Alongsider Briefings: Reflections of a Life Lived with God

Life is Like an Art Gallery: Picture #2 – The Book

I had trouble sleeping. My mind was trying to untie a mental knot of anticipation, anxiety, and appreciation. Tomorrow, I would step down as Regional Leader and give my responsibilities to a new leader. As I lie thinking about this event, an image of a BOOK came to mind. What did this BOOK mean and why was it relevant to the next twenty-four hours?

I loved my job as a Regional Leader. One friend called our staff team the “dream team.” This dream team had a maturity that made leading easy and enjoyable. The staff made me look good . . . and we had fun together! Why leave this dream team? No one was asking me to step down. No one was pushing to replace me. What did this BOOK image have to do with this career move?

My mind reverted back to another BOOK, the book of Exodus. I had recently been reflecting upon the conversation between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro’s analysis as he watched Moses caught my attention.

“What you are doing is not good,” said Jethro. “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourself out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18 ESV). Moses had become police, judge, and jury for this new nation. Jethro was charging him with the crime of omni-competent leadership — Moses seemed to believe he could do anything and everything. He had made himself the center of Israel’s story.

What solution did Jethro propose? “Look for able men from all the people. . . . And let them judge the people at all times” (18:21-22). If you notice, Moses was not to “equip” leaders but to look for the able leaders who already existed. 

I wasn’t worn out like Moses but I was facing the limits of my gifting and experience. I needed to look for someone to take this ministry to the next level. I could continue to lead — something I loved doing — but if I stayed in this position I denied another leader the opportunity to serve and enjoy what I had so enjoyed. I didn’t need to prepare a leader but affirm the leader who was already there . . . and his name was Dane. Now is when I began to understand the BOOK image.

As I mentally rehearsed my decision to step down, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “You know, Bill, the ministry story of the Great Lakes region is not about you. This ministry BOOK is not your autobiography; it’s the unfolding of my redemptive story.” I was now fully awake!

It occurred to me that our ministries and lives are like novels. In these ministry stories are major and minor characters, major plots and sub-plots. When you lead for a period of time you become a major character in this ministry novel. In most novels, the major character is what the BOOK is about. However, in God’s novel, He’s the main character; the ministry story is His grand story of redemption. It’s easy to make a ministry story my story — an autobiography of me.

“After tomorrow,” I thought to myself, “I will no longer be a major character in God’s story of the Great Lakes Region.” I had served for a couple of chapters but now another main character was going to take over and he would serve for a couple of chapters. Dane and I each served to move the story line along — a story line that was about God’s glory not our achievements. We served the plot, the plot did not serve us. This story was not my autobiography but God’s story.

Talk about a reality check! I was neither the author of this story nor was the story about me; I simply served God’s story line. Embracing this simple truth of God’s BOOK gave me the freedom to surrender and not fight to keep myself prominent. However, this insight was easier to think about than to practice.

In the following months, I often compared myself with Dane. I was jealous when people gave him the attention they once gave me. I was now on the outside of decisions instead of being on the inside. I had to return again and again to this truth: “This ministry story is not about me; it’s God’s story. I only serve His plot line.”

This picture of a BOOK fixed my perspective. The Scriptures declare that one day all of nature will sing, “The earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). This is the culmination of God’s story, His BOOK of redemption. Glory happens now when I surrender to God’s authorship and His plot line. The novels of our lives and ministries are not about us but about our Lord who graciously gives us a few chapters of influence as we serve the plot line of His grand redemptive story. 

When I begin to think that I’m indispensable to a ministry, I come back to this image of a BOOK. Our life and ministry novels are not our autobiographies; they’re God’s story. Want to know the best part of this BOOK? The Lord is really a good author!

What are you learning about God’s BOOK in your life? Drop me a comment.

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