A young friend asked me recently how she should move toward the call of God in her life. I think she was actually asking about how to get from here to THERE, from serving behind the scenes to serving on the platform. I listened and nodded as she spilled out her hopes over coffee, and then gave her the most simple advice. Because I believe it's the best thing we can do to move "ahead" I'll tell anyone who asks: Keep showing up.
Faithfulness gets noticed because it's scarce. Consistency matters because it's rare. And forget how it attracts others - What it does for your heart and character is the best kind of strength conditioning for the soul. Just keep showing up.
Another friend once told me that he was wasting the best years of his life. He was in his twenties and frustrated, serving in a ministry position that wasn't quite his dream. I think I laughed at him back then, which was probably a little rude. Truthfully I don't know how it feels to be a young, driven man with big goals - I've been encouraged and even pushed into most roles I've taken on, rather than chasing them down. But I reacted to his words because I knew that those years he was spending serving another man's vision were exactly where he was supposed to be. There's investment and growth in the waiting, if we we don't let our shortsighted vision distract us. (He has walked it out, by the way, and his life has been marked by the blessing of God.)
We all travel through desert patches - the uncertain seasons where our reality doesn't look much like our dream. The years where we fumble towards finding our lane are tricky. People get lost out there. And that's probably why I think it makes all the difference to decide ahead of time that you'll keep turning up. Commit beforehand.
Keep showing up. Just decide that faithful is who you are. You can choose to wear faithfulness like clothing - put it on and adopt it as your signature piece.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them round your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favour and a good name
in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4
Find your lane. It's not even a little bit easy but it is the adventure you're designed for. Your lane is the place where your passions are firing while you're helping someone else, by the way. It will carry you through hard places, and it's not a final destination.
Do the things that don't get celebrated. Find something that needs to be done, someone who needs attention, and go for it. Pour yourself into that, and hope that nobody else notices. God's so much better at rewarding and elevating than any human is. Make it your business to serve in secret.
And here's what we all really need to know: Nothing is wasted in God's sight. Ask someone who's wise and has a few years on you and they'll likely tell you that the hard stuff is the best stuff. It's where we develop steel in our spine and grow compassion. If you feel like you're out in the sticks doing your best and not getting anywhere, count it all joy. Seriously. You're probably right where you should be. Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft. In that place of waiting, putting one foot in front of the other, keeping your heart right and your eyes on God, you're mastering what ministry truly is. Just keep showing up.