Its been a strange sort of few days recently (and yet par for the course of being a Minister, as well). Over the last week I have received two complaints about my Ministry, one expected and the other not so, but both from people who ought to know better and ought to see the wider picture.
One came in the form of a conversation which threatened resignation if I didn`t do as the person wanted. I warned the person that the moment it was put in writing I would accept it as that is my policy. They backed off somewhat but moved the focus of the complaint onto how I was leading the Circuit.
The second was in the form of a three page letter and again questioning whether I was making correct judgements on a Circuit matter. Ironically the same person had sat with me the previous day and hadn`t done me the courtesy of telling me the letter was coming.
Its hard when you are called to see a wider picture and yet have to deal with people who only want me to focus on their corner. In particular this is occurring with the “Creating Safer Space” training which all Methodist office holders have to complete; some folk cannot see how it affects their office and have made their minds up over this, without stopping to consider that there may be more to the whole thing than they are aware of.
When this happens, and I don`t blame them for it as I can be equally guilty at times, it uses up a lot of my time trying to persuade and convince them. It is really quite draining and if I`m totally honest I begrudge what they have done to my time and my confidence. For it is confidence in my own ability which can easily be shattered when someone says hurtful things. I you`re like me you begin to question your own judgement and ask “am I right ?” or “what if I`m misguided ?”
Now I`m not wanting to stop people questioning me or disputing my thinking (Heaven knows I need people to do that so the correct way is found) but it’s sometimes in the personal nature of the form it takes. That is when it hurts the most.
So when people say hurtful things to us or snub us because of perceived insults how do we react ? I keep trying to come back to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-28 “but I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” It’s not easy but that is the command of Jesus, TO US ALL.
The natural human reaction is revenge, sulkiness, hatred and so on, but as Christians we are called to model our lives upon Jesus and his instructions, and his was a life of seeking reconciliation between mankind and God. Jesus was the one who was able to declare from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. If he can do that whilst enduring an incredibly savage and cruel death over my sins, how much should I be able to do the same over a written letter or a voiced complaint. It doesn`t make the complaints any easier to receive, nor does it make them right, but what it does is affect my response. I still have to offer Jesus and his live to those who dislike me and hate me. I pray that I can.
However, there is another side to all this, as on Saturday I received another letter from a third-party which was so encouraging and supportive of not only me but of the whole Circuit. It positively dripped with graciousness and I`m so grateful for it.
This morning at the staff meeting a member of staff took me to one side and thanked me for my Superintendency, again in an affirming way.
What does this say to me ? It says that there will always be some who will seek to disrupt but if you are truly on Gods wavelength and are honestly desiring to serve Him and give Him the glory then there will be others who will gather around you and hold up your arms as Aaron did with Moses in the book of Exodus. Now I`m not arrogant enough to say I`ve got it right but it is in fellowship with those whose aim is similar to mine and to serve God then together we`ll find the way forward.
So I say to everyone, forgive those who hurt and give thanks for those who uphold you.