I’ve spent the last year adjusting to a leadership position where there are so many little things demanding attention and so many trivial topics clamoring for discussion that it’s frighteningly easy to neglect the things that matter most.
I don’t yet know if most of life is like this. I anticipate that this temptation is present everywhere, but I don’t have a clear way of knowing (from experience) if this is true, or how true it is in different seasons of life and other ministry contexts. Maybe I’m just a fool who’s easily sucked into giving undue attention to small things. Maybe I’m part of a subculture that’s particularly lively when it comes to batting around minutiae. Perhaps this new position is viewed as much more of a campus-wide sounding board than my previous position (well, I know that’s true). Maybe I’m a magnet for criticism, or more preferably (I hope) an approachable leader. Maybe I’m just getting used to holding a position in a ministry that calls for a lot of administration at an institution with a number of policies with a student body that’s increasingly unapprised, dissatisfied, and vocal (at times legitimately, at times out of understandable immaturity).
Whatever the cause(s), this relentless convergence of small drops has tended to create quite a current of activity and conversation that continually threatens to sweep me (and I think others) away from the things that matter most. Not that conversations about sweat pants and meal plans and prank guidelines and dorm policies and chapel sign-ins and exemption requests have nothing to do with anything important. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that every detail of life revolves around the blazing center of Jesus Christ and finds its meaning and significance in that relationship. So anything and everything holds a degree of importance, if only by implication and connection. I’ve preached that sermon often, and I will continue to preach it. There aren’t too many life lessons that are more central. Likewise, I’ve always been a detail-oriented person (for better and for worse), and I’ve always believed that faithfulness in the small things is a strong indicator of integrity and maturity.
But there’s a difference between being dependable in little things and being distracted by them, between discussing them and being dictated by them, between airing an appropriate grievance and turning that grievance into a full-scale mission.
At the end of this first year, I find myself trying to revive my soul from this year’s long journey through the desert of ministry minutiae. This is part of the reason why I’ve been trying to write more in the past week — to remind myself and others (mostly myself) of some brilliantly precious things that are easily overshadowed by the eclipse of detail. I’m once again pursuing what’s begun to seem dangerously like an oasis — that place where glory and beauty and power and ultimacy and purpose and gospel and passion and mission and the things that matter most are displayed and discussed and deepened and delighted in, and where all of the details really and truly serve only as pixels that make up a tiny part of the picture. I’m reminding myself that that place is not an oasis, and I’m journeying back there to enjoy it anew (and by enjoying it, to prove it).
I want to zoom out, to pull back, to rise above — to look out over (instead of overlooking) the breathtakingly beautiful and barren landscape of the world and to interpret it through the lens of Scripture’s great story of redemption. And not just to see the story and its hero and its implications afresh, but to take it all in and to contemplate it deeply and proportionally and refreshingly. In a few words: to meditate, to admire, and to marvel — and then to move into the fray with a confident and measured walk, ready to labor with a fullness of love that comes better from the burning motivation of a grand story than the harried agitation of an upcoming deadline.
I’m not looking for pity. I think of single mothers and job-searching fathers and families of seven and overworked pastors and confused graduating seniors and dissatisfied businessmen and overwhelmed missionaries and lonely teenagers. I write this for all of us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and have been adopted into the heavenly family and have been commissioned to reach the world with a glorious message of salvation whose glory is undiminished by the trivia or the to-do list or the trial. May we all, in all our weakness, be about the things that matter most.