The Reality You Can’t See

reality.jpgThe other day, Christine (our older daughter) and Phillip bought their first house.  They closed on their house, etc. on Tuesday.  

How strange!  To think of one of your children with a mortgage.  Surely this must be some sort of passage in life.  (I mean for me as a parent.)  How quickly time moves along — from needing lunch money in grade school to all of a sudden (Okay, that is what it seems like anyway.) having her own mortgage!

This is reality.

So much of reality is practically ignored in this life.  In fact, some of the wonderful realities are practically ignored in our churches.  I am thinking, for instance,  about the reality of what God is doing among us.  Yet, when we ignore this reality, it is our loss.

Far too often, we get overly focused on what we are doing or not doing.  We may get overly focused on what we should be doing or should not be doing.  As a father or mother, as a husband or wife, we often don’t give a lot of thought to what God might be doing in our family.  Being a father or mother is a ministry.  As a Christ-follower, being a married person means that I see myself in ministry to my spouse.  When I go to work (and it doesn’t matter where you or I happen to work), I need to see myself as God’s minister/servant.  Yet, it is possible to completely ignore what God might be doing in those relationships.

This minister/servant identity is not primarily about tasks or making a list of things I need to do for the Lord.  Rather, it is primarily about believing that God is at work through me, as a part of a larger community of people (the church) through which he is accomplishing his purposes in this world.

The reality of everyday ministry is that the "Spirit of the living God" (2 Corinthians 3:3) is at work on the hearts of people to whom we relate and minister.  He tells these people (the early believers at Corinth), "… you yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody" (3:2).  Who has done the writing?  Christ (3:3).

Sometimes I feel as if I am really accomplishing nothing.  Do you relate to this at all?  You may go through those seasons when you wonder if you are making any sort of difference in your family, among your friends, in your church, or in your community.  I have certainly felt this way at times.  At times, my own self-doubt and discouragement have been completely overwhelming and defeating.  Far too often this sense of defeat has been felt most deeply as I have ignored the reality of what he is doing through my life and in the church (whether I can see it or not).

Today, I want to thank God for the reality of his work and his accomplishments.   While I slept, he was at work.  He will be at work today.   Rather than get too caught up in what I am doing, I want to center my confidence on what he has done and continues to do.  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “The Reality You Can’t See

  1. Jim, This is very timely for me, as I’ve been thinking along these same lines.  Reality vs. illusion and how to set aside illusion and live in reality.  Just yesterday, in fact, I wrote out a quote from Merton and put it up on the bulletin board just above my desk at work:  "I only have time for reality."  Too often I allow the hectic craziness of the day’s schedule (the illusion) to take over the day.  Thanks for expanding on this topic!

  2. I definitely have seasons where I feel ineffective and can’t see the fruit of my labors. It’s good to be reminded that while we may sow the seed, it is up to God to bring the harvest–and that every harvest has a "growing" season where we may not see any yield for a while.
    I think that when we get to Heaven, we’ll be surprised by how many people we meet whose lives have been impacted in some way by ours. I think that will be one of our rewards, getting to finally see how God has worked all things out for good and to fully see the work that He has done in all of our lives without us knowing it.

  3. "So much of reality is practically ignored in this life.  In fact, some of the wonderful realities are practically ignored in our churches."
    While we may be guilty of ignoring the reality of God working in our midst, the church is also guilty sometimes of ignoring the reality of life among its people. I have always been offended by the mentality that we should leave our worries and cares outside the sanctuary and come into God’s presence unburdened by the world. In fact, the opposite should be true. We should bring everything to the foot of the cross and leave it there. Unfortunately, we all have seen and been guilty of not being honest with other believers about the reality in our lives because we are afraid it may make us look less than perfect. Or we are afraid it may lead to gossip…but that is a whole other topic.

  4. Jim, I totally agree (though I’m not very good at any of this stuff, I desperately want to be).  We talked about Ps. 22 last evening with a group of 25 or so.  It’s a song/prayer we’ve all been praying through this week.  I noticed something in that Psalm which you just touched upon–the psalm lives between two graces.  The psalmist, experiencing great pain, looks backward to what God has done, while looking forward, fully anticipating God to act righteously (remain faithful).  The backward glance and the forward longing flooded Him in the present so that He could endure the hardship/cross/or in our case, our stewardship.  As you put it, "I want to center my confidence on what he has done and continues to do."  
    Yes, that’s a good word, a nourishing reminder for me to take with me today.  Thanks, Jim!

  5. Connie,A nice quote from Merton!  I like that.  Which one of his books/writings did that line come from?Thanks. 

  6. Keith,I think you are exactly right.  If we do not bring "our worries and cares" into our worship experiences, how do we get any sense of perspective?  So often when I have brought my worries into the Sunday morning experience, I come away with a better perspective as to where these issues fit into God’s larger purpose.  At times I have come away realizing that I have not handled these cares very well in light of my faith commitment.   At other times, I have become aware of the faithfulness of God in spite of the way I have been feeling. 

  7. Ben,Thanks for what you shared regarding Ps. 22.  Very, very good.This idea of being conscious of God being at work behind the scenes is something I am trying to be conscious of, Ben.  For far too long, I have been overly focus on what I could see (especially that which seemed to be the results of my ministry).

  8. Jim,
    That quote came in the weekly Merton reflection I receive by e-mail every week.  I didn’t record which of his writings it came from and I’ve discarded that e-mail now. Sorry!

  9. Jim,
    Just the words I needed to hear today. Too often we feel like our work is futile, all the while forgetting that the One whose work it is, is still working.
    Thank you.

  10. Your blog really resonated with me today, especially since I am in a position in my employment where I feel like I should be able to do more for the Lord, and yet I feel like I’m on a treadmill…running as fast as I can trying to make a difference, but getting nowhere.  I find myself thinking maybe I’m not allowing God to dictate my direction, but I look around and see His hand everywhere…moving me here, causing me to turn there…  Thanks for the uplifting message.

  11. Iain,Thanks for your comment.  I think many people can identify with what you said regarding being on a treadmill, etc.  You describe yourself as "…running as fast as I can to make a difference but getting nowhere."  I wonder, Iain, if in fact you might be making a greater difference in people’s lives than you might even realize.  I do identify with what you are saying regarding wanting to make a difference in particular ways and feeling as if I am not.Anyway–so glad you left this comment and hope you will do this again.