A lot of pastors serve God in fear. Fear of pain. Fear of criticism. Fear of failure. We often do so because we’ve had such seasons already—and aren’t particularly fond of their sour taste.
Will that thing, that event, season of ministry… continue to define you negatively or positively? Those seasons impact us in ways that will either shape us into wiser, more mature pastors or shape us into jaded, perhaps timid, or indefinitely damaged pastors—by choice. Those seasons and how we process them matters. What are “those” seasons? You know…
The season of ministry you look back at first when you think of your “body of work.”
That season when you asked yourself, “Why am I still doing this?”
Or, that season of almost unspeakable joy when you saw God really work wonders.
Those defining seasons of life and ministry.
Those are the seasons that shape us. We have some control over whether those seasons shape us positively or negatively. If you’re in ministry, such seasons are usually par for the course—and our energies are better spent preparing for and navigating those seasons than trying to avoid them or pretending they won’t happen to us.
And, whether we survive them and thrive beyond them is largely a matter of faith—and what faith leads us to do with them. Sometimes, ministry will give us not a few lemons, but a grove full of lemons—and making lemonade isn’t what we need to do. We need to wander the grove, pray, reflect and trust God gave us that grove for something even greater than making lemonade—His purposes—mysterious though they may be. One of those is certainly our formation in Christ.
When I look back on “those” seasons with a still limited eye, I realize I am who I am in ministry because of how God has used them. I still struggle the way we all do with embracing them fully. But, I’ve also added a prayer—that I might embrace them fully and God’s glory might be shown through them.
If we believe somehow that will happen—that justice will eventually come to pass, wisdom will be cultivated and Christ will be formed in us—we won’t fear the lemon grove. This allows us to serve Christ more faithfully, not in fear of lemons—better known as pain, failure or criticism. We won’t allow those seasons to define us. Rather, we’ll begin to define those seasons in Gospel terms–in ways that build our ministries and glorify God. That doesn’t change what happened. However, it may change what happens to us as a result.