It’s been eight months since I first invited people to move in to my house, and nearly four months since I became an unofficial temporary foster parent. In that time, ministry has been more hands-on and all-encompassing than I could have even predicted. I’ve learned quite a lot – here are a few things.
And please know that I realize that a lot of these are true just by virtue of sharing your home with someone else, particularly people that are your responsibility, like children. But as someone who doesn’t have children and who, with the exception of half of 2011, has spent most of her adult life living on her own, these are the things that I understand now that I didn’t before. (Also, I could make the argument that our most important ministry is to those in our home, no matter how they came to be there. So there’s that).
It’s messy. I didn’t realize it until recently, but a lot of the ministry I’ve done in the past has had some pretty clear boundaries. There was a time that I was doing it, and a time that I was not, and I had a lot of control over when and where they intersected. Even phone calls or emails, I could ignore until it was time to deal with them. But having people live with you means that ministry doesn’t fit any longer into nice little boxes. It spills over into every part of your life, and as much as my organizing, list-making self wants it to be clean and straightforward, it’s just not. People are messy, and so are their problems, and sin is really, really messy.
It’s heartbreaking. I have cried more in the last few months than I think ever have before in my life. One Sunday a few weeks ago, I was so overcome at church that I actually sobbed my way through the worship portion of the service, much to the confusion of the poor kid who was sitting beside me. Sometimes these tears are on behalf of others – how someone continues to make poor choices, despite every opportunity to go another way, or how their decisions affect someone else. But sometimes (oftentimes), I’m hurt or tired or just overwhelmed. Or I feel unseen and underappreciated. I know this is a lie, that God sees, but it’s still been painful work.