It seems that life itself is an exercise in trial and error. I'm sure that's pretty self-evident to most, but I like it nice and tidy, with a nice set of rules and a "if you do _____, then ____ will happen" set of expectations and outcomes. Instead of my sets of organized plans, it's more a task of throwing spaghetti at the walls and seeing what sticks.
As a parent, my days are full of so many instructions and reminders ("Chew with your mouth closed! Say you're sorry. No sitting on the table. Take your shoes off. That's inappropriate. Do your homework. Go to SLEEP!!) that I'm sure I start to sound like the wah wah teacher on Charlie Brown. I never know when they're really listening until they surprise me. Recently, on a short stop in Williamsburg (short because we needed a diversion for the grumpy travelers in the backseat), we were browsing in a toy store. Brady picked up something and asked what it was. It was a colonial firearm of some sort and I told him it was a gun. He put it down gently and said, "I know we can't have that" without me even having to explain, for once.
In the car on the way to church the other day, the kids were adding to the ever growing Christmas list (in spite of our efforts to derail our consumerism). Brady was arguing for a Kindle Fire and spouted off lots of reasons why he wanted one ending with the convincing, "You can also read books on them." Maryn was quick to chime in, "Yeah, it will help me learn to read." Just as if they had rehearsed their strategy. Brady even explained to Maryn how they would have to give up their current game system (a Christmas gift of years past) as he knows we have to give something away to get something new.
Ministry has its own parallels. I wish that I could find a system, a method, a strategy that would draw seekers and meet their needs. But ministry is relational, and relationships are messy and unpredictable. And yet, God works through the mess, continually providing new connections and new inspiration. Not everything "sticks", but sometimes the important things do.
I'm thankful for the uncertain, never ending, yet hopeful process of work. As I heard the great preacher Fred Craddock once pray,
"God, we are grateful for work that is more important than how we feel about it on any given day. Amen"