Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Optimism of My Youth Is Dead and Gone

A long, long time ago I was wrestling with a desire to pursue vocational ministry, which had recently awakened in my heart. Not having much of any idea how to take those first steps or even how to make the decision, I went to a man who for a long time had been in vocational ministry and who had been a great help and encouragement to me. He gave me a gentle shove in the right direction, and he also said a few words that for some reason stuck like a treble hook in my mind. He said, “Ben, the politics you’ll see in ministry will break your heart.”

As I remember, he admonished me that my responsibility was simply to be faithful. Period. Back then I don’t think that I really knew what kind of politics he was talking about, but somehow I knew that he was right.

This was a great year. I will never forget 2005. I learned many lessons that I’ll never forget, just one of which is that my counselor’s advice was right—the politics in ministry really do break your heart. (If you think you know all that I have in mind, you’re wrong.)

The bottom line is that the optimism of my youth is now dead—but it needed to die. It was largely an optimism that was based on hope in flesh. Read any biography or history of an institution. It will either be a stark record of human failure, or it will fall short of objectivity and accuracy.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that my optimism is not dead and gone—just the optimism of my youth. The optimism that remains is a gift from God. It is a reinforced hope in His changelessness and His faithfulness to do as He has said. It is, by His grace, an optimism grounded in His eternal purposes, His sovereign plan, and His kind intention to bless His people. And somehow, he’s chosen me to share in those riches.

To be sure, there are questions and doubts in my mind. Will I be faithful? Will I persevere in my confidence in God? Will I set my ambition on becoming a political player? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m glad for the lessons and the loss. I don’t think I'll be missing out on much at all.

5 comments:

g-harmony said...

Great post.

Bob Bixby said...

Ben,

I'd comment, but I'm afraid people might think that I'm endorsing you and therefore lose my already-shakey footing on my ladder to fundamentalist fame. I am also concerned that your large constituency might reject me if they perceive me to be less than entirely devoted to you. Consequently, I have decided to refrain from saying anything positive or negative except for this brief statement which I trust will be read by either your foes or friends only in a way that will improve my standing with them:

I read it.

Bob Bixby

franklin said...

Ben,
Great post...one of the best I've read this year (& I say this on the 363rd DAY!!!). I am envious of the wisdom you exhibit...but thankful that my father benefits from it.

I struggle with an idealism that often becomes my idol. Although I think I'm learning to take my idealism from it's idolatrous place in my life, I'm still not ready to forsake certain ideals, and I suspect, neither are you. Thanks for this thought provoking and challenging post.

Franklin

G-Knee said...

I agree with G-harmony...you stated that we wouldn't know what politics you are speaking of, that's fine...I've had my own to battle through...sometimes growing up is difficult, but maturity really helps to ground us, in a good way...not that I'm mature...oh, whatever...nevermind....I liked what you posted...

Ben said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments, friends. Bob, that doesn't include you. You obviously have some "fear of man" issues. ;-)