Stepping out in faith (with fear and joy)

Posted by Susan Grace Smith on

I spent much of last week at a retreat with clergy colleagues from all over the conference.  When we are together, often the first question we have for one another is something hopeful like, “So… things are going well for you at your church?”  The repeated nature of the question as I reconnect with various colleagues kept me thinking about how things are going in my ministry at Willow Glen, and I have to say that I was always thrilled to respond, “Yes!”

The longer answer that I shared with many of my colleagues and friends last week, however, is probably even more exciting.  After more than 13 years in this church, I am still challenged and energized by the ministry we have here, and I am delighted by the relationships that have been built and strengthened in this community.  I love the people I work with, and the things I get to do, and the work we are doing together to care for one another and our greater community.  It is the combination of challenge and comfort that keeps me going.  As I told one friend who jokingly wanted to hire me away to a desk job, “No way! If I didn’t have the silly, creative and loving time with my kids to balance out the professional planning and all of the scary and boring stuff, I would be a wreck!”

In this season of ministry, I find myself faced with a number of “growing edge” opportunities – the kind that are just far enough out of my comfort zone to make my stomach do flip-flops when I think about them.  In each case, these are things that are the next step in developing our ministry further and I know they are the right steps. However, I also know that I will have to muster some additional courage to make myself take them.  I find myself chanting “Fear and joy, fear and joy,” in reference to Matthew’s account of the resurrection.  In this gospel, the angel appears to the women at the empty tomb and, after telling them not to be afraid, explains matter-of-factly that Jesus is not there – he has been raised from the dead. They are instructed to hurry and tell the disciples.  So after the angel leaves, “with great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples (Matthew 28:8).”  I love the acknowledged combination of great fear and excitement.  It is so honest and real.  How many times have you felt fear and joy simultaneously? And I mean really feel it – emotionally and physically together.  Whenever I do, I think of this story and I know that God is calling me to step out in faith and hope.

So that’s where my ministry is right now.  I am being called to step out of the comfortable places a lot it seems.  And I will – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)” – so that we may further our God-work in this community.  But I feel so blessed to be able to “come home” to the love and joy of this church family – to play with my kids, to learn and grow together, to be silly and crafty and hopeful and loving in all that we do together.  I will “come home” to chat with babies, dance with toddlers, swing with preschoolers, create with kids, question with teens, and hug and pray with all who I love here.  Thank you for loving me as I have grown into this ministry, and for being my touchstone as our ministry continues to grow in faith and hope (and I do, too).