The Pain and Joy of An Unfinished Story

Often people comment on how fortunate we are to find meaningful work that seems to line up perfectly with our personal stories, passions, and expertise. That's true and yet I've been finding myself thinking a lot about the rest of the story - the parts that often aren't fit for print.

They say that our greatest opportunities for ministry come from our deepest pains or brokenness. See e.g., Rick Warren, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul. I believe this to be, but I sure wish it weren't.

The ministry of Impact Foundation, in many ways, is borne of our personal experiences navigating the impact of wealth on our families of origin and helping friends do the same. 

As I've traveled the last several weeks telling the story of Impact Foundation, I find myself trying to tell it with a happy ending. I want to tie it all in a nice little bow and present my observations and experiences as if they're final and complete. As if "that's what used to be true in my life, but it's not anymore. Now everything is sunshine and roses." 

In reality, the story/needs/desires that undergird our work, especially the stories in our own families, are far from complete. Very much still in process. No nice, tidy little bows to tie around the lessons we've learned so we can pass them along to others in this ministry. 

In fact, there's still more raw pain than I expected. It makes me wonder if we're really in the right place at all. Maybe I should just go back to the law firm to write contracts and complete transactions. Wouldn't that be easier than wading through the messy, incomplete, sometimes painful stories? 

I find these words from John Piper on this topic convicting: 

One of the reasons biblical Christianity has to be so drastically distorted in order to sell it to mass markets is that the market wants power to escape weakness in leisure, but Christianity offers power to endure weakness in love.
Verse 9 just doesn't sell: "Jesus said [in response to Paul's prayer], 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." IN weakness? What the market wants is escape from weakness, not power in weakness. But to meet that felt need in the market the message must be distorted—and often is.

I resonate with that. I want ministry without the pain of brokenness. I want to have positive impact on the world, but would prefer if loving people wasn't so dang hard. I want the resurrection without the cross. 

The version of the gospel that I'd prefer - the one that brings me healing and ministry without struggle or pain - is not only untrue, it's hollow and fails to meet my deepest needs. 

Maybe the pain isn't a sign of being on the wrong path. Perhaps it's like the pain of broken bone being reset, put in a cast, and allowed to heal. And I know that though my story feels incomplete, the Author knows the beginning, middle, and end, writing it all for our good and His Glory.

So, for now, I'll choose hope and rest in these words from singer/songwriter Shane Barnard: 

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering