Failures: A few sections ago, I mentioned a woman who we had helped out considerably. We helped her purchase food, we drove her around, we got her out of some bad late night situations, we visited her fiance in prison and picked him up when he was released, we set her up with a place to live for a few months, we had her over for dinner, and we listened to her when she called to express fears or frustrations.
But even if the woman's fiance wasn't helped, what we did was still a good thing. Treating ministry like sowing seeds is great, and I think most people would agree. However, after a bit of reflection, I've recognized that this analogy still lead me to viewing the work here as failing. I noticed that I tended to view the sowing process as a short term one. I felt like seeds were being sown in the first few weeks of our ministry, but then we moved on to harvesting. But that's a bad way to look at this. The woman we helped completely turned away from us and our expectations for her, but I don't think that has necessarily resulted in death. It was just a long sowing process. She had a very long and tragic story. Her life was filled with very thick, rocky soil. It just took us a whole lot longer to plow and plant than it takes with most. One of the biggest seeds that was planted was the seed of persistence. This woman had probably never seen others work so hard to hold on to her when she was working so hard to push away. And though she eventually did push hard enough for us to let go, we released her with open hands, not clenched fists. She knows that we are still here and willing to help her if she decides to return.
At the end of every ministry opportunity, it's important to understand that seeds are being planted in both the one being helped, and those observing the assistance. I also believe it's important to remember that failure is not determined by the outcome of the crop - which is God's responsibility. It is determined by the dedication to and responsible administration of the work. Farmers don't make their seeds grow, they just do their best to give them the best shot they can. We, the ones who cannot even fix ourselves, are not called to fix others. We're called to share the good news and live sanctified lives that point them to the source of healing. We're called to give them the best picture of grace, mercy, and forgiveness we can.