How much of success is due not to talent or opportunity, but simply due to showing up, I wonder?
It was my word for 2019, and it characterizes this year well. Nothing has gone as I had hoped. No new opportunities, ministries, or relationships. But God was faithful, and He taught me some things about faithfulness.
I work at a little church in a little town in the middle of nowhere. This year hasn’t held anything all that grandiose. Every week, I print a bulletin. Every week, it becomes obsolete and people throw it away. It’s a small thing, maybe, but it seems like such an example of what ministry is actually like.
It’s easy to go into ministry, expecting to spend most of your time changing lives and saving souls and “making a difference”. And yes, working in full-time ministry does mean that I get to share the Gospel sometimes and some lives are changed and there are “big moments”.
But life, and ministry, are full of lots of seemingly small moments too. Lots more of those than the “big moments”
I work at a pregnancy medical center in a neighboring little town. It’s mostly behind-the-scenes kind of ministry. Every week, I serve clients or teach abstinence presentations or design brochures or work on marketing or build relationships with donors. But some clients come back and some students make the wrong choice and some marketing fails and some relationships go nowhere.
We serve broken people in a broken world. We offer help and empower them to make better choices, but sometimes they still make bad choices. We put our time and effort into things that are necessary, but not always lasting.
So, my lesson was faithfulness this year. The question that was posed to me was, would I keep being faithful if I never saw results, if it didn’t hold the change and adventure I wanted, if it seemed wasted?
Would I keep loving someone who didn’t love me back? Would I keep making that bulletin that would get thrown away? Would I keep telling students about healthy choices, knowing that some of them would tune me out and do whatever they wished? Would I pour my heart and soul into an event that would be over in one short evening? Would I keep teaching English to whoever happened to show up to class that night?
Would I keep showing up?
I look back over the past year, and, by the grace of God, my answer was yes. I did keep showing up. There were plenty of times that I didn’t understand why, or didn’t want to keep going. Even now, I’m in a season where if I look too far ahead, I get overwhelmed and don’t know if I can stay faithful – but I can do just one more day.
One more day. I don’t need to have the strength to show up for one more week or month or year, not yet. I just need to show up one more day. And then do it again tomorrow. And then the next day. And the next.
Suddenly I look up and realize that the year is almost over. I did it, just showing up one day at a time.
See, maybe I can’t get abortion to be unthinkable to everyone today. But I can love the one girl in front of me, and make it unthinkable to her. I can’t solve the dilemmas of poverty culture for my whole valley right now. But I can give the class of students in front of me some tools to make good choices. I can’t turn my whole church into Biblically literate people who all walk worthy of the calling of Christ overnight. But I can share the story of Mary and Martha with a growing new believer who’d never heard it before, and we can pray together.
And one person at a time, hearts ARE changed and lives ARE transformed and I may not be able to see it in the middle of it, but somehow, showing up has an impact that the “big and grandiose” things never will.
The thing is, it doesn’t just change “them”. It changes me. Somehow, God works through all these things and teaches me things like perseverance and patience and hope. He expands my capacity to love and teaches me what love really is. He gives me words when mine fail and gives me His strength when I feel weak.
I don’t show up in my own strength. I can’t. But in His strength? Oh, His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And His mercies are new EVERY morning.
So, sweet mama, when you don’t know if the crying baby in your arms will follow Christ faithfully as an adult and it worries you . . . maybe just try showing up today, and hold her and love her and trust God with her.
Dear worker, when your job feels really pointless or terribly frustrating . . . maybe just try asking God to give you a good attitude today, see what opportunities arise to practice that, and show up, one more day.
Faithful friend, when you’re tired of loving people who need your love but don’t heed your advice, and you feel like your care and concern and words are wasted . . . maybe just try listening and praying one more time, show up, and wait to see what God might do.
Perhaps you will discover that it was really the seemingly little things that were actually the big things all along. Perhaps it will be showing up that makes the difference. Perhaps God rewards faithfulness more than we guessed He would.
Keep showing up. And may God bless you as you do so.