This past weekend I had the delight of serving the precious women of our Alabama SBC churches at the state’s Equip Conference. Equip is a great time to connect with old friends, make new ones and get some fantastic, practical training and encouragement for church ministry. It is sponsored by the Women’s Missionary Union (for those of you who know the lingo, WMU) whose leaders I count it a privilege to call friends. (I’m looking at you Candace, Pat, Becky, et al)
My workshop material was born out of the last year of my life where I’ve increasingly found myself with no time for Want To’s (ministry, writing, studying, church service, etc.) because I’m so bound up with Have To’s (job, cleaning, laundry, more laundry and did I mention cleaning?) All of our lists may have different particulars but the effect is the same – very little apparent time (we learned we have more time than we think) to feed the part of our soul that longs to be truly connected to God, our families and friends, and His people. This in turn can leave us us feeling a disappointed and maybe even grieved that life doesn’t look like what we envisioned for this season of our time on planet Earth.
I won’t rehash all the teaching but I did want to share a thought that was somewhat profound to me in dealing with the reality of having to be in certain environments or doing certain activities that don’t line up with where or what or with whom I would ideally be spending my efforts and hours.
I’ve been dwelling on the idea of displacement. Specifically I referenced the prophet Daniel who was living at ease in Israel when his people were overtaken by Babylon and deported to that country. He was appointed to three years of brainwashing which gratefully never took because he was a man of much more resolve than I ever hope to own. Daniel had a window in his upper room that faced Jerusalem (his true kingdom) and he never lost focus on the true reason he was in Babylon – to make God’s name great to a nation of self-indulgent people who bowed to golden statue fashioned as a mere man. To eunuchs with no family of their own charged with caring for four teenage boys that would not defile themselves with the king’s table. To a king whose boast turned him to beast. To a new king who couldn’t understand the handwriting on the wall. To co-workers who maligned him and had him unfairly punished because of bitterness and jealousy.
Daniel never played the martyr or lost sight of the fact that his displacement was simply the means by which God transported a faithful man to proclaim His Name to an unreached people. I think about our missionaries serving in places all over the globe – many of them connecting with individuals through jobs that seem unrelated to Jesus. But they were not sent to get wrapped up in daily stresses of being great medical personnel or English teachers or other civilian pursuits. The job is not the reason they are there….the people are. The work was simply the vehicle that delivered Jesus into their midst.
That simplistic thought may mean nothing to you but it was a game-changer for me. What if I began living a displaced life? Thinking displaced thoughts? This past year has in no way lined up with my fairytale delusions about what activities would characterize my days or what life and ministry would look like right now. Though I enjoy my job and adore my co-workers, being in a workplace has felt like a huge Have To until I realized any place He puts me can be a Want To if I realize where I am has nothing to do with the job but everything to do with Him.
Since the handwriting has been translated, He is teaching me to look beyond the daily office grind and not just see a job that consists of doing what I have to do but seeing people I want to serve who are looking for grace and peace and love and understanding and encouragement and Jesus in a place they least expect to find Him.
Just a peek through Daniel’s window and suddenly the Kingdom is much clearer.
I hope you can see it, too.