To reflect on 40 years of ministry takes considerable time and courage. It is a lengthy period of ministry in the only church that I have been committed to since I gave my life to Christ. It cannot be done in a day. That may be too intense and unfruitful. It needs to be done by the unforced rhythms of grace. The Spirit initiates and you attend to the memories and emotions that arise from such precious, and sometimes painful moments. It takes courage to face the fact that many mistakes had been made. Errors in methodology, in decisions, in policy making, in self-sufficiency, in motivation and in dealing with people and yourself. I wish I could go back in time and redo those days with the knowledge, experience and maturity I now have. However that is impossible and all you are left with are past failures and regrets that cannot be undone. I have to remind myself to be gentle with myself. After all God has forgiven and covered all these failures with His precious Son’s blood. When I shared this with my 3-2-1 group, Dr Jimmy Tan mentioned a quotation of St Augustine that consoled me. It went this way:
Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence. St Augustine
It is consoling to know God’s mercy covers my failures and faults in the 40 years of ministry in the church. Despite the fact that members may have suffered the consequences of those decisions and policies and my weaknesses, the Lord’s mercy covers them all, and on the day of judgment the Lord will not even raise it up. I was teaching members how to interpret scriptures on zoom recently and one passage was the one about Jesus restoring Peter by the beach. “Peter, do you love me?” Its poignant and significant that Jesus never brought up the fact of Peter’s denial of Christ. It is all forgiven and under the wrap of God’s bloody mercy.
It is also encouraging to know that God’s love will be with me in the present while I wrap up and hand over my responsibilities and handhold those taking over my various duties and roles. The Lord will not discard me like a used tissue paper in the hawker center. He is very close and makes sure all is well with me emotionally. I recall the tenderness with which the Lord handled the home going of Moses. He let him see the promised land from Mt Pisgah. He let him know the bad news that he won’t be leading the people to possess the land, that the task belongs to Joshua his successor. The Lord endearingly called him, my servant, and even buried him personally. To this day, no one knows where Moses was buried.
It is strange to me to entrust the future to God’s providence, being someone who like to have options and plans. I am quite determined this time to give God a blank page for Him to fill in His time. It sounds over spiritual but I will resist using my brains to easily fill up my calendars with goals and plans, but I feel I need to take a step back, and enjoy staring at an empty page and calendar. Trusting in God’s providential care – so that while trying to do the ordinary things of life, like Ruth gleaning in the fields, ended up meeting Boaz, under God’s providential guidance of events and timing. Yes, that will be nice – to experience some of God’s surprises.