A few years ago, I stood in my church’s kitchen combing through massive chunks of steaming pulled pork. It was to be sold heaped between hamburger buns as part of a mission fundraiser.
As I coaxed the juicy meat into smaller chunks, I was disappointed.
I’d recently been pulled out of a couple ministry opportunities at my church. I’d been assured that it wasn’t about my heart or competence – just other things going on.
The struggle in my heart was real. Sin kept whispering at me, You wanted to do X and Y and here you are in the kitchen, holding a fork. The Spirit in me wasn’t that stupid. I knew it’s not about me. I knew ambition is unholy. But sometimes lies can feel overwhelming, especially in my already-formidable climate of fear and self-criticism. A gale against a fragile sapling of holiness, trying to stay upright.
Unlooked for, as I stared down into the pan of shredded pork, God spoke into the gale.
I am shredding you.
I was reading through Romans from the beginning while I was in the Czech Republic. The first thing I ran into? An apostle Paul who very much shares my mind on the desire for a harvest.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. – Romans 1:8-13
For all Paul’s reputation as a man of echoing words and fist-pounding exhortation, it’s a little surprising to see him opening his letters in such a tender and plaintive way.
I’m notorious at my church for car troubles.
In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. One time, I had a engine trouble to where it would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump, and then my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing the engine. (I’m not a car person.)
No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.