I will always be grateful to Gordon MacDonald.
It was a number of years ago. We were living in Florence, Alabama, at the time and working with a church. It was tough work. I recall feeling much pressure. There was so much to do and so many people with many, many needs. For a while, I dealt with this pressure by working harder. When I was completely overwhelmed, I could just get up earlier, stay up later, or both.
Finally, at some point, I came across a book by Gordon MacDonald. The book was entitled Ordering Your Private World. Slowly, I began to see how much I had neglected my own "private world" or my inner life before God. In particular, I was not really aware of how emotionally empty I would become at times and its impact upon my life. God was gracious and kind and continued to work in wonderful ways through some tough times. Yet, if I could live that period of life over again, I think (given what I know now) that I would be much more attentive to what was happening inside of me.
In the most recent issue of Leadership Journal, Gordan MacDonald, in an article entitled "Ministry’s Sweet Spot," writes about a mentoring group he and his wife were leading. He speaks of the importance of hearing one another’s stories. He writes:
After listening to stories for many years, I can tell you this: almost without exception, every person’s story is marked with pockets of deep, deep sadness and tragedy. Lots of stuff that never gets surfaced in the course of normal church life. (Spring 2008, p. 94)
When I read these lines in the article, I paused and then read them again. These words are very, very true. Within us all, there are places of sadness. For some that sadness is associated with a deep disappointment of some kind. Others have experienced a significant moment of humiliation or shame. Others have experienced a tragedy, sometimes due to the behavior of others.
The question that I want to keep before me is: "What am I doing with this sadness?" Far too many people "act out" in various ways in order to somehow lessen or mask the pain. Others may act out in ways that result in a trail that is littered with hurt feelings, broken friendships, and burned bridges.
What do God-hungry people do? (This is the question I want to always be wrestling with.) God-hungry people know that what we need more than anything is God himself. Carlo Carretto expressed it this way in The God Who Comes:
The God-who-is has always been searching for me. By his choice, his relationship with me is presence, as a call, as a guide; he is not satisfied with speaking to me, or showing things to me, or asking things of me. He does much more.
He is Life, and he knows his creature can do nothing without him; he knows his child would die of hunger without bread.
But our bread is God himself, and God gives himself to us as food.
Only eternal life can feed one who is destined for eternal life.