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A Fish Bowl Kind of Life

When Jaison was “let go” from our church, we decided that we are DONE! Done with ministry as a “career.”  Jaison has had a long time desire to finish his MBA and start a business.  I am, quite honestly, just too tired and beat down to feel like I can go on.  I have come to the conclusion that you have to either have a lot of emotional strength or have some awesome acting skills to be successful in ministry.  Actually, you probably need a little of both. I have neither.

I’m weak and sensitive.  I don’t have it all together.  People see this about me.  Sometimes I blame myself…maybe I am the reason that Jaison was let go? It was my weakness that he had to compensate for…my sensitivity that made him question things….my lack of being “together” that made people see us as less than worthy of ministry.

You see, ministry is a fish bowl.  Everyone is watching…many are judging…a few are understanding.   What people may see when they look in my “fish bowl” is a messy house, piles of dirty laundry, lots of disorganization, Josiah watching too much TV, some questionable financial decisons, and me fighting anxiety, depression and my weight.  There is not a sticker chart or memory verse to be found anywhere and my “quiet times” are often few and far between.

When I look in my “fish bowl,” I see two healthy, happy and deeply loved children,  a marriage that is growing despite so many challenges, a spiritual life that is recovering from some deep wounds, and myself overcoming A LOT of junk every single day.  Yep, I see the mess too but it’s not the most important thing right now.

I really wish that more people had taken the time to look into our “fish bowl” and see what I see.  I believe it’s what God sees too.  I believe that in some ways it qualifies us for ministry rather than disqualifying us. It makes us more compassionate.  More able to do that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.  I know that from now on, I will try not to judge other peoples “fish bowls.”

All that to say, we have been revisiting the possibility that our time in ministry is not over.  My reaction to that possibility goes something like this…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON’T WANNA LIVE LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  I NEVER WANT TO FEEL LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  NO! NO! NO!  Alas, we will do what we feel God is asking of us.  If (big if) we go into ministry again, I will approach it very differently.

When Jaison and I were dating,  I kept telling him how crazy I am!  I would tell him all about my insecurities, dysfunctions, sensitivities etc.. I did not put on an act for him…I needed him to know who I REALLY am, so that I could know that he was marrying the real me.  After we go married, he realized I was telling the truth!  I told him “I told you so! You are stuck with me now! Ha Ha”  Thankfully, he is happy to be “stuck” with me 🙂

This is how I will approach ministry if we do it again. I just might invite the whole church over to look in our closets, check our bank accounts and read my journals. I will tell them just how crazy I am. I will invite them to tell us if they see something they think is questionable and tell us promptly.  Whatever the outcome, at least we will be able to say “we told you so” and just maybe we will find some people who are able to overlook our “fish bowl” and are happy to be “stuck” with us.

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  1. Interesting. You are describing exactly the kind of people I would want on my team. 🙂

    Not that I have a team. But if I did….

    I wonder what it would be like to be with a group of people who are more loyal to each other than to a fantasy about what ministry is and who ministers are? People who understand grace.

    I would love to work with people that would rather connect for real in the midst of pain than look like they have it together.

    I’ve noticed that when I meet people and they seem impressed with me or they seem to like me I find myself waiting for the day when they will judge me and cut me off.

    It reminds me of what Bruce Stefanik used to teach. The only real motivation for ministry is love for God. If the love of people is the primary motive you won’t survive the reality of how people behave.

    Although, I would add something to what Bruce said. Faith. Not pumped up fake faith, but a real and deep internal belief that God wants you to be in ministry.

    It seems to me that this is where the battle is. For faith. At least that is where my battle is. Can I really believe that I am “created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”???

    Sometimes serving in ministry seems like a white knuckled grip onto a faint memory of some faith from the past that perhaps I am doing this because God has called me to it. Mixed in is a hope that when the storm passes I’ll still be standing and my faith in God will be vindicated.

    The scary part is that perhaps also the parts that were not true faith at all will all be gone.

    • Tony

       /  February 14, 2012

      Grace…grace upon grace.

      Bruce Stefanik said he never trusts anyone who doesn’t have scars. It took me a long time to really understand what he meant. Once I was finally wounded I understood what it means to me.

      If you have scars you’ve been wounded. Having been wounded will help you to stay humble and contrite. If you were wounded by authority, when you’re in authority you will understand the unique ability you have to wound another like you were wounded. It keeps your heart tender. It keeps you walking in the fear of The Lord in regards to how you function in a place of authority. It keeps you sensitive to your actions and how they can affect people. You can trust someone with scars because they’ve been there. They’ve gone thru it and they have the painful memories that they won’t ever want someone else they’re shepherding to go thru.

      At the same time someone with scars has endured the wound and gone thru the process of healing. In reality a person can be wounded and never heal from that wound. The wound just festers and eventually effects the whole of a person. Yet the healed understand the wound and know the healing. They can lead other wounded thru healing of their own and to the pearls that can be found from the experience.

      The scars are reminders of our wounds and the process is meant to take us to new, deeper places with Jesus. It’s preparation and invitations for greater intimacy. Greater intimacy leads to greater “ministry” with Jesus.

      Here’s to authenticity, intimacy with Jesus, and healing of our souls. Don’t worry about what others think when they peer into your fishbowl. The only opinion that matters is Jesus’ and He knows your heart.

      Grace…upon grace….

      • Very well said Tony. Thanks.

        I guess Bruce Stefanik quotes are popular on my blog… He is a wise man. “Never trust someone who doesn’t have scars.” I have never thought that before but I now see a lot of wisdom in that.

        We are slowly picking up the pieces and allowing the wounds to begin to close…

        I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus lately and realizing how “wounded” he was (um obvious!) Not just physically but emotionally as well. He was misunderstood, rejected, and felt abandoned by God. I can relate to that! Not only that but what appeared to be his greatest defeat/wounding was necessary for him to accomplish his purpose and his greatest victory.


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