As I write this I have been in full-time ministry for over 8 years. Before that, I felt the "call" 6 years earlier. So in total, I have been journeying with God from invitation to activation for 14 years. While this is a drop in the bucket to many folks I know, it has been a long journey. I have grown up, but not grown cold, I have been burned, but not burned out. When pursuing your call there are moments of severe doubt, set-backs that are anything but gentle, moments of sobriety where you realize the next season will require more of you, not less, and that growth is more painful as the years go on, not less.
Once you receive platforms, and recognition, the boat only becomes more rocky. True friendships, where I believe ministry rides or dies, are harder to come by. Those fast few you find you grip with both hands because Christianity is hardly Christianity without dear people to share it with. They are the ones who believe in you in darker times, celebrate you freely in the brightest of spotlights, and walk. with. you. There are others who are simply there for what you offer - a stepping stone or a coattail. Whatever that may be. The joy of calling is deep. But so is the sorrow.
There have been things that have defined my calling, and my commitment to it over the years. One of the deepest, is the idea of a generous life. Gordon MacDonald writes: "Generosity, you see, is the authenticating symbol of resilience, and it is the antithesis of a life trapped in materialism, self-centeredness and an obsession with pleasure." In other words - generosity is having the mind of the kingdom - how can I give away? In a world that has the mind of darkness - how can I take more for me?
For Jon and I, this has taken place in our finances. Nothing has bless our lives more than attempting to rule ourselves by giving our finances freely. We enjoy praying about our tithe and hearing from God about the amount to increase it. We enjoy having a giving fund to bless others. We enjoy (even though at first we are frightened) the times where we sacrifice and give what seems too much. In fact, as I write this it comes to my mind that we haven't had a discussion about sacrificial giving in a while - and - I think that means we are due.
But generosity also embodies how we view our lives our family and ourselves. For us, years ago we decided ministry was a family affair - for better or worse we were all in - altogether - for the entire ride. This meant sometimes sacrificing time as a family to serve other people, finding ways to serve as a family at church, etc. But it also means a deep intentionality. To never view my life or our lives as our own, but to join Jesus in his CAUSE and in his FIGHT. To care for the things he does, and lose ourselves generously along the way.
While I am far from the Saints that have gone before me, I realize that generosity is the way to longevity. It is the only way to run your race with endurance, because as MacDonald writes - is authenticating. I can run forever because I'm running for what matters. What is true. Generosity and living generously is the way to give and have joy, live fully in every season, be fully awake in each moment. In the effort of giving yourself to Jesus' cause and glory, you find that you are running quicker, happier, truer. The goal for me (and maybe you) is this: to pursue our call until the length of our days are done, and be able to say as Paul of Tarsus did:
"This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming." 2 Timothy 4:7-8 The Message