First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
A Safe Life
Once upon a time, we had a crustacean named Crusty. He came home from school one day and never returned. At the time I felt he should have been served up in a crawfish pie with a generous helping of Louisiana hot sauce. But my wife and children liked him and strangely enough, my cats liked him too. The cats of course would have liked him as part of a meal, but since we all liked crusty in different ways he ended up staying for a while. Crusty became part of the family, and family members are not served up in a stew.
Crusty made a lot of noise, that silly ol’ craw daddy. He rearranged the rocks in his small rectangular crustacean condominium. He flipped over the half yogurt container we put in there to give him something to hide in. He made burrows in the rocks then just as quickly covered them up. He was always very busy for a misplaced appetizer. And he seemed to be as happy as a craw fish can get. While he was on this earth, he lived a safe but limited life.
I used to have a safe but limited life. I had a job at a bank that was not a pressure cooker nor did it pay well. I was reliable but not a stand out. I received promotions but I was not headed to the top of the ladder. I put in a good day’s work and then I went home. I was safe and I was happy. But I wasn’t challenged.
Isn’t it funny how often people speak well of being challenged? So often people say to me that the best time in their life was when they had to overcome difficult circumstances. Many folks have said that they grew mentally, personally, and spiritually during a difficult period in their lives. In fact, many friends have said that they wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the challenges they had faced. Isn’t that funny? One would think all of us would want a safe and happy life – no challenges – thank you very much. And yet, many of us, myself included, feel that being challenged is a very important part of our emotional and spiritual development.
I used to have a life with few challenges – but then I was called into the ministry. And what a wild ride it has been. I have been challenged from the start. Challenged in areas of leadership, education, marketing, music and oh yeah, spirituality. I have been overwhelmed by the feeling that everything is squarely on my shoulders. How can the church grow? How can we do more in the mission field? How can we get more people involved? How can pay our bills? Even when someone else is responsible it all comes back to me. I love my life as a Pastor, but sometimes I long for the days when I was a crustacean in a cubicle – safe, happy and unchallenged.
The problem with those good old days was the lack of personal satisfaction. God challenged me to be more and to do more. So I went to Seminary. I juggled a full time job, the birth of two children and ministry on the weekends. I studied at dawn and wrote papers at night. Saturday mornings was study time. I crammed classes into a very tight schedule. I made time for school, work and most importantly, family. But all that was easy compared to what I face now. Surviving school came down to doing what I was told. It was hard work and time consuming but I gave the teachers what they wanted and they gave me a passing grade and that was that. I often relive good memories from those days, a time when I really proved I could accomplish a great deal. Now I face challenges that are so much more difficult.
There are no more teachers to tell me what to do. There is no manager standing over me patting me on the back. There is no yogurt container for me to hind under. There is just God helping me with the challenges that I face. And so often the answer from God is; you will have to work this out for yourself. It is equally empowering and frustrating. There are times when I praise God for the trust He has given me and times when I just want to hide in a cubicle and punch out at five. What a mess. They told me in Seminary it would be hard. I listened but I didn’t fully understand difficult it would be until I lived it.
See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isa 48:10 NIV)
The people of Isaiah’s time were tested by God in order for them to turn their faces towards God rather than away. They were punished like children so that they would grow up. They were challenged, just like me, to become the people God called them to be. God challenges all of us to be more than we are. God challenges us to be godly – even to be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect. A tall order, some would even say impossible. And yet, is there any challenge that is not attainable when we have God on our side?
I accept the challenge. I embrace it. But sometimes, when life gets real tough, I just wish I could hide somewhere and rearrange rocks.
God bless you,