Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Embracing the Fingerprints on the Fish Bowl

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Children grow up playing hide and seek, school and house and while I played all of these things as a child, I also played church. My brother was on the piano and I often had “a word from the Lord” for the dolls, stuffed animals and pretend congregations that filled the living room. When you grow up as a PK (preacher’s kid) you mimic what you see. I loved playing church. I loved picking out worship songs, greeting church members, praying with them, and teaching them the word of God. It came as no real shock when at the age of 15 I felt the Lord calling me into ministry. At that time, I wasn’t exactly sure how that would look but marrying a pastor was certainly part of my dream.
The life of pastors and politicians have been referred to as fish bowl lives because every move you make is under scrutiny and being examined with a microscope. As a child, I don’t remember living in a fish bowl. I am sure we did, but my parents did a good job shielding us for the criticism and the opinions of onlookers. I have extremely fond memories of growing up as a PK. We experienced baptisms in the bathtub, impromptu prayer meetings in the den, missionaries as guests and revivals where we witnessed the life changing power of Jesus Christ.  As an adult, I am now aware of the many, many fingerprints and the tapping that occurred on the fish bowl of my childhood but the memories are not negative.
At the age of 22 I met a man who was called into ministry and the Lord in his sovereignty joined our hearts and our visions in ministry and matrimony. I soon found myself the wife of a pastor, a stay at home mom to 4 boys, driving a mini-van and living the dream. And truly most days were just that, a dream come true, but the reality of the ministry life is that we are living in a fish bowl. Every action, every word, every purchase, every vacation, every part of your life is being watched as those inside the church and those outside the church press their noses to the glass to watch. Sometimes that fish bowl feels very cramped and I long to swim in the open ocean far away from the view of onlookers. This longing is not born out of a need to do anything that is hidden, for all that I do is seen by my Savior and it is him I live to please, but I have days that the critical eyes and the piercing words are too much to bare. I am sure that it happens in other areas of life but I have never told my doctor how to do his job. Why? Because I am not a doctor. I have never shared my opinion of flying with a pilot and I certainly don’t tell our accountant how to do our taxes. I have never had the opportunity to vote on the pay or vacation time of a lawyer and truthfully if he wants to buy a new car or wear shoes that aren’t polished that is up to him. In ministry, there are so many that take an interest in every movement that occurs in the fish bowl. They can swim better, hide better, breathe better, interact with the other fish better and yet they have never spent one day in the fish bowl or even underwater. If you are in ministry you know the exact fingerprints I am referring to. Now before I get accused of sounding bitter or angry in ministry let me change directions. Yes, there are those rare days when I want to escape the fish bowl, but the Lord has been molding and shaping my heart and teaching me how to “Embrace the fingerprints on the fish bowl.”
Embrace has been defined as holding closely as a sign of affection. It is the picture of enthusiastically and willingly clasping to your bosom that which you want to take to heart. When you embrace you accept wholeheartedly what is being offered. To embrace the fingerprints on the fish bowl is to welcome and accept the impressions of others, their mark on your life, their touch and even their peculiarities. In ministry, we are privileged to encounter many personalities and even more peculiarities. Embracing those differences is to welcome them and ask the Lord how He wants to use those people and their fingerprints or impressions on your life to make you more like Him. Our goal is to become more like Jesus each and every day.  Just as Paul said, “I want to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 we too should desire to know Jesus in every aspect of His being. Sometimes the fingerprints are impressions left there by those who want to see how they can bless you and enrich your life while others are there to critic and condemn, but if received with the right heart those impressions can also be blessings. It is through those hard times that we learn how to love as Christ loved and He uses those trials of the heart to make us more like Himself.
All of mankind consists of broken people. That is why ministry is necessary. Without the brokenness caused by our sin, we would have no need for the redemption of a Savior. We minister to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We minister to proclaim His love and His message and didn’t He love the unlovable? Even me? I don’t press my nose against others fish bowls very often, rarely do I even peer into the glass, sometimes because of the lack of transparency but mostly because “my opinion of you is none of your business.” My “opinion” of you honestly doesn’t matter, but HIS opinion of you does. Since HE is the only one who matters, my one and only goal is to point you to Jesus. When you know Jesus, you know Truth. When you live according to the truth and live to please an audience of ONE, then it doesn’t matter who is peering in your bowl because HIS opinion is the only one that matters.
It has taken many years, but I have learned to embrace each unique and peculiar fingerprint. I have learned to trace the individual impression that each identifying mark leaves behind and ask the Lord, “What were you teaching me with this one? And how can I become more like you because of this one?” I have developed a heart of gratitude (most days) as I realize that each marking, unique to the individual, were all a part of my sanctification process. The more fingerprints, the more opportunities to grow and allow the Lord to purify my heart. Some days I would like to cry out, “Are you done yet?” but I know the answer before the question is fully formed.  “No, not yet.” And that will continue to be the answer until the Lord Jesus returns to call me home to Heaven.
I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you are in the ministry and weary of all the fingerprints, maybe you serve the Lord in another area and the criticism is too much to bare or maybe you aren’t involved in ministry, yet you feel like the fish bowl of your life has become an observation deck, take heart today and ask the Lord how He could use each fingerprint, each pressed nose and each on looking eye to show you more of Himself. Usually people stop looking in the fish bowl when the fish are belly up. If they are looking it means there is still something to see and your life can be a beautiful testimony of a life lived, molded and shaped to bring glory and honor to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
I Thessalonians 2:8 "So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well."

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