While I was working in camp ministry, there was a concept that we talked about a lot within our camp leadership programs. We referred to it as 'The Wall'. We would say that someone had 'hit the wall' when we observed that a leader, who had been going strong beforehand, had suddenly come to an invisible barrier. This barrier could be physical, emotional, mental, etc. Sometimes a leader would only 'hit one wall' during their summer of ministry and sometimes another would hit multiple ones.
Now, this is a bit of an abstract concept, so let me try and break it down into an example that you can personally relate to. Imagine that you have been in a ministry leadership position and have been going through some challenges, both internally and externally. You've been able to manage well by making sure you take time for Bible study and time with God. All of a sudden one more large challenge comes, it could be fatigue, a difficult decision to make, feeling pulled in too many directions, discouragement in some form, or even sustaining an injury that requires a change in how you've been ministering up until that point. All of a sudden, you feel like you just can't do it anymore. Discouragement sets in, frustration, even perhaps a sense of failure. This is the wall.
I have observed this, year after year, both in myself and in the leaders that I was training. No one was immune to it, inevitably it happened. Sometimes it would be a small thing, sometimes a big thing, but every time, you never knew what would bring you there.
During training I would tell them of this concept and the fact that they would most likely 'hit a wall' at some point during the summer. We would then go on to discuss what we had to do when we got to that place.
There are only two choices that a person can make when they hit the wall. That's it. It's a simple choice really, but one that can be very difficult to make. The choice is between self and others. If self is chosen, the person retreats into themselves, chooses to wallow in a bit of self misery, and becomes blinded to the needs of others around them. This is the easy choice and the one we are prone to choose.
If others are chosen, the person chooses to take their eyes off themselves, seeks ways to build up, encourage and serve others, and can completely change their outlook. This choice takes a diligence of thought as it's not what our selfish natures would automatically choose. But, this is the only choice that pushes you through the wall.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Quite a number of years ago, during my first few years of full-time ministry, I hit a very large wall. It was one that encompassed most areas of my life. For awhile I chose to wallow in self misery and carry a 'poor me' attitude, which was detrimental to how I viewed my ministry and my calling.
In essence, I adopted what I later called a 'martyr-complex'. I focused on the things that I had 'given up for my calling' and the things that were seemingly lost, like close friendships, my church community, and family to some extent as I had moved away.
It was a dark time in my life, but thankfully God showed me how I could break through this wall.
As I didn't have a lot of people around to focus on, He seemed to encourage me to create a prayer request board for people that I knew. When I would notice my focus turning more inward, I would sit myself in front of this prayer board and just start praying for those listed on it. It took discipline and diligence to focus on others, but the quicker I did it, the quicker I was able to break through the walls.
When I read through Philippians 2:3-8, I'm always struck with Christ's attitude. He, out of anyone, could almost be entitled to a 'poor me' attitude. He gave up so much just to become a lowly human, to go from a King in heaven, to a bond-servant. Yet, we don't see Him choosing that attitude ever. He willingly emptied Himself and was obedient. His focus was entirely on others.
Hitting a wall is never enjoyable, but I think God uses them as a tool for refinement; if we allow Him. It takes a determined 'death to self' to be victorious. But, that is what He calls us to, isn't it!
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me”
Do you remember ever specifically hitting a wall? Are you hitting one now?
What choice will you make?
*Originally posted on The Eddy Blog 2016