I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the Fall semester every year is like a roller coaster. The summer is a long, slow wind-up, clicking along in preparation, then the semester begins and everything speeds up drastically - there are ups and downs, turns and loops, not much downtime, and then the ride is over before you know it. Because of the nature of this beast that is College Ministry, I am consistently moved to remember that prayer is more important than any other action of ministry. Prayer is the most fundamental, necessary event for anyone who wants to live for God and lead others to do the same.
This semester, we fed hundreds of students during welcome week; we enjoyed a retreat weekend at the Sagers’ house on Lake Granbury; we had game nights, Life Groups, and meals together; we shot clay, ate brisket, and made s’mores at the Gardner/Weatherford ranch in Lipan; and we will soon have a Christmas party at the Whites’ house to wrap up the busy semester. There have been Sundays when we creatively squeeze into the pews and pull extra chairs into the classroom for everyone to fit, and there have been days when me and a few students sat each on our own couch and chatted about life. Like I said, it’s a roller coaster.
A lot of the job is of those types of things - planning events or retreats, sharing meals with students, preparing and teaching Bible studies, helping students work through life stuff, and a variety of other things that look like “work,” but if I do any of those things without praying first, I might as well just be twiddling my thumbs.
I’ve noticed that when my life seems to be coming off the rails a bit, the same thing is happening in the lives of the students I work with. I have no idea why that is, but I just know that every time I am not getting enough sleep, feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, feeling like I’m not good enough or don’t measure up, or experiencing stronger and more frequent temptation from the adversary, I talk with students who often share the very same things about their lives. This means that every time Satan tries to take me down, I need to pray not just for myself, but for the students (and others), because Satan is trying to weasel his way into their lives too.
If my first point is about the necessity of prayer, my second is about the importance of transparent sharing and honest confession. I wouldn’t even know that a student was going through similar struggles as me unless both of us are willing to share openly. By contrast, I’ve had students come to me in crisis, suddenly unable to handle a situation about which I had never heard, because they were too embarrassed to share, or too convinced that they must pretend everything is okay, like they see others doing all the time.
If a student is unwilling to share, how can I know what to pray about, or see opportunities to guide or counsel them? If we are unwilling to be authentic, we are limiting the ability of others to help. Someone once said, “To help another person is to experience the joy of life. To withhold from others the opportunity to help is to withhold from them the joy of life.”
If we’re not transparent, we make it hard for others to help, and worse yet, we contribute to an atmosphere where genuine sharing is avoided and honesty is replaced with a mask that says, “I’m fine.” The Apostle Paul was never shy to admit his faults and flaws, and James the brother of Jesus said we must confess not just to God, but to one another. The church in the Bible are called “brothers and sisters” - we are the family of God. Confession is an antidote to pride - it urges us toward humility and helps keep us on track. Confession begets community - it brings people closer, because they know each other more deeply. Confession also clarifies the work of God in the lives of His people - when we are honest about shortcomings, transformation by the Spirit is much more apparent when it happens.
It is both scriptural and practical to say that there should be no secrets in the family of God.
I’ve tried to model a bit of authenticity in this writing. I admit that it’s an area where I struggle, but I aim to improve, because I think it is to the benefit of all. Prayer and transparency bring glory to God - they reveal and highlight the work of God in our lives, and they make space for the family of God to function as a healthy, holistic body. I encourage you to make this your aim as well.
P.S. If you want to grow and improve in both of these areas, I highly recommend the Wednesday Night Prayer Circle at Southside. It is one of our weekly offerings at 6:30pm Wednesdays, and it is a place to practice deep prayer and authentic sharing. Nobody is required to share or pray, but I guarantee you will grow in these areas by being present.