It was the spring of 2006 when my wife and I, early into our marriage & expecting our first child, came upon the house we intended to make the home in which we would raise our family. At a modest 950 square feet, with four bedrooms and a huge yard, it seemed like the perfect place for our young family to settle and see what would happen.
Nine-and-a-half years later, our family is very different. My wife and I are expecting our fifth child in early February to go along with the amazing two boys and two girls we already have. Our house, too, is very different than the bungalow we bought in 2006. Thanks to the help of some very generous friends (and a few reasonably priced professionals) we’ve done work in every room in the house.
But that chapter in our journey is coming to an end. My wife and I reached a difficult decision this summer: at the end of October we’ll be saying farewell to our beloved bungalow in Spruce Grove and move into a larger two-story in Stony Plain where there will be more room for our kids to live and grow both now and in their teenage years.
I have to admit, it’s been a challenging time for all of us: the expected difficulty in leaving the place we made so many memories, but also an unexpected one. As I’ve been working around the house, I’ve been considering the work we did to make our home better. I can recall mornings, afternoons, and evenings spent alone or with friends undertaking the various upgrades... and I’m left to wonder what will become of all the work I’ve put into our family home. Will the new owner appreciate what’s been done? Will she benefit from all the things I did for my family? Will she change it all, making some of our hard work seemingly meaningless?
It makes for a fascinating parallel with some of my experiences in ministry. My entire adult life has been dedicated to the service of the Church. In addition to my current work as a Chaplain, I’ve had the blessed opportunity to serve at a summer camp, as a parish youth minister, as a music minister, with traveling retreat teams, in writing, and as a speaker. Over all of these years, these ministries have not only been my job – they’ve been a calling and an opportunity to serve God with the gifts and skills He’s given me. I recognize that I’ve been given the opportunity to pour my heart and soul into some incredible ministries – some of which, unfortunately, no longer exist. Moving on from one calling to another has meant that I’ve had to leave my hard work in the hands of others: some of whom have appreciated and built onto the good I was able to do, some who took things in another direction, and some who focused elsewhere. In these last cases, it seems like some of my hard work has been for naught (particularly when the ministry no longer exists).
It’s tempting to look at both of these situations – the house and ministry – and to get caught up in a very secular mode of thinking: the value of the work comes from the legacy one leaves behind. Will people recognize the work that I did to make my house better? Do people know the ministry I am doing or have done in all of these various organizations?
And when I dwell on either of these, I’m reminded of a quote from Blessed Mother Teresa: God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful.
Being faithful to my family required me to do the work that was done these last nine years – not so that I could take someone through my house to show them all that I am able to do... but simply because that was my duty in a particular moment as a husband and a father. Similarly, when it comes down to it, my work in ministry isn’t about leaving a legacy of tangible results to lean on: it’s about responding to God’s call to serve in each moment of each day. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I worry too much about the world’s way of evaluating our successes both in my family and in my ministry, and this change moving forward is another opportunity for God to work that out of my heart. My primary care and concern is supposed to be becoming the best servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries I can (1 Corinthians 4:1) – the rest is just the details that I need to leave in God’s hands, not concerning myself with their long-term viability or my own ego.
If God calls us to serve Him in the moment in any situation: at home with our family, within the Christian community, at work or at school, or in any other circumstance, the mission remains the same: be faithful and do what you can. Be faithful especially when the fruits or successes of your work will not be realized. It is those moments you make an incredible gift to God: the gift He truly wants from you: a willing heart.