We arrived in Niagara Falls, Ont., to begin our first year of ministry as a family 443 days ago. It’s hard to articulate how many emotions and discoveries that number represents. We had no idea what life was going to look like. As Salvation Army officers, we have the freedom to grow together in ministry—to invest in our marriage and our children. After all, God called us as a family, didn’t he?
Only—it’s not happening. Not the way I expected, at least. Each week feels more fragmented than the last. Each day brings a “to do” list that we never seem to be completely on top of. Sleep is elusive and never long enough when it comes.
Most nights I lay awake wondering if anything I’m doing will ever make a difference. I wonder if I’m pouring enough love and energy into my children. I wonder if my marriage will suffer if we go any longer without a night out together. Sometimes I lay awake desperately trying to connect to the God I long to serve well, and wonder why he feels so far away.
A few nights ago, we had our first junior youth group gathering of the year. It landed at the end of a busy week and a busy day and, I confess, I was tired. I was excited to return to the rural property owned and offered to us by a member of our congregation—a wonderland of outdoor space and activities where kids can run wild—and the company was a welcome distraction from the week, but my heart hung heavy in my chest. A nagging thought tugged at the back of my mind: My soul is weary.
Just over a year. Only 443 days. And my soul was weary.
I wasn’t ready to face the reality of that thought, especially there, surrounded by the laughter of children and the friendly chatter of friends, those from my congregation whom I love and lead. I am not afraid of vulnerability or transparency, but junior youth group was not the time or place to fall apart. So I said a quick prayer and promised my weary soul I’d figure something out later.
A few of the kids wanted to try the rock wall. Our gracious host rigged up the harnesses, and with patience that far outweighed my own, began helping them climb the wall and rappel back down, one by one. Here’s what I learned that night: rock walls can be scary and sometimes they can be vessels of grace.
Two of the kids reached the top, but were terrified to rappel down. Our host calmly and clearly repeated his instructions: “Just lean out over the wall, sit back like you’re sitting in a chair and push off the wall … trust me … I’m not going to let you fall.”
It didn’t matter how many times he spoke softly to the kids—they remained frozen with fear, terrified at the thought of leaning out over the edge, of falling.
As I watched the children struggle, I was struck by the realization that my weary soul identified with their fears. The man who had built the structure with his own hands was gently encouraging them to trust him, and yet they were afraid. Afraid to give over control. Afraid to venture out in complete trust. They made it to the top on their own strength, but had reached a point where the only way forward was faith.
Over the last year, I had muscled through some stuff on my own. I had used my own strength and abilities to get where I needed to go. And I had reached a point where I needed to trust that God wasn’t going to let me fall. I needed to trust that God wasn’t going to let me fail. My soul was weary from trying to do everything on my own. My soul was weary with fear.
“Just lean out … trust me … I’m not going to let you fall.” Jesus was speaking directly to me. I needed to hear those words.
As the two children finally leaned out and rappelled down the wall, cheering when their feet hit the ground, my weary soul began to mend. My weary soul was finding rest in the unending grace and arms of Jesus.
Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Feature photo: © skynesher/iStock.com
On Monday, November 13, 2017, Kevin Saylor said:
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