I have had the unexpected pleasure of reconnecting lately in two different situations with some very old friends. It is surprising and wonderful to talk to someone from 25 years ago. Not only is it a delight to reconnect, but the entire encounter is a powerful reminder of how things were, how stunningly naive I was, and how much things have grown and changed since then. I feel older, but also a bit wiser.
When I talk to these folks though, inevitably one of the first questions is, So what are you up to these days? Given that vocationally I wear at least four hats at any given time, it feels like there is no short answer to that question. And inevitably, I end up tripping over my words as I try to explain the different stuff I am so excited about.
However, as I read last night before going to sleep, I received a subtle "THAT'S it" when I read these words:
Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, wrote, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which God is to bless people now.”
My weeks are occupied with teaching, consulting, writing and strategic planning, and each of those projects use a different email address. But what they really add up to is one thing; ultimately, I hope that I can equip others a little bit in being "Jesus with skin on" in the world today. As Teresa of Avila said so many centuries ago, we are the hands and feet of Jesus.
So when I am leading 70 high school students in a weekly dialogue about the Gospel of Mark, I pray they are motivated to carry on the ministry of Christ in the world, incarnating his love and mercy and selfless service.
When I write articles, mostly about youth ministry, I pray that my words can assist a few youthworkers in persevering past the statistical 2.5 years of the average lifespan of a youthworker, carrying on as a faithful mentor to their own group of disciples.
When I work with a pastors in recruiting more volunteers or shaping three-year goals, it is my hope that they will feel hopeful about how they can actually do ministry, and not just worry about it and feel buried in budgets, emails and the crisis of the week.
And finally, when I am recruiting at colleges and building networks of support for the future leaders in the kingdom, I want each person I talk to, whether they are seminary presidents or college freshmen or hard-working faculty, to know that Jesus was loving enough (and slightly crazy?) to entrust the work of His kingdom into our clumsy hands.
As I read recently, "Lord, we are forever grateful that you do not want to change the world without us. May we become the church you dream of."
I reveled in Teresa of Avila's simple words, and the encouragement only mounted as I read Isaiah 25 and 26:
In that day the people will proclaim,“This is our God!We trusted in him, and he saved us!This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!” (25:9)7 But for those who are righteous,the way is not steep and rough.You are a God who does what is right,and you smooth out the path ahead of them.8 Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.9 All night long I search for you;in the morning I earnestly seek for God. (26:7-9)
As it says in 2 Corinthians 4:1, Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. It is remarkable to me that God chooses to work through us, nincompoops that we are. But since he has entrusted such things to us, let us rise to the challenge, with His Spirit filling us. How good is our God.