Monday, December 15, 2014

Lessons from the swing set

This past Thursday, Katie and I had the chance to build a swing set for a family that I had worked for this summer.  To only call it a swing set would be an understatement, we spent about 10 hours putting the play fortress together.  We even had to break out the work lights so we could get it finished.  At the end of the day, it was awesome seeing the huge smiles on the kids' faces as they played on the new swing set. We had a great time working together and learned a lot in the process.

After Katie and I were accepted as long term missionaries, we entered a phase of ministry partnership development (MPD). This involves contacting and sharing with churches, friends, family, and anyone who will listen, about our ministry and calling as well as how they can partner with us.  I think we both expected that as we started doing MPD everything would just fall into place and we would be a well oiled machine.  However, we soon discovered that this is not quite the case, it has been challenging learning how to work together in this.  We both had some expectations of how it would go and who would do what.  By God's grace, we were making some progress, but it all seemed rather disjointed. This brings me back to the swing set.

Sometimes ya need a little success! Driving home Thursday night, there was some new life in the car.  We were both worn out, but there was a feeling of accomplishment, of look what we can do when we work together.  As we talked about what made it so easy for us to work together, this is what we came up with:

Manuals are awesome!  Without the manual for putting the swing set together, we would've been lost and unsure of where to start and how each piece fit together.  I think this has been one of the harder things about MPD, there really isn't a set manual, step-by-step instructions for going about this.  Even though Katie has been doing it for years, we still had to figure out how the Mannings were going to do it. 

We had clarity on our roles and we're confident in those roles.  I had studied the manual before we even began.  So I knew how we would go about the day and what would be most helpful for getting the job done.  I was confident in screwing all the pieces together and Katie was confident in being one step ahead, pulling the pieces and hardware out for the next phase so once I was finished, I could move right into the next phase.  In MPD, we're still trying to figure out what there is to do, much less who can do what, which leads to some unmet expectations and feelings of paralysis.  We want to work together well so we need to continue to extend grace to each other especially since we've only been married 10 months and both full-time missionaries for 3 months.

We also learned that it is FUN to work together, something we had started to question.  It was great getting to see each other in their areas of giftedness and encourage each other with the different tasks we were doing.  It's fun to labor together with your spouse in the work that God has for us.  

I'd love to tell you that now things are going awesome and we're making tremendous progress on our ministry partnership development, but the reality is the whole thing is a journey.  Each day we continue on and God is using this journey to refine us.  When you think about it, the same is true for each one of us, even though sometimes we don't see it, or we want to fight it.  Praise the Lord that He is sovereign and has the perfect plan.  Katie and I thank God for the refreshment He gave us in the form of a disassembled swing set and for all He taught us through it.

Psalm 66:10-12 "For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."