It probably won’t surprise a lot of people knowing my commitment levels and reading speeds that I am still reading through the Narnia series but I am onto the last book now, The Last Battle. And it’s got me thinking about how actually, life often does feel like a battle. Sometimes it can feel like just as we have one thing at bay, another challenge hits and we end up feeling like a master juggler being asked to unicycle on a tightrope. But then something struck me about something Jill said in The Last Battle. As she is going into battle, she says this:
“I was going to say I wished we’d never come. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. Even if we are killed. I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and and perhaps go about in in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.”
I think this is what ministry can feel like sometimes. There’s no doubting it can be hard, that’s a given, but I’ve never once wished I was somewhere else, doing something else. I’ve just started a new job and with that, there are inevitably challenges. Everything’s new, you’re still finding your feet and you don’t quite know what you’re doing. Some days it’s an absolute joy in every way, some days it just feels like you can’t keep going, but on none of those days could I think of anything I would rather be doing. It’s fair to say, I’m not facing the possibility of being killed on a day to day basis for what I do but still something with what Jill said resonated with me.
When you start something new, there is often a fear of doing something wrong, that’s inevitable. What’s a problem is when it overshadows the fear of not doing anything. Because there’s a healthy kind of fear, the kind of fear that reminds us we are not infallible, we are not infinite, we are not indestructible. Psalm 139 tells us “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We tend to love that verse as we see it cross stitched on cushions, painted in watercolours across our walls and decorating our notebooks and journals. But how often we read it as “I praise you because I am wonderfully made.” But that’s not what David writes. David praises God because he is fearful before anything else. Because he has someone to be fearful of, someone who is infallible, infinite and indestructible. In fact, if we were to make a list of the ‘heroes of the Bible’, when pressure builds and ministry is hard, their common denominator would not be that they were wonderful but that they were scared. Martin Luther described faith as a living, daring confidence in God’s grace so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. That terrifies me but in the most wonderful way. How exciting to have a faith like that.
But then there’s the other fear. The fear that drives us away from anything, the fear that leaves us growing stupid and old at home. Because Jill says that we all “die in the end just the same”. It may seem like a depressing thought, but her fear is not dying, her fear is dying having not done anything. While we may sit here and say it doesn’t sound all that cheery, who can really say they’ve read right through to The Last Battle growing up without at some point running to the back of our wardrobe desperately hoping to be there ourselves? Who has read through the the perilous quests of The Hobbit without wanting to explore Middle Earth or grown up with Harry Potter in all his magical scrapes and dangers without at some point sitting at home waiting for that acceptance letter from Hogwarts? That’s what ministry is like, only more thrilling because it’s real. It’s not standing at the back of an empty wardrobe, it’s not dreaming of another world, it’s not sitting at home waiting it’s real people with real lives and real battles. It’s fearful but it is wonderful. It’s messy but it’s worth it. 🙂