A while back God revealed an inner insecurity. It happened, by his mercy, and unexpectedly, while I was enjoying the most delicious plate of juicy, tender roast chicken soaked in creamy mushroom sauce at dinner with Becky, at Poulet. Oh, how we both love Poulet so very much, we practically rave about it each time we meet.
Dinner conversations with Becky are safe, so I opened up a topic that had been bugging me. I started by sharing about how I miss the times I had a group of my own girls to officially mentor and “do life with,” and how I find that in my present job scope, there isn’t enough room to do such things let alone is it structured in such a way that favours these types of mentoring or “life-doing” activities. It’s so unfavourable that I have to practically force squeeze it into my schedule and make sure I cover meeting up whoever the Lord lays upon my heart to meet up.
Halfway through that sharing, I started tearing up. I had no idea it would hit me so hard. And then I said, “I think this is revealing an insecurity. I need people to need me. If I’m not the person that these youths run to when they have trouble in their life, I feel useless and unwanted. I feel like I have failed as their leader.”
In recent moments, this insecurity has bubbled up time and again. It comes up when I see youths at gatherings, or ladies at brunches, or fellow colleagues hash-tagging #mentoring #ministrylife and so on in my social media feeds. I think this is my version of what some youths call FOMO. I have a legit fear of missing out – on people’s lives.
In all objectivity, I think there are many facets to this. For starters, I’m letting comparison ruin my contentment in the season that God has me in my specific department with my specific job scope. At the same time, I believe that I am not limited to nor am I defined by my job scope. I can bust out of that and stretch. Of course, there is real physical limited capacity, so I have to manage time and energy. But it is possible. And I need to be realistic about expectations. Prioritise. I can’t cover the whole worship ministry, but I must touch base with the top tier of leaders regularly, at least.
But I think the deeper issue God is working within me is one that is of a dredging nature. He’s dredging out all the emotional yuck and gunk so that he can get to the core. And at the core he’s asking me, put aside what you feel, because that’s misleading you. Sam, what do you really want?
I realised that I don’t want to be involved deeply in every single person’s life per se, out of the fifties and the hundreds. I don’t want the imagined (and oh so misguided) prestige of being everyone’s Aunt Agony. I don’t want to define my success as a ministry leader by how many people call me up for daily advice. I don’t want to define my effectiveness by how many girls and boys are gathered around my dinner table, or how many people invite me to their homes, or how many house blessings/funerals/hospital visits I get asked to, or how many fellowship events we have. I don’t really want people to need me, because that’s an unhealthy co-dependent relationship and so wrong at so many levels.
So what do I really want?
Here’s where the real ache in my heart is: I highly value authenticity in relationships, to the point that I would rather be known to the people in my life as Sam, plainly and simply. Not Sam-the-ministry-staff, or Sam-our-boss, or Sam-my-leader, or Sam-the-worship-leader, or Sam-the-event-coordinator.
I think there’s a tricky river to navigate when I approach people in various situations wearing different hats, simply because I do have many overlapping roles in ministry. Perhaps there is something about my disposition in each ministry relational encounter, and perhaps it is something I need to acknowledge and work with, as well as work within myself to accept. And aside from the perhaps-es, I ache to slow down. To slow to such a pace that I don’t have to rush past the people in ministry – a touch here, a word there, a prayer here, a rehearsal there. I am aching to create margin in my life, not just for time to do what’s priority in work, but to prioritise people I meet along the way at my work. I want relationships to not be work.
I don’t exactly know how this can happen practically, but at least I know where to channel my misguided (frankly egotistical) “I need people to need me” tendencies now, and how to take these thoughts captive in obedience to Christ and instead ask of him – Lord, show me how these relationships should really be. Let me be excellent at work but let me not just relate with people on merely the work level. Grant your favour upon the relationships I have, that what I’ve just mentioned be a mutual desire between myself and the other parties. At the same time, deepen my identity and security in you, that I will not have an irrational FOMO. FOMO is a poor motivator and it will not sustain me in leadership. Instead, let me be motivated by your love to reach people. Only because of love, not for self-gain. All in Jesus’ name, amen.