As someone who has a background in Christian Counseling people fascinate me so I find myself "probing" trying to go just that little bit deeper. It doesn't work with my teenage son who often replies with simple grunts and shoulder shrugs.
I try to understand that there may not be a lot of communication, and I need to go about it in a very delicate way, trying to talk about things he likes to talk about or engaging in activities that can be done "side by side". A bit like parallel play for toddlers. One activity is playing computer games while my son plays x-box games and responding with a few grunts of my own.
This post isn't about parenting a teenager but a life lesson about ministry that I thought about while playing Lara Croft, The Legend, on the computer tonight.In preparing to play this game I followed all the directions:
Installed the CD
Opened the game guide
Read instructions on keys and controls
Discovered what keys to press to shoot the enemy, etc.
Kept the manual right beside me as I started to play
I found myself struggling to make it through one area - I was being shot and grenades were coming at me from rooftops and doorways. Between turning the pages, pausing the game, fingers stumbling to find the right keys and pressing wrong controls I became frustrated. To make matters worse, every time I "died" the game reverted back to the last official "checkpoint". I was getting fed up with repeating the same maneuvers and mistakes over and over again.
At one point my son took pity and within 2 minutes the scene was cleared of all dangers and pitfalls - every enemy disposed of. His fingers nimbly skimmed keys making "Lara" move swiftly, firmly and with consummate skill. Grinning broadly at my compliments he returned to his game while I decided to go make supper.
I began to think how like ministry this is. We think we are prepared and have everything ready - we have the "how to manual". Yet putting it into practice is not as easy. It is like this computer game, we find ourselves stumbling and fumbling. We begin to feel that we just cannot do this - it is too hard.
Sometimes God requires that we repeat certain steps - learning from our failures. Then there are times we need to ask for help from those that have their skills built up from use. They can steer us through the pitfalls and explain what may have gone wrong and give tips on how to hone our skill.
It is good to step back and evaluate where you are doing well, what needs further work and how can it be done differently.
Don't let despair settle in as we look at others thinking we can never do that. God may not want us to do what someone else does - but He does require that we step out in what He want us to do. "Lara" faced many enemies and obstacles in this game and so will we - but we keep applying principles that we have learned from God's manual. If we fail, we get up and try again.
God gives each of us different gifts but He also requires that we apply ourselves in growing and honing what He has given. This is done by "playing the game" - by living it out.
I went back to try the game a bit later - I chuckled when the game was loading as it showed the percentage of the game that I had completed successfully - 8%. I have a long way to go but I am applying myself to learn by doing. How about you?