I recently had the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference in Southern California. Joni Eareckson Tada was one of the keynote speakers, and she shared in such a powerful and profound way that I found myself moved to tears. She spoke with a vulnerability and transparency that was deeply compelling. The point of her message was that too often we focus on steps to healing, processes to overcoming, busyness of ministry, or other similar tasks. And in the midst of all that, we miss the need to be completely dependent upon Christ!
In great irony, a pastor approached our resource table while she was speaking and became fascinated with the “Joni story” brochure we had available. He commented on how much he liked Joni and couldn’t wait to read the story about her. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and say, “She’s right here! She’s in the room. If you just turn around and stop looking at the wrong thing, you could experience being in her presence and having her point you to Jesus!”
As my heart grieved for this pastor, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me. I realized that I am guilty of this same mistake all too often. I can read books about Jesus, hear sermons about God, and engage in great discussions about spiritual things. I can look for answers and satisfaction in these things, but still miss the calling to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and be in his presence. We are reminded by Christ himself that the one necessary thing in life is to simply be with him (Luke 10:38-42). This is easier said than done. I must battle daily, hourly, minute by minute, to not be swept up with the demands and busyness that life offers. I can become so engaged in doing good that I forget to be with the very Person who defines good.
So, how does this conviction relate to special needs ministry? If we, as leaders in disability ministry, are not careful we can become consumed with busy schedules, programs, events, and activities. We can spend a great deal of energy directed at people affected by disability. We can design a great deal of ministry intended for people affected by disability. But how often do we slow down and simply spend time with somebody affected by disability? Do we pause to ask them questions, listen to their joys and sorrows, and truly do life together? Or are we looking for the wrong thing when what we needed all the time is right in front of us?
God designed us for community—to fully belong. We are wired to do life together, to care for others, and to be engaged in compassionate ministry. Psalm 23 states that the Lord makes me lie down in green pastures. Why? Because left to myself, I stay busy and distracted which is often right where the enemy wants me. I am of no use to anybody if I am worn out and hanging by a thread.
But what if I was looking for the right thing? What if I was looking for relationship? First with God, then with others. What if community and personal transparency were much higher on my priority list than building a ministry or writing a blog post? How blessed might we be simply by redirecting our focus to what truly matters. I pray that God challenges you as he is currently challenging me to be less about events and activities and more about Jesus, his presence, and his people.