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Ministry in the Wake of Adoption, Part 2

November 28, 2012

After our second adoption, the more chaotic things grew at home, the more I longed to return to ministry in the church. I strategized how we could make it work logistically. I rationalized that outside ministry was necessary and good. I prayed that God would make it happen.

God did not. Not that the need wasn’t there in the church. Every August I got a call from our children’s pastor asking if I could fill one of the openings in the Children’s Ministries roster; I read newsletter announcements about choir rehearsals with a wistful sigh.

But God knows everything. He can see the conflicting desires in my heart: that while I cling to anything besides Jesus for my sense of self-worth, I cannot open my arms to embrace what God has given me: all of Himself and circumstances that hour by hour chip away at my self-righteousness.

Can this be a coincidence?

He wants to fill my emptiness with more of Himself, while I try to fill it with more of me.

In The Gospel-Centered Life, Bob Thune and Will Walker ask, “What do you count on to give you a sense of personal credibility (validity, acceptance, good standing)? Your answer to that question will often reveal something (besides Jesus) in which you find righteousness.” Some of their examples:

  • Job Righteousness: I’m a hard worker, so God will reward me.
  • Family Righteousness: Because I “do things right” as a parent, I am more Godly than parents who can’t control their kids.
  • Theological Righteousness: I have good theology. God prefers me over those who have bad theology.
  • Intellectual Righteousness: I am better read, more articulate, more culturally savvy than others, which obviously makes me superior.
  • Schedule Righteousness: I am self-disciplined and rigorous in my time management, which makes me more mature than others.
  • Flexibility Righteousness: In a world that’s busy, I’m flexible and relaxed. I always make time for others. Shame on those who don’t.
  • Mercy Righteousness [Me: We could call this one Adoption Righteousness]: I care about the poor and disadvantaged the way that everyone else should.

Their list goes on. I would add:

  • Ministry Righteousness: I minister in my areas of giftedness. When I step out of my ministry roles, I long to go back; I desire the ‘praise of men.’

This is one of the ways parenting hurt children hurts. It calls us to a highly specialized, sometimes isolating ministry that is often devoid of the “bless and be blessed” (by people) feedback we get from ministry to the wider body of Christ.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” 

James 1:27

Isn’t that a tall order? Not only are we called to look after orphans and widows in their distress (NIV), we are called to guard our own heart, to keep it unspotted from the world, while ministering in circumstances that bring out the worst in us.

Coincidence –or divine appointment?

Jesus is the only way we sinners can stand “pure and udefiled before God the Father.”  Only Jesus can minister to the deepest needs of a traumatized heart. And what does God want the traumatized to know as we ‘visit’? That He loves them unconditionally. That He chose them before the foundation of the world to be His own. That His grace is sufficient for every need.

Borne by the Holy Spirit, what is more compelling than the testimony of a fellow struggler (a mom or dad) who has experienced the power and the grace of God and has found Him to be absolutely true to His Word?

God knows we must first struggle with our own sin. So He illuminates it.

That may be why James linked two confounding exhortations. Divinely inspired, he understood that ministering to people in pain shines bright light on the sin-stains on our own soul: our longing for human approval, for time spent with people who build us up, our need to experience right now that what we do has meaning and value.

The alternatives? We would:

  • Look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.
  • Consider Jesus Christ who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but made himself nothing.
  • Experience the truth that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Repent and turn to God so our sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ who has been appointed for us, even Jesus.
  • Determine to know nothing except Jesus and him crucified.
  • Wait in faith for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Oh, my soul, why is there any contest?

Parenting wounded kids may not be ministry of the rise-up-and-call-you-blessed sort. But it is ministry nevertheless. The blessings are of the Sermon on the Mount sort: poor, mourning, hungry & thirsty, merciful, peacemaking, pure in heart, persecuted, reviled.

This is the kind of ministry Jesus chose.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done [like raising exemplary kids], but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior [not our children; not gifted ministry]

That being justified by his grace [not our righteousness], we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:5-7

It is humanly tough to feel God subtracting things we have treasured. I am praying for eyes to see Him stepping into the void He created to and give us more of what we really need: Himself.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joan permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:09 am

    It has been a long time since I’ve visited here, and it was good to hear your words of wisdom again.

    There is a great song that I learned in college by AW Simpson. I love its words and sing it as a prayer because I have a long way to go before it will be true of me. But it is what I want, and I hear the same longing in your post. May we faithfully strive together, looking forward to His “Well Done” at the end of time.

    Once it was the blessing.
    Now it is the Lord.
    Once it was the feeling.
    Now it is His word.
    Once the gift I wanted.
    Now the Giver own.
    Once I sought for healing.
    Now Himself alone.

    Chorus: All in all forever, Jesus will I sing.
    Everything in Jesus, and Jesus, everything.

    Once ’twas painful trying,
    Now ’tis perfect trust;
    Once a half salvation,
    Now the uttermost;
    Once ’twas ceaseless holding,
    Now He holds me fast;
    Once ’twas constant drifting,
    Now my anchor’s cast.

    Once ’twas busy planning,
    Now ’tis trustful prayer;
    Once ’twas anxious caring,
    Now He has the care;
    Once ’twas what I wanted,
    Now what Jesus says;
    Once ’twas constant asking,
    Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

    Once it was my working,
    His it hence shall be;
    Once I tried to use Him,
    Now He uses me;
    Once the pow’r I wanted,
    Now the Mighty One;
    Once for self I labored,
    Now for Him alone.

    Once I hoped in Jesus,
    Now I know He’s mine;
    Once my lamps were dying,
    Now they brightly shine;
    Once for death I waited,
    Now His coming hail;
    And my hopes are anchored
    Safe within the veil.

    My prayer for you this morning is that you will continue to be a bright, shining light for Him while you minister in your special corner of the world.


  1. Ministry in the Wake of Adoption, Part 2- daysofwonderandgrace | Church Ministry

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