice but to change.
Of recent, first while in Europe and now since I have gotten back, the constant challenge to examine witness, impression, and image has been there, yet again. I believe some of this has to do with the new season I have already written about being in, but I believe there is something in here for me to examine, yet again. A recent situation with a very dear friend made me take a good, long look at our own witness of Christianity and what we are making it out to be for those who do not believe. It’s also forced me to take a look at those I have around me and why I have them around – especially if signs are there that the people simply don’t measure up.
I keep the bar in my own ministry and my own witness very, very high. I am hard on the people I cover when it comes to their ministerial conduct and I am hard on myself to keep a certain standard when interacting with anybody. As God has changed me, I dislike the stereotypes we often hear about disagreeable and difficult Christians, especially when it is thrown around like we are all that way. I feel like when someone makes that kind of a statement, they are saying I am like that, too. The truth is, that is probably not what someone is saying. People are so used to so many judgmental and difficult Christians, they generalize. These generalizations come about because the way one or two people act often define how someone judges the whole of the group. Is this fair? Of course, it’s not. I don’t want to feel like I am being judged by what someone else does – but the reality is that I am. It’s a lovely idea to hope that people will make distinctions, but it’s also not that simple. That singular assessment can make or break friendships, relationships, and change the entire course one may be on – all because the wrong person says, does, or behaves in the wrong way. We need to take this seriously because we can be the one person that makes a difference, or we can be the one person who destroys something when it’s not our right to do so. We are so focused on evangelism’s results (which we deem repentance and conversion), we forget that evangelism is not all about the results we think we should see – they are also about the kind of witness we give, and becoming people who represent Christ in all we do. We need to re-think our witness, our evangelism, and the way in which we seek to approach others because instead of building up, Christians are too often tearing down on things that are of importance, relevance, and connection in people’s lives.
Even though I am not a judgmental person, I haven’t paid the kind of attention I need to to those who are around me and those who are considered a part of what I am doing. I live on the principle that working well with others gets a better result than working on stubborn pride. I am this way because I’ve lived the other way, and it didn’t work for me, either. Now my Minister, Interrupted moment is calling me to find a more balanced approach, yet again, on all these matters before me. If people aren’t living up to the standard and witness I claim for myself, I need to stop working with them. I need to stop lowering myself and my work to bring it down to a standard that is beneath the call of God on my life. Me lowering that standard in the hopes that people who aren’t where they should be will come up higher is not happening – they are simply pulling me down and hurting others around me. In the process, they are hurting me, too.
I’m glad I’m listening to God…through the hurt, through the tears, through the moments of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty…through the moments of transparency, prayer, and yes, crying on unseen shoulders in the Spirit…I am seeing what God wants me to see, and what He is asking of me to do and what He is requiring of me. Most importantly, I am seeing why.
What is God using in your life to create a Minister, Interrupted moment? We often run around thinking everything is the devil because it’s uncomfortable or awkward. We don’t want to feel bad, process, or go through things. We don’t want to make change, especially if it means something has to change in us or we have to walk away from some things or people. We cry out to God, but when He gives us the answer, we want to reject it. Reconciliation with others starts as we reconcile with God…only as we look at what He is doing within us and start responding to it with a YES instead of a “It’s the devil, I don’t like this!”
I thought long and hard before posting this. I decided to go ahead and do it because none of us will get better if I’m not a little transparent. I sincerely apologize to those who have been hurt because I didn’t stand up to the ministerial associations I’ve had or the negative witnesses I’ve kept around me who were other so-called “believers,” and I hope that in some way, while it can’t undo what was done, it can make the steps toward whatever bridge can be rebuilt that much easier to take. I can’t fix what someone else did, but I can fix in me what needs to change, so I can be better, because I need to be.
Minister, Interrupted. Time to stop, look, listen…and change.
(c) 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.