You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures in your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
I’ve stated several times on this site, and God only knows how many times in conversations that, “When it comes to serving God, I want to do it all!”
Lofty ambitions? You bet, but when it comes to serving the Lord, aiming high is all that I know.
Impossible to achieve? Probably…
The original thought behind my last post, Be still and know that I am God was to announce a halt, at least temporarily, to The Seed of Hope. I realized that I had made commitments to too many things and too many people, and a dinner invitation was the catalyst for it!
A friend had sent me an e-mail inquiring what may be the best night for my wife Jackie and I to accompany him and his wife to dinner. In responding to his request, I began flipping through my “mental datebook.” Let’s see…
Monday nights are reserved as “family dinner” nights for me, Jackie, and our two live-in ministry students, Brooke and Adrianna. We don’t mess with those. On Tuesday nights I co-lead a Bible study/fellowship men’s group for the first year ministry students at church. Wednesday night is church night. Thursday mornings begin with an hour long men’s group meeting in our salon at 6:30, and end that evening when Jackie and I leave the salon, hopefully no later 7:00 or 7:30. Friday evening marks the end of the work week, which gives me the weekend to be a husband, father, grandfather, and son, the latter three of which I’m failing miserably. Sundays are for church; always attending, sometimes serving.
Within the last two weeks I’d been given the opportunity to lead yet another group for men, to lead a mentoring program for young men attending a high school here in Birmingham, and to co-lead a Spa Night for mothers of critically ill children at Children’s Hospital with Jackie.
Mixed in with all of this is attempting to run a business, writing The Seed of Hope, and having an open door policy for anyone needing counsel, friendship, or prayer in the prayer room in our salon.
And somewhere in my schedule I have to find time to spend with the Lord, just me and Him. It’s not an option. It’s my daily bread.
I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not really. I asked God for all of this, for Him to open doors for me to reach people. I just didn’t know that He’d answer in such a big way.
Somewhere along the way I lost sight of the fact that I’m only human. And I lost something even more valuable that I’ll get to in a minute.
God’s way of reminding me of my human frailty was to stop me dead in my tracks with an unbelievably painful attack of Achilles Tendonitis.
Do you know the story of Achilles? He was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, and he was the central character in Homer’s Iliad. Achilles was a mighty warrior, a tough guy, a “bad boy” in today’s terminology. Legend has it that Achilles was for the most part invincible, except for a weakness that he had in his heel. The story goes that Achilles was shot in the heel by a poison arrow, which ultimately leads to his death.
For that reason, and to this day, the term “Achilles’ heel” has been used in defining an individual’s primary weakness. That being said, after my third flare-up of tendonitis in two months, I began to wonder if God was trying to tell me that I was overlooking a weakness; a flaw in my character, in my walk, in dealing with people, or in my spirituality.
Some of you may be shaking your heads at the notion of God giving me foot problems to get my attention. That’s all well and good; believe what you want. You can ring it up to coincidence that this last attack of tendonitis was so severe that, with the exception of going to church, I did absolutely nothing for five days but sit and reflect on me, my life, and God. Call it coincidence that when I was still because I had to be, and used that time for inner reflection, I realized a couple of things.
I can’t do it all.
In My Five, the last post of 2010, I suggested that you pick the five things that were closest to your heart, that were the most important to you, and devote your time and attention to working on those five before you did anything else. Ascribing to the adage that I should “practice what I preach”, I went about the business of making my own top five list.
Number one on my list, which I shared with you, was “To love and serve the Lord with all that is in me every day.” Today, some three months later, loving and serving the Lord is still on the top of my list. The problem arose in the fact that I tried to cram so many things, like writing The Seed of Hope, leading small groups, mentoring, counseling, praying with people and whatever else was on my heart into this one item.
It was a recipe for disaster. Oh, I still loved getting “plugged-in” with people, and going to church. And as always, if there was anything that I could do, in thought, word, or deed, to lead someone to the Lord, or to make their walk in life a bit better, I was the one that was blessed for it. But the joy that should have come with those blessings mysteriously vanished. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, serving God and others became, not a blessing, but a burden.
The joy was gone, and in its place was frustration. I became dissatisfied with our business, with my ministry, with our church, with everything. I was aware of the fact that I was frustrated, and I unsuccessfully tried to pray my way through it, which only served to make me even more frustrated. I reminded myself of a dog chasing its tail; running myself ragged, and getting absolutely nowhere. This went on for weeks.
Then I did something that seems to be so hard for men to do: I reached out for help. I called on my good friend Rusty, who I knew would listen to what was on my heart without judging me for it. I also knew that he would tell me, not necessarily what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear; which is exactly what he did. That, among other things, is what makes him a good friend.
My meeting with Rusty led to a meeting with one of his best friends, Keith, who also happens to be one of the Pastors at our church. (Can you see God working through all of this?) Keith, like Rusty, listened to what I had to say, and then, in no uncertain terms, told me what I needed to hear. He shot straight from the hip, and I walked away from our hour long conversation with my “wheels spinning” and my mind digging even deeper for the answer, Keith’s words echoing in my mind.
It came to me at four o’clock this morning. I sat up in bed with tears in my eyes and a huge hurt in my heart. What had been missing was JOY. Not the joy that comes from serving others or the joy that comes from writing, or mentoring, or even praying. What was missing was the unparalleled joy that comes from being with God, from being filled by the Holy Spirit, and from walking with Jesus every day.
The first time I felt that joy was when I was born again four and a half years ago. It was by God’s grace that I received it, that I had felt it, and that I got to walk with it in my heart every day. It was a gift; a gift that I had taken for granted. It was a gift that I had assumed would always be there.
You see, that joy was the wellspring of all that came after it; The Seed of Hope, the desire to serve God, this ministry that God has blessed me with, and the prayer room in our salon in which I’m sitting at this very moment. All of it was born of the joy that I found when I truly found God.
And now it’s gone. Oh, there are still some remnants of that joy that I was filled with until a few weeks ago, but it’s nothing like it was. When I finish this post I’m gonna get on my knees and ask God, beg God, to let me walk with that joy in my heart again.
You see, without His joy, I am nothing.