On a scale of 1 to Christian, I used to be pretty close to an awesome 10.
I’ve been going to church regularly since I was in diapers. I accepted Christ as my savior at age 3. My biggest flaws have been things like swearing and gossiping. But lying, starting fights, or being hurtful? That sort of stuff has never been me.
I have been a pretty great person my whole life. That is… until I started trying harder to put my faith in action by volunteering, serving, and being more involved in my church.
It’s only when I started to prioritize volunteering and service that I started to realize — I can really suck sometimes. I can be sort of entitled, selfish, and hurtful.
… which makes ZERO SENSE. I thought giving back would make me feel awesome. I thought if I worked hard, everything would go smoothly. But when I put in a lot of effort and don’t feel appreciated, I can get frustrated. Not every time. But definitely sometimes.
If the college group I run has to be cancelled or postponed, again — even if there’s a perfectly good reason, again — I can feel upset.
And as much as I try to be calm, kind, and flexible, get frustrated sometimes. I might stress out other people unnecessarily (people who aren’t to blame for anything). Because that’s life. That’s what happens when you’re in ministry. That’s what happens when you try to give back. It’s not all happiness and gumdrops and marshmallows and free pizza.
(But do you mind if I take some of the pizza home? I don’t get paid for any of this, and I would really love some free lunch.)
Here’s the cold, hard reality. Something I knew, in theory, but didn’t really understand until I started experiencing it firsthand.
Churches, ministries, or any place you volunteer: they are all filled with people. Talented, well-meaning, but still imperfect, human people. And sometimes other people’s wants, needs, or priorities don’t line up with yours.
You might disagree. You might not get your way. What your group wants might need to modified or sacrificed for the sake of the greater good.
And that is okay.
I decided to volunteer and serve because I was tired of going to church, reading my Bible, but not doing anything practical. If Jesus spent his life loving the outcasts, the rebels, the lonely, the hungry, and those in need — why had I never bothered to do the same?
Why was I going to church, attending a weekly Bible study, and calling it good? Why could I never bother to take it to the next level — to step out of my comfort zone and get messy?
So I did. I started taking action…trying to do what I could to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
It’s been awesome. I’ve seen God at work–in my life and in other people’s. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m participating in the Kingdom of God, not just being a spectator.
But when you step out of the sidelines — stop watching the game, and actually start playing it — you quickly realize how much you don’t know.
Everyone watching from the sidelines feels like an expert. You’ve seen this play a thousand times. You know exactly what’s supposed to happen.
But once you’re in the game — with people running all around you, encountering new situations, reacting to things you’ve never experienced before — you quickly realize how MUCH HARDER things are out on the field than they look from the sidelines.
I don’t like it when I get frustrated. I don’t like it when I make life harder for some great people who are just trying to do the best they can. But it happens.
Because they’re human. And I’m human. We all really want to do some good — to love people like Jesus did — but sometimes our humanness gets in the way.
But that is part of being a Christian community. That is part of being in relationships with other flawed, imperfect humans. We’re all going to sort of suck sometimes.
The important thing is that we share the same purpose. Everything we do happens because we’re trying — humanly, imperfectly, but consistently trying — to love our world like Jesus does. To take that hope, that peace, that completely undeserved forgiveness, and that overwhelming, unexpected, deep LOVE of Jesus we’ve all felt … and tried as best we can to share that with other people.
That is what it’s all about. This week, I was smacked with the frustrating reality that I won’t always be great at it. I will sort of suck sometimes. But as long as I keep learning, trying, and growing — that is exactly where I want to be.