MY ministry is NOT about ME

Post Grad Duck #27

As I sit in my room, trying to finalize things before I leave town on Wednesday, I can’t help but take a deep breath as I realize that I’ve made it through my first year as an intern. It really feels like it was merely  weeks (not months) ago that my parents and I packed up our cars and made the traffic filled journey up north. I was filled with such nervousness, fear, excitement, wonder, and even more fear back then. Now, I’m calmer (maybe that’s because I received my first massage earlier this afternoon with my roommate :P). I’m still filled with wonder and I’m excited, but the fear has dissipated. I’m thankful for what has happened over the past 2 semesters, and while I’m so ready for a break, I’m eagerly anticipating what next year will bring.

While I sit in the tension of a semester that’s come to a close amid thoughts of what’s to come, I’ve reached a conclusion about my first year as an RUF Intern at Penn State.

My ministry is not about me.

This is something that I think I knew beforehand, but didn’t really know until now. I believe there are two schools of thought surrounding this idea. One, “What do you mean Jayna? Of course YOUR ministry is about YOU,” and two, “You’re exactly right, Jayna. Your ministry has little to do with you, actually.”

For the majority of this school year, I can safely say I was spending more time camping out in the first school of thought. I was the one that came to Penn State. I was the one that was meeting with freshman girls. I was the one that was building relationships with these girls. I was the one that had students saying how thankful they were that I moved here. I was the one that helped organize certain events. I was the one that baked chocolate chip cookies (several times) for said events. (But if I’m being honest, y’all…those cookies were GOOD. But thats beside the point ;)). I was the one that was digging deep in conversations and wrestling through the hard stuff and giving encouragement through the good stuff. I..I…I..I…

In the last meeting I had with my boss, I said this: “I’m struggling to figure out why it’s good that I’m at Penn State. I mean, why me, Jayna Duckenfield, is a good fit here as opposed to someone else.” Let me give this a bit of background. I am someone who thrives off of the affirmation and energy of other people. Part of this identity of mine is beautiful and the other part of it is broken. I appreciate encouragement and being made to feel important, but I cannot let that give me value. I asked my boss this question, because people that were not at Penn State had told me how glad they were that I was here. Of course I said thank you, but was confused as to how they would know whether or not it was good that Jayna Duckenfield was interning at The Pennsylvania State University.

My boss took a beat before answering. He’s an internal processor, so usually pauses like this don’t bother me, but this one felt longer than normal. When he finally formulated his thoughts, he said this, “I think part of that is a sort of a false dichotomy. I mean, to some extent you being here is not any different than someone else being here…” That is NOT what I wanted to hear. What did he mean that me being here isn’t much different than someone else being here?! But he went on… “Ministry is often a thankless job.” We walk alongside people, encourage them, bear their burdens and don’t really get anything in return. “I think very, very highly of you, Jayna, and you bring a laughter and energy to RUF. You are wise and caring. Here me say that, but also here me say that you can’t go through this job waiting for affirmation to give you value because it’s not going to come.” He went on to explain that God is at work through me. “God has given you a slice of his kingdom.”  The good that’s happening on campus is happening in spite of (not because of) me. I’m not the one doing the work, God is. God has given me a slice of his kingdom.

My flesh hated what my boss had to say, but my spirit leapt at his words. He was right. We both agreed that affirmation and encouragement are important, indeed they’re invaluable, but our worth and identity and measure of work has to come from Christ and the gospel.

So as I reflect on the joys and trumps and victories of this past year, I can look first at the faithfulness of God and smile. I can look second at this slice of the kingdom I’ve been given and humbly say “thank you.” Thirdly, I can look at myself and realize that the God of the universe loves me enough to use me to serve His people. What an honor!

“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58

 

[Jesus, thank You for this semester. Thank You for the lessons You’ve taught me and the lessons of humility that come along with being in ministry. You are a good, good Father.]<3Amen

Working & Star Gazing

Post Grad Duck #26

The sun as reappeared this week. I’ve been posting a lot on social media–things about sunshine and summer. I’m ready for both to come and stay for a spell. I do well in the sunshine. I think most people do, but after so many gray days, I’ve just felt…better under the sun.

Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about the weather. Honestly, I just needed a way to begin this post. I couldn’t think of a way to start talking about my actual thoughts without sounding to abrupt, so I went with the weather. It’s always a safe topic, ya know?

Okay, here we go. Enough babbling.

I’ve been a little down recently. I think the majority of what I’m feeling is just general work lethargy. If this is (anything like) what “real”adults feel like when they say “I need a vacation” after weeks of work, I get it. You don’t really think clearly when you’re tired and in need of a break, I’ve noticed. At least, I don’t. Even when you’re aware that a break is coming, sometimes it’s hard to do what you need to do and remain present where you are. All you can think about is the beach breeze, the salt air, sand on your toes, sun on you’re skin…  It’s hard to remain focused. It’s hard to put in the energy necessary to produce the work results you need. Even more so, it’s hard to cultivate the skills and gifts you have (or are trying to discover) to help you to work well.

It’s hard to cultivate. This word, cultivate, has popped up a lot in the past 36 hours (or so) of my life. As I was journaling yesterday, I wrote this

…you have to put in the work. There are certain things you can’t do a thing to earn and other things that you have to put in work for; that’s just how it goes. The trick, the key to life is figuring out what lies within each category and being okay with it. But here’s a little secret, this is skill that has to be cultivated, charged, nuanced. It’s not an overnight process, and that’s the hard part…

This is taken slightly out of context, but what I think my subconscious was trying to communicate to me is that there is a certain amount of effort that has to be put in to produce a good work ethic. There’s encouragement in this because it means that I can afford to be patient with myself as I develop these skills. Even though I’m tired, and weary, and lethargic, I can take my time.

1 Corinthians 12 speaks to the subject of various spiritual gifts that we have as members of the body of Christ. Paul explains that there are varieties of each “but it is the same God that empowers them all in everyone” (v 6). I bring this up because when I’m down and feel as though my work ethic is not the same as those around me, I tend to feel as though I am not the same as those around me–I am worse. This is a lie and I’m working on preaching the gospel to myself to combat these anti truths. Later in the chapter, Paul says, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many…If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body”(v. 14, 19). I love this passage because it allows for the body of Christ to be diverse, different, unique, not the same, and yet function together to serve our Creator by our Creator. However, there is a difference between knowing that and living it out.

And so, here is an anecdote that, for me, helped me understand what to do with everything aforementioned:
Yesterday, after Large Group, I was walking with one of my students back to my car. We both commented on the dip in the evening temperature, but then admired the how clear the sky was. I said, “Man, tonight would be a great night to go star gazing.” He agreed and said, “Yeah it would!” Pausing for a moment, he spoke again. “What if everyone took 30 minutes each week to look at the stars? How differently do you think they’d live their lives.” His last sentence was phrased as a question, but he spoke it more like a statement.
I thought about what he said and couldn’t help but smile. As someone who loves to sit under the stars and gaze upward, I immediately agreed. “Yes!” I said, “that would be great. I have no doubt that people would live differently.” It’s good for us to feel small sometimes, to be reminded of our insignificance in order to put our daily mess into a better perspective. 

So how does all of this tie together? Well, I think it goes something like this:
1) It’s okay to be tired and to need a break
2) It’s not okay to assume that your lethargy means you’re a worser person
3) It’s important to cultivate your gifts/work ethic
4) It’s okay if it takes time/sometimes you slip
5) It’s necessary to take time during the week to stop and look and do nothing in a way that makes you feel small, that makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger in order to energize you to move forward

[Jesus, I’m not sure if what I’ve just typed as completely threaded together, but I thank you for allowing me to begin to understand better the idea of having patience with myself. Help me to work well, but also to take time to remind myself of how it is You that empowers me to do so.]
❤ Amen