A Million Reasons

Many ministers refuse to acknowledge the difficulties present in ministry. There’s a reason for this: It doesn’t look good. We are supposed to be all perky and in love with everything about ministry, ready to enthusiastically draw everyone to us as if by magnet-force. A bad day? Nah. Personal problems? Fuggetabout it. Questions about the faith? There’s definitely no room for those. Most of the ministers I’ve known over the years are a grand social media display of selfies, family shots, videos, and pulpit poses, all grandly posted in the hopes people will think and believe it’s real. Some of the time, it is real. There are many times we are excited, prepared, and ready to take on the world, just as we appear. Then there are other times when we wish someone else would be called and we can go sit down somewhere. Then when we go sit down, we aren’t happy with that, either. When we are busy, we’re too busy, and when things are slow, they are too slow. Finding a happy medium is hard in ministry, which is why many ministers spend a great deal of their time malcontented. It gives the Apostle Paul’s words, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12, KJV) a whole new meaning. It’s easy to be dissatisfied with ministry, and most ministers wouldn’t admit it on their Facebook or Instagram accounts, but many are dissatisfied with the general flow and movement of their ministries.

I confess to the general ministry struggle between contentment and discontentment. One of us has to tell the truth about this thing, so I guess It’ll be me. Maybe, if I am to be honest, it wasn’t always a struggle: it was a spiral. I’d start out in one place, and any series of negative and discouraging events would wind me back up at the bottom. It seems like if I look back over the years, much of my time has been spent trying to encourage myself into thinking things would be better or get better if I tried hard enough. While I wish I could say this is a rare story, the majority of ministers I know spiral themselves, albeit, in private. They start out in one place, working hard to encourage themselves or receive the encouragement others have to give them, only to find themselves back in the same place they’ve found themselves before.

We wind up back in bad places, time and time again, because the little bit of encouragement doesn’t seem to hold weight against the realities we deal with on a regular basis. It doesn’t help that we don’t really know how to encourage people, and most of the form so-called “encouragement” takes today is in the form of verbal words that we’ve already heard a thousand times before. Being told things like:

  • “Won’t God do it?” (Won’t God do what?)
  • “Your breakthrough is coming!” (But when is it getting here?)
  • “It’s your season!” (If it’s not mine now, whose is it then?)
  • “Turnaround is on it’s way!” (Did it get lost?)
  • “Don’t despise small beginnings!” (What beginning?)
  • “Your gifts will make room for you!” (Only if you get out of the way and let them in)
  • “God’s got great things in store for you!” (Are they hiding?)
  • “You’re so anointed!” (As opposed to…?)

…Doesn’t particularly help a minister who has already heard them a bunch of times. There are a lot of ways we can encourage ministers that don’t fall into the scripted version of “encouragement,” but when we don’t see them…we often feel…restless and discouraged.

It has been almost a year since I preached in a church. Sure, I’ve done plenty of other things, including seminary classes, book writing and publishing, counseling, couples’ counseling, and some general visits to people, but not preaching in church has been an adjustment, to say the least. There was a time a few years ago when I was preaching as a visiting speaker almost every month, and that was in addition to all the other regular work I was doing in ministry. Over the past few years, especially since the recession hit, the number of invites I received to speak steadily declined. There are other reasons why speaking engagements have declined: not as many events and too many speakers to select from, not being in any one specific circle, my stance on some current events, and other social changes have all impacted the general circumstances that have led to a definite number of ministry engagements the past few years. Since around 2014, the number I’ve gotten has steadily declined.

This culminated when we were evicted from our building in 2016 due to a mold infestation. A year-long trial run for a project that didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. We went in with a bang and out with one, the difference being the final bang was enough for awhile. I’d gotten word from God about a possible move out of the area, so that meant staying still until that move took place. And stand still, in some ways, I have.

What I’ve done in many ways is think a lot about ministry, especially if I desired to continue in it, or not. That’s a musing I know I’m technically not supposed to admit to, especially in light of the words of other ministers who would say such a musing is wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong; I think it’s honest, and that’s probably what’s wrong with it. Many of us are at crossroads in our lives where we simply cannot go on any longer like we are and it’s at those crossroads that change comes. The problem is that the change that comes is often not like we’ve envisioned it, and it’s frequently far more uncomfortable and disquieting than we might like to admit. Yet in ministry, the pros and cons list we often seek out to assist us in making our decisions don’t always add up like they might at other changeable spots in our lives. That’s what makes ministry and being in ministry so difficult: we struggle to discern if it’s for us, then we struggle to discern how to do it, then we struggle to discern what to do, and then we struggle to do what we are supposed to do. Everything about ministry displays that eternal struggle between God and humanity, finding our place and our purpose in this world, and even though we know the final and ultimate battle has been won by Christ…we assume our position as soldiers in this world.

Lady Gaga is a favorite of mine. I’ve blogged on one of her songs before, and I knew when I first heard “Million Reasons,” I’d have to do it again; I just didn’t know the context. As I drove between Shelby, NC and my apartment in Cary, NC, last weekend, I heard the song on the radio, and it finally clicked. I was stuck in horrific traffic, cars all around me: to the left, the right, the front, the back, for miles. It came on the radio, and I turned it up and sang it too, as loud as I could, not this time for relationship purpose or advice, but for the realities of the answers I’d been seeking in my own ministry experience.

I could easily list you a million reasons why ministry hasn’t always worked for me, and why, honestly, I spent a lot of years tired and frustrated with it. People have been difficult, I haven’t always found the majority of people I’ve worked with to be honest and ready to do what ministry requires, and I’ve watched as most of the people I’ve known have either walked away from it or landed themselves in a position to stop growing and progressing in it. Ministry’s not for wimpy people. It might seem like a quiet profession, but we battle things and deal with things that nobody could ever imagine much of the time. But the answer lies in Lady Gaga’s words: no matter how many reasons I might have not to do it, there’s really only one question as to whether or not to continue – only one answer – Is this what I have been called to do, or not?

In ministry, there will always be a hundred million reasons why we shouldn’t do it: We don’t have enough money, we aren’t “important” enough, nobody seems to like us, we’re too “different,” we don’t get invited enough, we aren’t a part of the popular club or clique, we don’t minister like others do, we don’t look like everyone else, we aren’t called to deal with the same things as everyone else, we don’t  do things the same, we don’t have the same interests or calling, and so on and so forth, down the list of the other 99,999,990 reasons not to do this. Every day of a minister’s life, they wake up with the same reasons, and maybe even some new ones, not to do this. But the song says it best – we only need one good reason to stay.

If we are called, and this is what we are to do, the other reasons do not matter.

So, despite the reasons to stop, to leave, to end it all, we stay. For that reason, encourage a minister you know on today and make those hundred million reasons to walk away seem like a few less.

© 2017 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.
Million Reasons

You’re giving me a million reasons to let you go
You’re giving me a million reasons to quit the show
You’re givin’ me a million reasons
Give me a million reasons
Givin’ me a million reasons
About a million reasons

If I had a highway, I would run for the hills
If you could find a dry way, I’d forever be still
But you’re giving me a million reasons
Give me a million reasons
Givin’ me a million reasons
About a million reasons

I bow down to pray
I try to make the worse seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay

Head stuck in a cycle, I look off and I stare
It’s like that I’ve stopped breathing, but completely aware
‘Cause you’ve given me a million reasons
Give me a million reasons
Giving me a million reasons
About a million reasons

And if you say something that you might even mean
It’s hard to even fathom which parts I should believe
‘Cause you’ve given me a million reasons
Give me a million reasons
Givin’ me a million reasons
About a million reasons

I bow down to pray
I try to make the worse seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay

Aye-eee-ayeee-ay-ayyee
Oh, baby I’m bleedin’, bleedin’
Aye-eee-ayeee-ay-ayyee
Can’t you give me what I’m needin’, needin’
Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith
But baby, I just need one good one
Good one, good one, good one, good one, good one

When I bow down to pray
I try to make the worse seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather

I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one, good one
Tell me that you’ll be the good one, good one
Baby, I just need one good one to stay aye eee ayeee

– Lady Gaga (found at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ladygaga/millionreasons.html)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en2D_5TzXCA

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s