Beyond the role

Beyond the role

Cleaning Toilets

I’ve been doing a bit more thinking about what I wrote a couple of days ago about suffering and character.

I realised that feeling of pain that I spoke about is a common one and the tendency is to think that by changing my external circumstances I will change my internal world.

I particularly have been thinking about the connection between roles and my feeling world.

I remember a dark time early on in my ministry with Fusion when I felt as though I wasn’t being seen and wasn’t being very productive.

I read the book “Reaching Out” by Henri Nouwen and was challenged to face the pain rather than run from it.

I remember a moment when I said to God I would be willing to do anything he asked me to.

I tried to imagine the job I would least like to do.. and immediately had a picture of sweeping the aisles at a supermarket late nights.. I remember a feeling of depression as I said to God “Even if that’s what you were asking me to do.. I would be willing”.

Lots of times I have that resolution tested.

One of those moments was on Sunday afternoon.

After what felt like a very long week, I went up to the hall to check whether the final pack up of Foundations had gone o.k.

I met my friend Rick, and just as we were being pleased that things had worked, we discovered that there was a van load of food that had to be thrown out and then the dishes washed.

I had a sinking feeling as I wondered who I could get to do the job. Rick and I looked at each other and drove down to the motel kitchen to spend the next two hours washing up.

It ended up being a nice time to chat and not as bad as I imagined. Like I mentioned on Monday’s post, the times when you don’t think you can possibly manage any more are when God often seems to turn up.

It was a good reminder for me. On Sunday I had the privilege of doing a valedictory address to a couple of hundred people, managing a youth-work meeting, connecting with family who were visiting  for the day, writing a blog, and being a kitchen hand.

It would be tempting to think that only the talking was important, but more and more I realise that just isn’t true. One of the great strengths about the Poatina community is it forces you to live a multi dimensional life.

Today I started as a petrol station attendant, spend some time as a teacher and finished it in a youthwork meeting.

Jesus makes clear it is the heart that matters, and not what you do, however our world puts a lot of emphasis on role.

Mother Theresa said:

“We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.” And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.”

Mother Theresa truly understood that role isn’t important. Another time she explained:

“We must not drift away from the humble works,” she says, “because these are the works nobody will do . . . . For there are many people who can do big things. But there are very few people who will do the small things.”

Asked by someone “what will you do when you are no longer Mother General?” she thinks for a moment and then says with a smile, “I am good at cleaning toilets, you know!”.

There is a kind of character that can only come from facing down your pride and dependance on role for the sense of “okayness”.

It’s not easy. I am often tempted to find an excuse, and occasionally do, but I find there is a strange sense of peace that comes when you are making choices against your normal inclination.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said:

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

2 thoughts on “Beyond the role

  1. Nice one mate…being here has given me a glimpse of how much God loves this place and the way fusion honours him..there is also a deep assurance in my spirit that our future is bright…remember that during every stroke of the toilet brush!

  2. Matt -this is good stuff. Feels more real for me right now than all the strategic stuff. I’m reading Frankl again – needed to come to terms with my feelings of futility when I am in a place without a clear role or even a clear short term goal. I know I can do the work of creating or rather discovering them, but in that space of time where misery reigns I have discovered that if I can stand outside it and rewrite the experiences as humourous anecdotes in my head I can thrive until a sense of equilibrium returns. But it’s also about knowing that God has a task for me right now – be it cleaning toilets, fetching water, plannning, praying, reading, cooking or just listening which can be a blessing if we are in harmony with the Creator of the Universe. Frankl’s great to reread! Nouwen next. God bless.

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