Our reading for today comes from Hebrews 12:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Recently, I attended my dad’s retirement celebration up in my hometown of Bishop, Ca. After 40 years in ministry, it was finally time for him to hang his hat and crossover into a new era. As my brothers and I reflected on our childhood as pastor’s kids, growing up with parents in ministry jobs, it was a very cathartic experience for me to think about my own teaching ministry. These “jobs” - our jobs - as we know, aren’t often pretty. In fact, the longer I do this, the longer I’ve realized that ministry is more often messy than magical. And really, really hard. We are all incredibly imperfect people who work with other incredibly imperfect people - families, parents, students, co-workers, you name it. We are all ENTANGLED with sin. At least I am. And this can sometimes make our ministry stressful, infuriating, and sometimes, downright defeating. But if we can somehow find a way (and that way I’m clearly still figuring out) to keep running our race (and each of those are going to look unique) and not.give.up, I think God somehow meets us there and really does somehow make a treasure out of each of our little fragmented “jobs.” Messes and stresses and all. Seeing my dad come to the “end” of his ministry somehow made this truth a little clearer to me.
Earlier this year at AstroCamp, I was reminded of God’s interesting ways of spurring us on, even when we grow weary with messes. It was our last night at camp, and we were all tired - starting to look forward to wrapping things up and getting home. We were just coming out of the dining hall, stuffed from dinner and ready to tackle the evening’s activities. I was definitely giving myself an inner pep talk to stay positive and enjoy our last night there.
As we got down the steps, one of the 7th grade girls, with a very concerned look, approached me and whispered, “Mrs. Brink, I need to tell you something.”
If you teach middle school, or any grade for that matter, and a student approaches you with this phrase, you know it’s time to brace yourself. I took a deep breath, preparing myself for basically anything.
She said, “Mrs. Brink, after we cleaned up our table and threw all our trash away, I realized I can’t find my retainer.” At that moment, after being physically and mentally exhausted from the past two days, my heart dropped and it took everything in me to not just throw my hands up and say, “Alright, I’m outta here.” But, we both knew that wasn’t an option.
As we sucked it up and headed back up to the dining hall to figure this mess out, I was really mentally preparing myself to basically spend the remainder of my evening digging through trash and regurgitated food to find a tiny piece of pink plastic. As we approached our first trash can, one of the camp counselors interrupted us with, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be looking for a retainer, would you?” At that moment, I threw my arms around the poor guy, and we all burst into laughter as he handed us the miraculously found diamond in the rough - the missing retainer. In the middle of a very ordinary moment, we were reminded of how God not only meets us in our messes, but also provides for us in tremendous ways along the way. He cares about every little worry on our mind, task set before us, and problem we have yet to solve. He walks alongside us and goes before us so we can continue these jobs and run the races set before us each day. It won’t always be easy, and it will certainly be messy, but if we keep going, we’ll surely find His miracles along the way.
Sally Brink, St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Orange, CA