We’ve all heard the old adage a thousand times: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” In nearly every situation in which we are confronted with our own feelings of jealousy, envy or general discontent with our lot in life, those words surface on the lips of some obnoxious, but well-intentioned shmuck whose thoughts on our plight we’d likely rather not hear. I mean, who asked anyway, right? Just let me complain in peace…
It’s an interesting, albeit irritating, little truism. It’s like one of those “True or False” statements on tests that we’re all taught to watch out for in high school: whenever you see the words “always” or “never,” the answer is practically guaranteed to be “False.” Almost nothing in life is ever so absolute, or so they say.
In stating that the grass is ALWAYS greener on the OTHER side of the fence or hill or whatever, it’s implied that the grass is in fact NEVER greener on the other side. We’re programmed from an early age, immediately upon hearing the irritating little proverb, to turn our thoughts inward, examine our hearts and find that the problem is not actually with “the grass on our side.” The problem is with us.
Tweet This: The problem is not actually with “the grass on our side.” The problem is with us. @asworship #greenergrass
Though it pains me to admit it, I confess that in my particular case that is usually a pretty safe assumption. The problem usually is me. The proverbial grass usually is fine. Point taken. Lesson learned. Whatever.
Fairly early on in my ministry, I found myself leaning heavily on that proverb and its implied lesson. I constantly looked at the ministry other people were doing in other places and bemoaned the ministry I was doing, and often the place that I was doing it.
“They” never seemed to have to deal with the same issues I did.
“They” had it easier.
Anytime conflict arose, real conflict I mean, I’d find myself indulging thoughts about how I’d be a better fit “over there.”
It never took too long for the self-corrective instincts I’d been taught to kick in though. “It’s all in your head,” I’d tell myself. “The same problems exist over there. Maybe even worse problems. You just can’t see them from where you are.” These sustained me for a while, and rightly so on some level. I’m not so naive as to believe that there are churches out there without issues, without conflict or without their own bald spots or brown patches in the lawn, metaphorically speaking. Churches are, after all, gatherings of people. And people are, as we all know, a mess more often than not.
We all have junk. We all have baggage. When we gather together, it’s not as though our baggage just mysteriously disappears. It accumulates. It builds up, even as we seek God and work together to find freedom from it. And when that happens, when all our brokenness intersects on the road to the cross, there is conflict. There is frustration. There is ugliness; the very ugliness, in fact, that Jesus came to free us from. There is sin. Aware of those truths, I found solace in the belief that “the grass” beneath my feet was no less green than any other grass.
However, recently I’ve found myself far less easily convinced. In fact, lately when conflict arises, as it does and always inevitably will, and I’m tempted with the thought that so-and-so worship leader has it better than me, or such-and-such church would be a better fit for me; that the grass is greener on the other side, I’ve stopped even putting up a fight. I’ve come to believe that although the grass isn’t ALWAYS greener on the other side, it absolutely is greener on occasion. Sometimes, quite simply, the grass really is greener on the other side. The good news, however, is that I’ve come to find tremendous hope in that statement. In fact, it’s begun serving as a constant and convicting reminder to me of what the call to ministry actually is.
Friends, hear this: we were not called to green grass. In fact, green grass has little, if any, use for us. The call to ministry, in whatever form, is not a call to be sheep, grazing all day on the richest, greenest, lushest grass.
Tweet This: The call to ministry, is not a call to be sheep, grazing on the richest, greenest, lushest grass. @asworship
The call to ministry is a call to be a gardener; a green thumb who gets down and digs in the soil, planting and watering and nurturing and calling forth life where there is none.
Tweet This: Ministry is a call to be a gardener; a green thumb, calling forth life where there is none. @asworship
It will require work, tremendous work, day in and day out. If you find yourself standing in rougher terrain than you’d like, rejoice for God has included you in His work of redemption. When your eye inevitably wanders over to what is in fact greener grass on the horizon, rather than being filled with envy or want, let it stir in you a deep desire to dirty your hands in the soil upon which you already stand. Let the spirit pour through you like living water upon dry and weary ground. And behold, the grass will become greener right beneath your feet. Life will spring forth even where there is only death and decay. It will take time. It will take hard work. But, more than anything it will take the life-giving Spirit of God, in no small measure, working through you. It will be exhausting on days and exhilarating on others. But that is the call to ministry. That is our call. Thanks be to God.