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Posted May 2, 2016:
Making A Difference
We all want, one way or another, to make a difference. We want our
lives to matter. And we would like to see “results” for our efforts.
As a young minister I paid attention to things like worship
attendance and membership numbers. They would confirm (or
de-confirm) my efforts, whether I was making a difference. It’s not
that such indicators are meaningless -- they do tell us something.
But it’s hard to keep the ego from getting hooked by such things --
with its usual distorting effect.
At this stage of life I am incredibly blessed to have regular
experiences that remind me my life and ministry has made a
difference. And they mostly come as a gift and a surprise.
The other evening, for instance, I ran into a woman who was active
at a church I served. She hugged me and said, “Do you remember when
you went with me to first AA meeting?” I really didn’t, but she
clearly did. “I’ve been clean and sober now for thirteen years,” she
said beaming. “Thank you.”
This kind of thing is worth a lot, much more than some kind of
success by the numbers.
The odd thing is that most of the time I really don’t remember the
thing I did or said that has made a difference to someone. But they
do. Still, at this age and time of life, these gifts come as some
sort of crop of lovely, unexpected fruit. A sweet surprise.
Sometimes, perhaps often, the differences we make are a long time
coming. They come on a schedule not our own. In this culture we are
terribly short term and focused on “the metrics.” But I’m guessing
the things that really count often take years to come to fruition
and the fruit they bear may be different than we imagined or
These encounters and expressions of gratitude and meaning are also a
testament to the pastoral life. It is and remains a privilege to be
an instrument of God’s grace. Sometimes we are that because we have
intended it. Sometimes we are such instruments more in spite of
ourselves. God chooses to work through such flawed instruments as me
and you. Don’t you forget it!