As you could probably imagine, 2020 was a strange year for finishing a master’s degree and be ministering to people. For many people, 2020 was a year of hardship and isolation. And, if I am honest, 2020 was filled with seasons of discouragement and challenge in the work I am doing with homeless moms and kids here in Washington. It is easy to look at 2020 and only see the bad parts. It is even easier to look at this year and see all the ways we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to, we didn’t see the growth in ourselves we wish we could see, and the ways we “missed out” this year.
However, I wanted to take a few minutes to acknowledge that, while 2020 was a hard year, it was a year of growth. This was my first year doing ministry full-time, and I have learned so much through that. I am grateful that 2020 has been a year of learning about work, faithfulness, and calling. I pray that as you read what God has taught me that it would encourage you to think about the great things He has done in you in 2020!
A life-changing thing I learned this year is that our call is to be faithful, even when no one notices.
If I am honest, there were many points this year when I felt like giving up and choosing a different career path. Working with traumatized children and hearing hard stories every day, while seeing that growth is SLOW and at times unseeable, is draining. Doing intake at work now means that I hear brokenness every day, and sometimes I cannot even help people in their situations. Growth is slow moving and ministry is hard. There were countless days in 2020 where I would come home and wonder if all of my pouring out was worth it. There were many days when I wondered if anyone could see the work I did and if it even mattered.
In the long seasons of this year where it felt like no one noticed me or my work for the sake of others, God was gracious to teach me something. He hasn’t called me to produce fruit in the lives of others. He has called me to be faithful, even when no one notices.
In a couple weeks in September, I thought about faithfulness a lot and I thought it meant that we should be faithful because that is the right thing to do. However, just being faithful because it is the right thing to do is not very compelling when you are having to choose faithfulness EVERY DAY in hard seasons of ministry. The moral obligation of faithfulness has not been enough to compel me to keep going. Instead, what has been enough is the reminder that God won’t forget our faithfulness.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Many of the New Testament writers, including Paul, expand on the teacher’s words by acknowledging that when Jesus returns, all people’s deeds will be brought into light and God’s faithful people will be rewarded. What has kept me going in all the hard moments of ministry this year? The confidence that God has not and will not forget all of my actions. He will not forget the ways that I have chosen to be faithful, just like He won’t forget the ways I choose not to be faithful. God will remember them all. What compels me to keep going and to keep ministering, even when no one notices, is that I want God to be proud of me. When my deeds are exposed, I want him to be seen and for him to be proud of the ways I was faithful.
But this faithfulness doesn’t come from my own strength. In 2020, I have learned that my strength is never enough to continue to endure in faithfulness. The strength to endure comes from looking to Jesus who endured perfectly for us. Hebrews 12:2-3 says that we endure by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” When I think of all that Jesus has done for me, all the ways he endured for the sake of me, I want to be faithful. How could I not desire to be faithful for the one who suffered much for the sake of me?
In all the moments of weariness in ministering in 2020, God has been gracious to help me not to lose heart. He has been kind to teach me what it means to be faithful and what it looks like to endure in ministry this year. For my heart to be humbled in that way this year, is something I will be forever grateful.
This year, I have learned that I want to be a good leader who is present, who inspires, and who encourages.
I am not sure if you have ever had a boss that feels a bit MIA or is just really busy. I have had leaders in my life who were quite busy. I think that one of the great challenges of having leaders with no capacity to be present is that it is difficult to feel seen and encouraged to continue to work hard.
Rather than being trapped in bitterness from my frustrations about the failures of some in leadership, I thought it was important to learn skills from this. What I learned is that I want to be a leader who inspires people and who encourages people. I want people to feel inspired to share their ideas and to be excited about their dreams when they are around me. I want people to be inspired to work hard and work well because they see their leader working hard and faithfully. I want those I am leading to feel like they can come to me and have my full attention. And, most of all, I want people to feel encouraged when they are with me. I hope to grow to be a leader who affirms often and who always sees the good in others’ gifts, skills, and hard work.
Lastly, in 2020 I learned how to bring hope into people’s pain.
Through working in the intake role and continuing to work with upper elementary homeless children, I have heard many hard stories this year. It seems like every day I get a call from a woman trying to flee her domestic violence situation or I hear a story of a mom wanting to choose a different path that doesn’t include addiction. I listen to women call me from their tent on the street or from loud homeless shelters, hoping that their conversation with me could be the beginning of a new life. I hear stories from the kids at work about their loneliness, their confusion about how a good God could have allowed them to suffer, or about what it is like to feel like their brains are broken from the trauma they have experienced. As you can imagine, some of my days in ministry are heavy.
More than any other year, I have learned the power of being present in people’s pain. There is something really powerful about sitting with people in their painful winter, rather than pressuring them to be well so that spring might come. Be the person who chooses not to rush the winter, bring present in it, but who hopes with people that spring is coming. Healing can happen in the lives of people and faithful relationships are a big part of that healing. I am thankful to have been a part of some people’s hardest moments and be the person who offers a peaceful presence.
Thank you for listening to my thoughts about what I have learned this year. I pray that God helps you to look inward to see how 2020 has shaped you, and perhaps how it has grown you as well.