Monday, April 8, 2013

Massaging the Thorn

Have you ever been called on to fulfill a role and your immediate thought was either “Have we given up completely?” or “Was there no one else?”  Two different friends of mine have voiced such a concern when asked to fulfill administrative roles at the particular institutions where they served.  In both cases, there was an immediate need, and these individuals were selected because it was believed that they could work appropriately and effectively in the position, even if it was for only a short time. 

When confronted with such a challenge, I think we respond the way that we do for one of two reasons.  First, we think that we are not ready for such a position.  Perhaps we are new to the institution or organization.  We do not feel comfortable enough in our role in order to lead effectively.  Perhaps, we are not completely familiar with the rules and regulations that we must live under.  Perhaps an extended period of adjustment to the new role hampers our effectiveness.  Whatever it may be, we think we are just not ready to take on such a role. 

Second, we realize that we are deficient in the area of leadership or administration that we are being called to.  Perhaps we simply do not have the adequate training or experience.  Perhaps we are not credentialed enough.  (I experience this one quite a bit—both appropriately and inappropriately--as one who is currently pursuing his doctorate.)  Perhaps we are simply not skilled, and our leadership is less than stellar.  I have been tackling this concept recently in the congregation that I serve.  I am tone-deaf.  I cannot read music.  Thus, I am a natural candidate to lead singing, right?  I made it through over a decade of professional ministry without leading more than a verse or two of a hymn.  Now, I am the regular evening song leader.  Well, at least it is the evening service.

First, pray for the patience of my congregation.  Second, it has been a learning experience for me.  No, I have not miraculously learned to read music or carry a tune in a bucket.  The learning experience has come in confronting this “thorn” and experiencing God’s grace each week.  In 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, Paul writes, “But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth.  But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.  Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’  So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”  Do I enjoy leading singing?  Not at all.  Am I willing to lead singing?  Absolutely, for in my weakness I am made strong through the grace of Christ expressed through God’s people.

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