It struck me yesterday, as I was doing some ironing, that Christian ministry is a little bit like ironing (bear with me!)…
The obvious analogies didn’t strike me at first (more on them in a mo), it was simply that I had half-an-hour, I ironed solidly for that whole time, starting with the most pressing (boom boom), and then I stopped. At the end of it, the ironing basket was still full of clothes which needed ironing, but that was my ironing slot over.
This may sound perfectly normal to you, but it is almost entirely contrary to my nature! To stop a task before it is finished, and just leave stuff hanging around for another opportunity!?! I would previously always have soldiered on through the whole pile of clothes, and than collapsed happily, feeling fulfilled and satisified at a job well done (or at least over for another week). But I have other things to do with my time which, superficially perhaps, are less important. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this idea of intentionally choosing not to do things which are good and important without it being about procrastination, laziness, or irresponsibility.
What I’m getting at, I think, is that the task is endless. There is no defined “end” for Christian ministry, there will probably never again be the point where I have got to the “end” of my list of jobs and collapse satisified with a glass of wine. To wait for these moments of completion before going out to play simply means the time of going out to play never comes. It’s a bit like Covey talks about in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – an appreciation of the choices we have and the decisions we make (and the language we use). I seem to have mislaid my copy of the book, so I can’t give a direct quote, but I remember finding it challenging reading as a Christian when I read it many years ago, and it has stuck with me. I must also give a nod to Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Richards and O’Brien, who have undermined by (previously) unquestioned acceptance of the Protestent work ethic as a biblical virtue!!
Of course, this is absolutely not limited to ordaination, or ordained ministry – all followers of Jesus are, by definition, full time Christian ministers. But it is also true to say that I am now much more aware of the need to carve out time for the stuff which isn’t, ostensibly, important at the expense of the stuff which is, without feeling guilty about it. There is something about sabbath rest in here too, of course.
I promised the obvious analogies – well, we’re all wrinkled in one way or another, and Jesus is the one who helps us becomes spotless and pure… and he often uses his church as the means. Also, an iron is just a lump of cold metal, which is pretty ineffective at doing anything, until it is filled with power and hot, including the steam of the spirit. It is the heat and steam which do all the work. I always worry that analogies like this border on being trite, and reduce God to a domestic chore; but I guess some people may find them helpful? Perhaps I’ll work one into a sermon!
As for the stubborn creases? Well, whoever heard of such a thing in church….