Thistles and Thorns
2. Disconnected preaching
What's more, when we believe our thorns and thistles are worse than the rest of the world's, we miss out on a way to connect to the people in our pews. For instance, if you separate out your work from everyone else's, you won't take what you've learned about, say, interpersonal struggles in the elder board to your frustrated people, who hassle with other sinners at work. Or maybe the struggle of handling financial doubts in struggling economy? Or the frenetic, inner voice that threatens to rob you of Sabbath rest because American work culture has even infected the church? Or prioritizing your family in the midst of a hectic career life? Even worse, we fail to sympathize with the difficulties that everybody walks through. We can begin to issue commands without compassion.
3. Resisting grace
Finally, we miss God's grace in the thorns and thistles. When God cursed the ground because of Adam, it was a curse, but a curse with grace. We're wired from Genesis 1 and 2 to work, but when sin gets a hold of that good impulse, we idolatrously deify that impulse and turn it into a functional god. In our corrupt insecurity, we look to work and career to fulfill us, give us meaning, and cover our nakedness. If you think that won't happen to you in ministry, you're deluded. No, just as with our congregants, God allows the weeds, the thorns and thistles, to persistently pop up and prick us, for his purposes, and our growth as disciples. He's paid too high a price for you to settle for being a pastor, instead of an adopted child of the Most High.
From the ground to a crown
This all brings me to another Adam, the Second One. Ultimately our thorns ought to remind us of those that pricked into his brow, mingling his sweat with blood as it fell to the earth; our thistles should point us to the nails driven into his hands, rough and calloused from his exertions for our salvation.
When our work in the field of the Lord is hard and frustrating, we are reminded that it is still but a reaping what of what someone else has sown. Because of his labors, we know that ultimately, we do not labor in vain.
Derek Rishmawy is the director of college and young adult ministries at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Orange County, CA. He blogs at derekzrishmawy.com.
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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