I averaged 53.2 hours of ministry per week during my time at Estes Park Leadership Training, so I wasn’t exactly twiddling my thumbs out there. Still, it feels like my roles largely landed in the category of “Helpful, but not Essential.”
Part of this was circumstantial: arriving a few weeks after the start of the program, after rhythms and relationships had been established.
But I’m choosing to believe that another part of this phenomenon had something to do with what God wanted to teach me. I felt like God wanted to bring my heart to a place of resting instead of striving. I heard God telling me that He’s got everything under control — and my best role is to enjoy, ascribe, and celebrate the glory of what God is doing: in ministry at Kent State University, in the fund-raising that supports our ministry work, in parenting and marriage, in everything.
The truth of the matter is that God’s purposes are going to be accomplished. With or without me. If people don’t step up to fill the roles God has appointed for them, he will use animals or inanimate objects. We really are “Helpful, but not Essential,” when it comes to Kingdom work. We can choose to be depressed by that or encouraged by that. But it’s something we need to get into our heads.
You know what’s funny?!? Later on the same day that I wrote some of these thoughts down in my journal, ministry dynamics started changing rather quickly. I’ve been coaching and caring for some European missionaries (from afar) ever since I moved back to the United States in 2012. It’s been pretty low-key for the last six years, but all of the sudden there has been some unexpected chaos and confusion brought about by personal circumstances — and they suddenly need help. On my last day at Estes Park Leadership Training, I had two separate — but equally intense — conversations about lives in turmoil. These conversations included elements of emotional trauma, spiritual pain, and existential angst. In essence, they were sending out clear cries for help. Then on the drive back from Colorado to Ohio, I learned that two other young women from our project were brought face-to-face with sudden tragedy at their job site and struggling to make sense of it all. Again, in this situation, my heart longs to help. But I have very little to offer, considering the circumstances.
In all of these situations, I’ve been reminded that I cannot take on any sort of “Savior Complex” or “Hero’s Cape” — though, believe me, I’m tempted to try. This is where it’s cool, though, to see the way that God has orchestrated things. My summer of learning to be “Helpful, but not Essential” has been preparing me to trust God — and spend my energies joining the battle in the spiritual realm, in prayer, while He does the heavy lifting in the lives of each of these people.