The word unconscious has different meanings. One meaning is “comatose” or “lifeless”. An unconscious person is not awake. I use it here to mean, “unaware” or “oblivious”. Much of our behavior is unconscious. We do what we do without noticing ourselves. I learned a powerful truth about ministering to others in a recent example with my oldest son. We do the best ministry when we don’t even know we are doing it.
I’ve been on a worship team at church for the last ten years. The worship leader used to give us a song packet each month with the chord charts and a practice CD. I listened to that CD in the van as I drove around town; to and from work, shuttling kids here and there. My kids had to listen to it with me because they were passengers in my car – unwitting worship hostages. This was sometimes met with groans over listening to the same songs again and again. Mom, can’t we listen to the radio? Do you have to listen to it again? To which I would reply, Yes, children, I do. Because I am a little nervous about my “parts”, and I must, I say must, get them down before I set one teensy-toe on that stage (not that I was overly anxious or compulsive about it in any way). Quiet now, children, let’s worship the Lord. (Cue the groaning, eye rolling, and overly melodramatic flailing; exasperated heads down into hands).
At Sunday worship, my kids knew every word of every song. How could they not? Not that they were too excited about this. I distinctly remember being annoyed by their apparent apathy in worship. My son had a particularly laid-back teenager slouch. I gave him the look on more than a few occasions. You know, the look that says, “Don’t make me come down there, boy. Get up and worship!” My eyeballs hurt from the exaggerated bulging. Not that it moved him at all. He didn’t even bat an eye at me. I never could make that kid do anything. Eddie was always going to do what he wanted to do, no matter what I did. He also knew I couldn’t do anything about it at that particular moment. Now, who’s the worship hostage, hmm? I went through those years doing what I do, not spending much time considering the shaping influence it might be having on my children.
Last year, on a phone call home from jail, my son told me how much he missed hearing those worship songs now. He strained in his memory to hear the sound of my voice singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Holy, Holy is He”. As he lay on his bunk in the silent void of his cell, this song would come to him, bringing comfort. On his birthday, I sang this specific song out loud in my van, like I had so many times past. But on this day, I asked God to supernaturally send it directly to Eddie. A prayer-song of comfort was the only gift I could offer him on his nineteenth birthday.
Eddie often spoke of his longing to return to worship during his time in jail. He became friends with the Chaplain there, who gave him a worship CD. Eddie had to earn it through good behavior like everything else in the prison system. He won the privilege of playing his worship music in his cell. He wrote me a letter one night as he lay awake listening to it. He wrote out the lyrics to some of the songs. They were the songs from the “old days” of worship. The lyrics started to get larger and larger as he progressed in writing them out: “We will OVERCOME by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB AND THE WORD OF OUR TESTIMONY….EVERYONE OVERCOME”. Then he interrupted his lyric-writing with a personal note to me in all caps:
“PRAISE GOD!!!!! MOM, WE CAN OVERCOME!!!!!”
I burst into happy tears upon reading his words. God’s promises were taking root in his heart! My mother heart sang with joy! And something else gripped me in this moment: God. His majesty absolutely floored me. I sat stunned by His mysterious and hidden ways. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! His paths beyond tracing out! To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:33, 36). I erupted in spontaneous thanksgiving to Him! He uses us, right in the everyday places where we serve. We are the ministry to others, and we don’t even realize we are. I was completely dumbfounded by how completely unaware we are of Him in our midst. In all those years of worship practice, I don’t recall ever consciously considering how God would use them to affect my own child. What an AMAZING GOD!!!
Parents sure spend a lot of time worrying about their kids. We want the right everything for them. The right care, the right education, the right friends, the right opportunities, and the right ministries. We think that ministry only happens at the official church events. And we are really good at focusing on our own shortcomings and failures. I should have read more devotionals. I could have done this or that, but I didn’t. I wish I had prayed more. I have all these regrets too.
But have you ever stopped to consider how God might be using you right now in your own children’s lives – just as you are, right where you are, doing what you do? Because you are the right minister for this assignment!
I bet you haven’t because you are too busy trying to pick up the slack in those lagging places. The places were you are preoccupied with doing something more, better, right.
The best ministry is the one we are completely unaware we are doing. It’s the one we just do, because it is part of who we are. Its how God made us, and how He ministers most effectively through us. You might be thinking, but I don’t sing? I don’t have a special “talent” or “ability”. I don’t know what my “ministry” is, or where I am supposed to serve. We minister best right in the ordinary places where we live and work. Shuttling kids here and there, taking care of those God has entrusted to our care. Don’t underestimate the ministry God is doing through you right now, even if you can’t see any results just yet.
Maybe all you can see right now is a complaining kid, or the slouching, apathetic teen in front of you. In that case, don’t bug out. I recommend driving around with them in a locked min-van and blaring non-stop worship music. Thank God for child safety locks. And CD’s. Take no prisoners, only hostages.