Late last year I joined a ministry that provides mentoring to Moms whose children have been removed from their custody but are on the road to getting them back. The first few months with my mentee were full of growth and progress. It was fulfilling and meaningful work, but for reasons I found hard to pin down we started to stall as our 'honeymoon phase' wore off. (This is a common theme in my life lately.)
Last week during a somewhat painful conversation with my friend/mentee I asked her why things seemed more distant and strained with us. She told me she thought I was too superficial. (I couldn't decide if I was more hurt or shocked by her statement. I usually scare people aware with my intensity.) But I knew there was truth to her words.
My friend's been through more heartbreak and struggle in her 25 years than most of us could imagine in 3 lifetimes. I thought I was loving her by staying on circumstantial topics--and she was begging me to go deep.
I was failing as a mentor because I was avoiding the very thing I started this ministry to do--communicate the life changing hope of the Lord.
Instead of faith, hope, trust I was chatting about finances, dating and her drama at work. All of these issues are real in her life, but she has lots of people she can address those with--she wanted more from me. But the surface topics were just easier because I could offer practical advice, help her make lists and feel like we were making measurable, tidy progress.
I realized I have been guilty of doing this with friends--and with my children--and in other arenas where I serve.
Ministries and relationships that started with such purpose and meaning, reduced to comfortable boxes I can check and lists I can mark off.
And suddenly a verse I read somewhat flippantly this Spring began to burn within my heart:
"Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" Galatians 3:3 NIV
Oh, foolish pride.
The Contemporary English Version says it even more plainly: "How can you be so stupid? Do you think that by yourself you can complete what God’s Spirit started in you?"
Oh, lazy heart that wants to take shortcuts.
I think those of us who have walked with the Lord for a while can so easily slide into this mode. Clinging, begging God for wisdom and strength when we are starting out, in a pit of despair or have strayed painfully off the path...then slowly but surely replacing our trust in Him with our trust in ourselves.
I pleaded with God to make me a mother. I spent much time in humble prayer for the hearts of my toddlers...yet 10 years later, how quickly I google an issue with my tweens or snap at them before I pray for guidance with them. I default to earthly rather than eternal wisdom.
How prone I am to forget that God cares about the details of our ministries.
He wants me to slow down and ask my friends about their hearts.
It is His desire for me to really connect in love with my neighbor.
He wants me to pray before I spout out my opinion about the latest controversy.
The Author of this life is also the Perfector of it.
Yet, I am so quick to seek my will over His.
The Message translation really drives it home: "Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up."
So, if you are looking for me, I think I'll be camped out on Galatians 3:3 for a while.