A few minutes went by. Then a few more. Should I check on him? Just as I was ready to go assess the situation, the boy opened the door and found me standing there. I walked him back out to the playground where the other kids and leaders were, but it dawned on me that I should probably head back to the restroom just to make sure everything was kosher.
As I opened the bathroom door, I was overwhelmed by a foul stench. I plugged my nose and made my way over to the stall to find a pile of you-know-what lying right there on the middle of the linoleum floor. What a mess! Since we were about ready to take the kids home, I didn't have time to clean up right then. I was too busy! At least, that's what I told myself. I would need to come back later.
When I returned, the janitor was cleaning up and the mess was gone. I apologized to her and thanked her for cleaning it. But she said, "It wasn't me. Someone else must have done it."
Thank you, anonymous person, for cleaning up the mess. I owe you big time.
As I reflect back on that night, I realized that this story resembles a greater truth, namely that ministry is messy! And that's because ministry involves people, and people's lives are messy. Take, for instance, the woman at the well in John 4, whose life was so messy she waited until the hottest part of the day to draw water, just so she wouldn't be seen by anyone. Or how about the unclean woman in Luke 8 who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years? Or what about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, where the younger brother traded his inheritance for pig slop? It doesn't get much messier than multiple adulteries, continual bleeding, and pig slop.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ has entered into the mess of life -- and into our messy lives -- in order to redeem them. He heals us, purifies us, and cleans up after us. Not just once, but over and over again. And He doesn't do so begrudgingly or resentfully. He does so delightfully and eagerly. Because He chooses to believe we're worth it.
What about you? What's your messy ministry story?