My name is Jeff and I'm a pastor of a small, local, Christian fellowship

It's a wonderful thing to love your work; to know that when you do it you are doing something that you were born to do. I am so fortunate to be both. I don't say I am the best at what I do. God knows that are so many others who do it better. But I do feel fairly lucky to be called by such a good God to do work I can only do with his help, to be loved by a beautiful woman, and to have a workshop where I can work my craft. These musings of mine are part of that work.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This is my story

Recently, we finished reading Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott in our weekday family reading time. It’s the story of the five missionaries and their wives – Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, Nate and Marj Saint, Pete and Olive Flemming, Ed and Marilou McCully, and Roger and Barbara Youderian – who moved to the wilds of Ecuador in the 1950s pursuing God’s call on their lives. If you’ve seen the movie The End of the Spear, you know that the men were killed on a Sunday in January in 1956 at the hands of the very people they had come to serve, martyred for the sake of the Gospel. Their deaths became a national news story and captured the hearts of many who heard it. Our copy happens to be the 25th Anniversary edition which includes an epilogue written by Elliott in 1981. In it she writes:

“Although the pathway of my life has taken many unimaginable turns
since I wrote this (my first) book, I have not been allowed to forget
the story. I would not have wanted to forget it, but there have been
times when I have wondered if others might. Perhaps they have tired
of it. Should I continue the retelling as I am so often asked to do?
I spoke of my misgivings to Miss Corrie ten Boom who, as an old lady
indefatigably traveled the world to tell her own story over and over
again, of her family's providing refuge to Jews in Holland during
World War II, of their being betrayed and imprisoned in a concentration
camp,and of the death of her sister and aged father as a result.
‘Sometimes,’ she told me, ‘I have said, “Lord, I must have something
fresh. I cannot go on telling the old story.” But the Lord said to me,
“This is the story I gave you. You tell that one.”’ So Corrie encouraged
me to go on telling mine.”

We all have a story that’s been given to us to share. To our own ears and to others it may not sound overly dramatic and even worth sharing. I mean, my own story is fairly pedestrian as tales go. No drug abuse. No lewd sex. No time behind bars. No, I was just a kid raised in a church who one day, in the middle of a conversation, realized he did not know God and asked simply to be introduced. A “non-event” by the standard measure. And yet it sufficed and propelled me into the vocation I am now in – a man who is determined to spend the rest of his life telling the best Story ever told.

The problem is our perspective. We are always captivated by the famous, the glamorous, the infamous, those who stumble upon the prized “15 minutes of fame” (think, “Joe the Plumber”). We do not comprehend that we are prone to look at things through the wrong end of the telescope. It makes me think of C.S. Lewis’ protagonist in The Great Divorce who while on his journey through the borderlands of heaven, encounters a parade of sorts of someone whom he surmises must have been someone famous here on earth.

‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of [his guide informs him].
Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’”

“ ‘She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?’”

“ ‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in
this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.’”

We are forever making judgments about others and about ourselves, about our significance or lack thereof. In most of us I would guess that this is a healthy dose of modesty at work. But as Paul once said about his own detractors:

“It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don't even rank myself. Comparisons
in these matters are pointless. I'm not aware of anything that
would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn't
mean much. The Master makes that judgment.”

So don't get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with
your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes,
he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of
things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and
prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the "Well done!"
of God.”

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (Msg)

We all have but one story to tell – our own. “By the grace of God,” Paul said later in the same letter, “I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV). And so as lame as my own story seems to me – and probably to others as well – I guess it’s not mine to judge. So until I see rightly, which won’t be this side of heaven, I’ll continue to sing one of my favorite Fanny Crosby hymns loudly and lustily:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long