One of my all time favorite passages in the Bible comes from the Gospel of John chapter 21. I think that if I could only choose one passage to teach from for the rest of my life it would be John 21.
This week five years ago I was in Madison, WI with Jon as he attended Orientation for New Staff (ONS) with InterVarsity. I attended as a guest, thinking it would be fun to tag along and hang out in Madison for a week and a half. However what was supposed to be me siimply being along for the ride and supporting Jon in his new full time ministry role turned into a time where God would transform my life in some major ways.
During one of our sessions, the teacher (who if I remember correctly was Phyllis Lepeau, although i could be wrong) was speaking from John 21. I can’t remember if she was simply referencing it, or we were studying it. As she began speaking the part where Jesus exhorts Peter to “feed his sheep” the voice Phyllis disappeared and was replaced by a man’s voice.
“Feed my sheep” He said.
It was a voice that I could hear physically with my ears but was simultaneously echoing around in my heart.
As I am pretty sure Phyllis didn’t morph into a man at that moment and no one else seemed to notice, I had either just hallucinated or heard from God.
Leading up to this moment I had actually been thinking about how I would really be interested in doing staff work, but never very seriously considered it and was pretty satisfied to continue on as a volunteer and staff spouse, but Jesus asking me to feed his sheep made the way forward pretty clear.
I said yes.
Since that time five years ago I have tried to be faithful to that calling and often times being so quick to do, do, do that I forget to be still with God. My nature is to get something done rather than sit at Jesus’ feet.
This week, ONS 2012, Jon and I have the privilege of leading small groups for the 127 new InterVarsity staff coming through the orientation. 127 new staff! How exciting this that?!
Anyways, this next week and a half will be an intense time of new staff receiving lots of information, wrestling with their calling, fund development, their identity and their ethnicity. Jon and I will be shepherding them, helping them process, praying with them, facilitating small group times and just trying to love them, serve them and provide hospitality as best we can. We get a group of married couples who are both on staff. Having both spouses on staff has its share of unique blessings (being partners, sharing a vision, spending time together) and challenges (raising a budget together, two non-traditional schedules, regular ministry demands) and so I am looking forward to caring for others in this position.
This morning the other program staff and I had a brief time of silence and prayer before we began going over the program, schedule and logistics for ONS. I closed my eyes and just tried to visualize Jesus to prevent my mind from wandering to all kinds of other things.
And there He was, walking along the ocean.
He took my arm and we walked awhile and I enjoyed the reminder that God is always walking with us, even in a hotel conference room. In the quiet of my own heart and mind Jesus then took my hand and led me toward breakfast on the beach. Fish that was freshly caught and roasting on some coals.
This looks familiar, I thought.
Oh yeah, we’re in John 21, how ironic!
I waited for Jesus to speak and was expecting him to say “Feed my sheep” again and honestly I was hoping for some direction he would give me for a ministry decision for the fall semester. But this time around at ONS Jesus didn’t say feed my sheep. He said “Eat this fish”.
Jesus wanted to sit with me and share a meal with me. He wanted to serve me.
Jesus doesn’t treat me like a slave, only good for the sheep that I can feed. He treats me as a friend and He desires to take care of me, to feed me and make sure I am full and rested.
I love that about Jesus and I am looking forward to walking with him this week, allowing myself to be full on His goodness while I continue down the path He set before me five years ago.