The Young Friends at the World Conference (Young Adult Friends, for you NEYMers) were invited by the larger gathering to write an epistle. In response, we formed a small committee to write the thing and bring it back to our business meeting for revision and approval. I offered to record for that business session. When the epistle arrived, it was clear that the meeting wanted something more substantial than the letter we had been presented with. During the first business session we sat for four hours. There was some real worship with moving ministry arising out of it, and we felt we were very close to unity.
Those are the facts, more or less.
After it was obvious that we were Done Writing An Epistle, I felt all sorts of things. Relief, primarily: recording can be arduous at the best of times, and this was some of the most difficult recording I have ever done. Then, sadness. Pain. A sense of "What-could-I-have-done-better?" A desire to move on, accept that it wasn't going to happen, let it go --- and simultaneously, a desire to hold on, to not let all of that work and worship and striving be wasted.
On the last epistle I was exercised to help write, we had come to an easy unity. Therefore I had not noticed how I stepped away. I had done so seamlessly, painlessly, because the work came to its natural fulfillment. On this epistle, the work was cut off. Stepping away was hard and painful and I didn't do it perfectly --- but I did it. Because it was hard, I noticed it. Because I noticed it, I have been able to see my struggle of letting go as part of the ministry --- not a sad, amputated stump.
I have sometimes thought that spiritual humility required downplaying my ministry. I have been wrong; that is a form of pride. Acknowledging one has a gift, faithfully using it, laying it down as called, and being clear that the fruits of that gift are not from oneself, but from God --- that takes much more humility than downplaying a gift or keeping it under a bushel. Granted, if one does the latter, one never has to grapple with these issues!
Honestly, in my struggle to be humble (which plays out very much like the scenario above!), I tell myself all sorts of really crazy things. Here's one of my favorites: "This is not you, but God through you. Therefore, you shouldn't feel pleasure when things go well or pain when they don't. That's just ego."
|You have no idea. Just read it.|
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.' "
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.