I was listening to a vicar talking about ministry being about living with disappointment. He said that often ministry feels like pushing a stone uphill, so that each encouragement needs to be savoured as if it were your last, before the weight of the stone you are pushing forces you back downhill again. Sounds a bit depressing. Indeed.
The trouble is, that vicar was me.
In conversation with a mentor though, I heard myself say this and began to think. Is this really how it is? Or is this some kind of desperate self-preservation – if I remain disappointed, then no-one can get in there first. Like the way I mock my own knobbly knees or pointy nose before anyone else can. It steals their thunder. It protects me.
A change of word helped. I was encouraged to think in terms of feeling deflated rather than disappointed. Deflated is like a balloon than can be re-inflated; disappointed is like a cancer that eats away at all that you are.
The real question is, why do I feel deflated? Because things are going really well. And even if they weren’t, ministry is not about ‘doing well’ or things ‘going well’ but about being in the centre of God’s will whatever happens. Even so, there have been great encouragements amongst wonderful people beyond all our hopes when we moved here. So why deflated?
Because I have within me this longing, this yearning, this aching desire for the kingdom of god to transform, to come, to inspire and enrich and to overflow. And this longing will always remain only partly fulfilled until the kingdom comes fully, and not in part; until that to which we look to in advent is no longer for looking towards because it is fully here. I can always be more changed, more transformed; others can always be more changed, more transformed; we can all always always always sit at Jesus’ feet and encounter him in greater and deeper ways.
So this yearning within me is (I pray) an honest hoping, a holy discontent with the status quo, because I do long and will always long for more, for better, for bigger. Because God can, and because I want not 1 person to ‘get it’, nor 2, nor 22, but everyone: as Jesus said, from Jerusalem, through all Judea and St Helier and the ends of the earth. Big hope! Indeed.
So deflated I may sometimes be. But no longer disappointed. And definitely not disappointed with people, if any of my folks are reading this!! You are my hope and my inspiration; your stories of hope and change are what re-inflates me. And so I sit, awaiting re-inflating by the pneuma, the wind, the breath, the Holy Spirit of God at work in us. As it was him that gave me the absurd and wonderful and unreachable and hopeless and hopeful and unexplainable hope in the first place.
Fling wide, you Gates.