Watch Your Step
We never know when the Lord will teach us a life lesson that is crucial to ministering to children and teens.
Take a walk with me down memory lane, back to the 1950’s. Parenting norms were the epitome of free-range parenting – especially with my grandma and two aunts living in the front of our rambling farm house, helping to keep an eye on the Miller boys.
It was a hot August afternoon when my mom asked me to do a simple job—take the basket of sweet-corn husks out to the barn and feed them to the cows. Her instructions were much more specific, but in my excitement, I only heard what I wanted to.
As I slipped on my barn boots, I felt a surge of pride. This was the first time I had ever been asked to feed anything to the cows by myself. It meant that I was no longer a child but a big boy—after all, I had turned five a few months earlier!
So with a smile on my face and the basket of husks in hand, I walked through the large barndoors that were standing open, past the hay manger, where I was supposed to dump the husks, unhooked the gate to the barnyard, and continued my walk of pride to the silage feeder attached to the silo. Now you need to remember that dairy cows are not potty trained, so the barnyard is covered with manure—hence the need for boots.
I dumped the cornhusks into the feeder and stepped back so the cows could enjoy their snack. As I turned to go, I quickly discovered a hidden truth about our barnyard. It was cemented, except for a 4’x4’ area that is an expansion joint next to the silo. Farmers recognize this hidden trap and stay away, but five-year-old boys don’t.
No sooner had I stepped off the edge of the cement then I knew I was in trouble. I immediately went from walking on the hard barnyard floor to sinking up to my hips in a quagmire of mud, cow poop, and bovine pee!
I definitely was not where I expected to be and I had no idea how I was going to get out of the mess I was in.
Lesson # 1
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1a).
If you have been in children’s or teen ministry long, you know that it is often messy. We have to deal with issues and situations we never dreamed we would face. These situations are surrounded by many temptations and pressures putting faithful workers at risk of becoming causualties.
We have a responsibility to reach out to our coworkers in ministry who have stepped away into the hidden slime pits of sin. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to do all we can to help them deal with their sin and be restored, regardless of how messy it is.
What I had stepped in had a death grip on my legs. There was no way I could escape by myself. I needed help.
About 30 minutes after I had walked into the barn, my older brother ran to our mom and asked, “Do you know where Duane is? I can hear him calling for help, but I don’t know where he is.”
When my mom couldn’t find me, she called down to our apple storage area and told my dad the situation. He and a couple of our farm workers immediately joined the search for me. They followed the sound of my voice and soon found a very short version of me smiling, stuck in my muck and mire, dutifully holding the basket empty of cornhusks above the slime.
My dad pulled me out in no time. I then took hold of my mom’s hand who led me to the backyard, where she proceeded to hose me off, then stripped me naked, and hosed me off again before taking me into the house for a thorough scrubbing in the bathtub.
Notice that it took a number of people to find me, pull me out, and clean me up. One person heard my call for help. Soon others joined the search and were willing to meet me at my point of need and do what was necessary—rescue me, hose me off, and give me clean clothes. They became the hands and feet of my heavenly Father – just as the Church is supposed to be when a brother or sister gets stuck in sin.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (Psalm 40:1–2).
Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1b).
So often ministry requires that we walk in the manure of this world to reach the lost and hurting. We are given the barn boots (spiritual armor) we need to stand strong amidst all the challenges and issues of ministry.
I am always heartbroken when I learn of someone involved in effective ministry to reach people lost in the muck of this world and who end up stuck in the sin they were helping others escape because they thought they were too strong to be sucked in. Others think that they have earned the right to a reward for all their hard work and begin to compromise their standards and end up falling, failing to heed the warning, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you be tempted.”
They are doing exactly what I did that led up to my gross predicament – letting pride blind me to mom’s instructions, and trying to do it on my own. This is a recipe for disaster.
There is never a time when we can think, “I can handle this . . . why don’t you take a break, God?” We must be on our guard 24/7.