You know what I mean. You can handle the nuts and bolts of the job. The nouns and the verbs and the punctuation – maybe you’ve still got some learning to do, but it’s no biggie. The hard part is baring your heart, extending your trembling hand to place your words, those shreds of your own pain and hope, into someone else’s hands, not knowing whether they’ll treasure or trash them.
It’s like the rest of life.
It’s easy to make a casserole. It’s hard to show up with it on the doorstep of the woman who just lost her husband.
It’s easy to put your resume together. It’s hard to apply for your dream job.
It’s easy enough to help others. It’s a million times harder to ask someone else to help you.
Putting your heart out there: most of us find it hard because most of us, at some level, fear rejection. But there’s no real living without letting others into the deep places where pain and joy and God and our true selves reside. And there’s no real ministry either. See Jesus strip down and wrap a towel around his waist to wash feet; listen to him bare his heart to his Father as he prayed for his disciples in their hearing; watch him hang near-naked on the cross. Christ-like serving requires exposure.
So when my opening heart and extending hands are trembling at the risk, I’m learning to remember these:
- God’s got the door. Who has called you to what you’re doing? If He has called you and still wants you there, what can get in His way? “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” (Revelation 3:7-8)
- Your idea of failure isn’t the same as God’s. He got me on this the other day. I was thinking about something in terms of “failing again” and I felt Him say something like, “Again? Is that how you see your time in Afghanistan and your loss of career - as failure?” God defines success as love and obedience rather than a particular outcome. Success and rejection are not opposites; consider Calvary.
- Those giving and those receiving (whether words or a meal) are all equal before God; all small, all temporary, all loved. The person receiving may have more experience and more knowledge. Good. She can help me grow. But her word is only her word, transient and limited, and I need to receive it as whispered by the blade of grass standing alongside me in the field where we’re planted. “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Marker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. . .?” (Is. 51:12-13)
- You aren’t rejected. He speaks to each of us what He spoke to Israel: “ . . . you are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” (Is 41:9) He has called us, and he’s committed to taking us by the hand and not letting go. (Oh, do take time to soak in Is 41:8-20 – or even memorize it.)
- You’re being equipped. You don’t think you have what it takes? Maybe you don’t - yet. No worries. God’s on it. “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21; cf. 2 Cor 3:5; Phil 1:6)
- You get to choose. What someone says about you tells you more about them than about you. You are not obligated to accept every verdict offered.
- You do have to step out . . . . In Bunyan’s words, “. . . [a person’s] gifts are not his own, but the church’s; and . . . by them he is made a servant to the church, and. . . he must give at last an account of his stewardship unto the Lord Jesus; and to give a good account, will be a blessed thing!” (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding, p. 75; c.f. 1 Cor 6:19-20)
- . . . but you’re not asked to carry a boulder. A couple of weeks ago I was struggling with a decision. God gave a picture in which I was trying to lift three huge boulders, one at a time. The first was the past I was leaving behind, the second was the decision itself as I tried to weigh it all and choose well, and the third was the new thing I was taking on. On the other side of each boulder was God, eager to lift the weight from me, but I was resisting without knowing I was resisting Him. His message was clear. “I’m not lifting from you one boulder only to replace it with another. I want your arms free to be around my neck.” Life is a dance of increasing intimacy, not a weight-lifting contest.
- You’re stepping out in response to your Lover’s voice calling you out of hiding. Keep listening to Him: “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” (Song of Songs 2:14)
- You are a most holy place, your body a holy of holies where God dwells (1 Cor. 6:19). What you offer when you bare your heart is far more than yourself. Who knows what might happen if you offer yourself, letting the curtain be torn and allowing others into that holy place of God’s dwelling?
A little bonus for the language lovers among you:
There are two Greek words in the New Tesatment for “temple”: naos and hieron. Hieron includes the temple courts; naos speaks more specifically of the temple itself: the holy place where the priests carried out the sacrifices, and the holy of holies where God dwelt and into which the high priest alone could enter once a year. (This solves the question in Matthew 23:35. How could Zechariah could be murdered “between the temple and the altar”? Wasn’t the altar in the temple? The bronze altar was in the courtyard of the temple, part of the hieron, not in the naos, the inner sanctum mentioned in this verse.)
“Do you not know that your body is a naos of the Holy Spirit? . . .” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
(Sources: Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament; Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains)