When Ministry Sucks

I might be in the minority- or just early doors naiavity- when I say that so far, ministry is a privilege the majority of the time. There are so many perks to being a Vicar’s wife (and I’m not just talking about the house!) I love how open people are with me at times, how safe they feel to vent; how quickly God comes up in conversation, and how empty hours become so well spent. I love how often He just happens to put me in the right place at exactly the right time; how I get to witness His hand in other people’s lives – how often our stories intertwine.

God weaves a beautiful tapestry in this world, and having the time, space and availability to witness those little stitches coming together is an absolute gift.

Like…. Sabrina. (Not her real name.)

When we first arrived here five years ago, Sabrina was already a strangely fashionable part of the furniture. A long-lashed, tanned, well manicured rose among … Well, less preened roses like me. I never thought to ask how she got here, but “here” she was. Daytime Bible studies full of babies and toddlers (she had none); church plant, Bible course. You name it, she was there. Actively participating all of the time, (with her strangely perfect hair!)

Like most people though, Sabrina disappeared during covid. It wasn’t until her father died that I found the motivation to get in touch. I took over some flowers and later, she invited me in for a catch up, during which I learned how she became “one of us.”

See, Sabrina’s mother died quite suddenly- she was young and it came as a huge shock. Her Mum had been a devout Catholic, but Sabrina had never really thought much about God. While clearing her Mum’s house, she found her old Bibles- big, thick commentaries- and took them all home. Desperate for some kind of reassurance, Sabrina obsessively poured over each one. “I wanted to know where she’d gone,” she told me. “I needed to know she was safe!” But she didn’t understand a word she was reading- instead of reassured, she just felt more scared. And so she cried out to God, “If You even exist! Help me understand this Bible … and tell me where my Mum is?”

That week, our previous Vicar’s wife invited her for coffee with some other school Mums. She was available and thought nothing of it, so decided to just tag along. They sat round a table at Brewers’ Fayre and everything appeared above board- until they all pulled out their Bibles, and the sneaky Vicar’s Wife said,”let’s start”!

I couldn’t believe I’d accidentally come to a Bible study- but I was too embarrassed to just go home! So I decided to endure the first one, and if she ever asked again, I’d know to say no!”

Except, of course, that’s not what happened- for our God weaves threads of gold. A wave of Supernatural peace washed over Sabrina, as they read John 14: verse 1 to 4….

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.””

John 14: 1-4

I knew then without a doubt, that God was taking care of Mum. He’d also given me a community to understand the Bible! In a way, He’d brought us both home.”

Ella (Not her real name!)

Ella had four children baptised at our Church, but it wasn’t until the fourth Christening that something started to click. She was welcomed by our resident Lovely Lady, who invited her to another event. Ella came along and met Zoe (I’ll tell you her story in a bit). Zoe told her about Alpha- “you get free lunch and it’s just dead good!” Ella freely admits she came for the hot pot- but left with a whole lot of God!

She was hooked. Line and sinker – Ella was sold out for Christ. She couldn’t get enough of everything on offer- the experience completely changed her life. Then just before Covid, her best friend died and her husband ran off with another- queue four months of horrendous solitude, before temporarily moving in with her mother. It was Ella who “socially-bubbled” with another Church family, in the midst of a mental breakdown. (We’ve been slowly unpicking that pastoral wreckage for well over a year now). At its worst, Ella found herself in total darkness. An all-consuming depression had her contemplating death – until a Supernatural presence made itself known, and somehow stilled her crisis.

She called me, “He’s here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know- but honestly, I’m not well.”

We walked all afternoon, sat by a pond- and she referred herself for professional help.

Fast forward a year and things are so different- she’s opening the Church every day. She’s collected some toys, put on a kettle and advertised a warm space. Some days are still hard, but it’s not what it was, and hopefully won’t be again. We’ve seen God restore, renew and revive… and I’m so bloody thankful she’s here.

Now… Zoe. (Again, not her real name).

Zoe was only 21 when she first turned up to church with her boyfriend and their baby. They wanted to book a Christening- and were once again welcomed by Lovely Lady. The boyfriend was keen and they came every week- to the Church plant and Bible study too! At first it seemed like he dragged her along, but when they broke up, she kept the child- and the church too. Zoe talked openly about the horrors of childbirth, I lost count of the words “back passage”! Sex, family, history, bowel movements… if there was a filter, Zoe didn’t have it!

But she stuck with us through her ups and downs; plagued by an abusive past. Eye opening relationships and bad boyfriends reflecting the damage caused by a terrible Dad. She kept one boyfriend because he owed her money- “I’ll never see it if we break up now!” Maybe ill-advised, but we all clubbed together- “We’re your family- and you need to get out.”

Eventually, she found a decent man and had another baby. Lockdown happened and she never came back – social media said she was happy. Occasionally in the last year or so, we’d caught up at the school gate. She even let me pray for her once – though she took great pains to hide her face! Ohhhhh, I also took her her a Costco Cake – and dropped it face down on her doorstep! She called me for help once, so I figured … she knew she could do when needed.

Our little ones started school this year, and Zoe always looked hot. I mean skin tight shorts and sunglasses, while the rest of us were all wrapped up! I commented a few times, “Zoe, you always look great!” She’d laugh and joke, “I literally threw this on- only woke up at half past eight!”

It all seems so trivial now. Why couldn’t I have asked her, seriously, how’s things? Was I so flippin’ wrapped up in myself? Did I have too much to achieve?

Our God weaves beautiful tapestries and it’s glorious to see…

Until its not.

Until the pattern shifts, the colours fade, and all appears ugly to the untrained eye. Until life’s a bitch, and it seems He missed a stitch – or God forbid- did I?

Last night we learned that beautiful “Zoe” left behind her beloved baby girls. She was so overcome by darkness, she somehow believed they were better off without her in this world. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and loneliness this young woman must have felt – or the scars that wound those who loved her most; the hearts that must be shelled.

Ministry sucks when your heart breaks, the threads come loose and there seems no reason or rhyme. When you wonder if you could have helped somebody… if you’d only given them more of your time?

God, I’d give up my writing, wall painting and cleaning for one more lukewarm coffee!

I’d walk a bit slower, look a bit closer…

If You’d just help me to really see Zoe.

* * *

Sown in tears, planted in hope. Thanks for reading.

* * *

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sian Rigby says:

    Sharing with you in this pain. Ministry means we invest deeply, and when things break down or fall apart it sucks ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does indeed 😞 I can’t even imagine being the one who has to keep professional and conduct the funeral. Bless you all and the difficult work you do! 🙏

      Like

  2. I am so very sorry about Zoe. I always pray for the souls of people who commit suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that means much ❤🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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