Knowing When It’s Time to GoFr. Barnabas Powell
Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses! But how do you do that, especially when emotions are involved? And especially when you don’t know yourself well enough to see the end of your personal talents and gifts in a given situation!
It seems I was at a very familiar place in my life. Being someone who loves to help and loves to be seen as a benefit in someone else’s life, I was once again hitting a brick wall with this person. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get past the wall of anger and even outright hatred in this other person’s life. I tried being nice. I tried being apologetic. I tried being funny. I tried being nonchalant. I even tried being brutally honest. And nothing worked. Everything I tried ended up making things worse! I didn’t get it. Was I really that ineffective?
Yes, I was. I had to come to the conclusion that I was not going to be the one to break the icy wall between me and this other person, and I was a minister! I had to confront the foolish pride that I was always effective. I had to admit this was one person I was never going to be able to befriend. It was hard. I had to leave before I made things even worse.
Maybe you’ve been in the same spot in your life when you’ve tried to make things better and all you did was succeed in making things worse!
The Lord knew there would be times when we would face these moments and He had some powerful instruction for His disciples when they hit that brick wall in their ministry!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 10:9-15:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
Jesus tells His disciples that, during their lives as they were obedient to His command to “go into all the world and make disciples” His disciples would confront an unpleasant reality: they were not going to succeed every time. And when they got to that spot, they had a choice; keep beating their heads against a brick wall or move on. The Lord told them to move on!
You see, you may not be the one to get through to a particular person. There may be another who can accomplish that task, and that person can’t get to this hard work while you’re in the way! The hard work of discerning when it’s time to go has everything to do with two very important insights into YOURSELF.
First, is the humble realization that success isn’t up to you. You are a servant. Often people ask me if this group or that group is right or if this person or that person is good and I always respond with “I’m in sales, not management. I don’t get those memos from headquarters!” This vital perspective keeps you from the “savior’s sickness” that cons you into believing you’re the only one who can save the world! That easy and prideful delusion just sets you up for the rude awakening that there are some people you won’t reach, and that’s OK. Your development of humility is vital to your own spiritual maturity. God is the One Who never fails!
Second, the wonderful truth is that you and those around you are truly free. As I was making my spiritual journey toward the Orthodox Church, a wise man told me “You aren’t free to say ‘yes’ until you are truly free to say ‘no.'” You see, the gift of human freedom means you are called to respect others’ freedom as much as God respects your freedom. He never forces Himself on anyone and you shouldn’t either. This peaceful perspective sets you free to so love another you allow them the very freedom they must have if they are ever going to be truly who they are. That goes for you, too!
The great HieroMartyr Methodius was bishop of Olympus (yes, THAT Olympus) and his wisdom a gentleness were so profound that he was nicknamed “Eubulus) which means “of good counsel. St. Methodios was the first Orthodox hierarch and theologian to notice the dangers and weaknesses of Origen’s theological speculations and he forcefully defended the Orthodox Faith defending the Lord’s Resurrection. Because St. Methodios knew himself, he was able to apply his God-given talents in an effective manner. But that very success drew the wrath of the pagan Roman Empire and he was killed for being a Christian in 311 AD under the reign of Emperor Maximus.
Today, there are going to be times when you have to “shake the dust off your feet” and move on, but that isn’t a failure as much as it is a true victory of love, humility, and respect. If you can allow the Spirit to develop a peaceful calm in your heart, then all the “savior complex” that drives us crazy and creates such frenzy in our hearts will melt into the freedom of love. And with that freedom, we leave all the results to God Who loves all of us more than we, ourselves, know how to love. Is it time to dust off your feet in some places in your life?
P.S. As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, you founded discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, you did also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Methodios. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
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