Against the Grain

My wood shop teacher, Mr. Shirk, told our class to always sand wood “with the grain.” If you go with the grain the wood it will turn out nice and smooth but if you go “against the grain” it will come out rough and make ugly grooves. I have found that this truth applies to much of life. If I go with the direction that is natural things go smooth, but going against my natural instincts can be difficult and ugly. I say all of this because I believe God has SHAPED us for ministry (see yesterday’s post) but I firmly believe that sometimes we have to go against the grain. This conviction comes not because of a large amount of research or evidence, but because of personal experience.

Let me start this story in Bible college. I honestly had no desire to be a preacher. I went to Bible college because I thought it would be easy. I often joke, “One book, how hard could it be?” While exploring my faith I came to the total realization that Christ was real and true. Then I decided that if he were real and true then I must serve him with my whole life. This lead me to explore mission work for a summer. That summer I felt the Lord leading me away from overseas mission work, I did feel Him leading me into preaching and new Church work.

Following my mission trip in 1993 I returned to school and began the prospect of preaching every week. It began in Urich Missouri that Fall and has lasted ever since. While I might seem calm and composed behind the microphone, let me give you the back story. The first few years I spent every Sunday morning in the bathroom before Church. My stomach would convulse and my body would revolt at what I was about to do. Eventually Pepto Bismol and Immodium became part of my Saturday night diet in an effort to turn back the tide so to speak. Over the years I have been able to reduce the amount of pain in my gut but those butterflies in my stomach that other people talk about are more like fighting dogs inside me.

Then there is the other side of my preaching. When it is over I am drained beyond description. Every Sunday that I can, I go home to eat and then take a nap. I am totally exhausted after preaching. I compare it to running a marathon, although I have never really ran one. After preaching my body is tired, my brain is tired and I do not want to do anything for a period of time. This is usually compounded by the fact that I have never had a good night’s sleep on Saturday night and spending the morning in the bathroom.

Personally, I know why all of this happens to me – because I am going against the grain. I firmly believe that God created me as an introvert. I want to be alone and away from people. I enjoy metal detecting because I put on my headphones and can ignore everyone. The same is true with hunting. Also with most fishing. I am fairly anti-social and prefer the company of myself. In fact, the struggles in my ministry are always from how I relate to people outside of the pulpit.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because despite my natural inclinations I became a preacher. I have preached somewhere over 1,000 sermons and have taught another 700 times in religious classes. I have done this not by my own design but because of the power of the Holy Spirit. Every week God somehow takes my misery and transforms lives through what is said. For that reason, and that reason alone, I keep doing it. Preaching does not come natural to me no matter how it appears.

So when I set down and talk with people about getting involved somewhere in the Church and they tell me that they will not do it because it is not natural. I think in my head, “Do you not want to do it because you CAN not do it or because you WILL not let the Spirit use you in this area?”

2 thoughts on “Against the Grain

  1. Matthew I would like to thank you for sharing your story.
    You, I believe, are totally called to be a minister. Your words, both written as well as your sermons,reach a place inside of me that’s never been touched. You help me to see things in a totally diffent perspective.
    The truths you speak touches my heart and I am so glad God brought you to ACC.
    God is using you to help break the chains of depression and anxiety that have held me captive the first 57 year of my life.
    Your realness helps me to see others too wear masks and lets people see the good, the part God knows we need to see, not the part that goes on behind closed doors.
    I praise The Lord for the gift of you!!!

  2. The quickest way to shape wood is to grind, sand and chip away at it against the grain, but as we'(God) gets closer to what we, (He) wants we slow things down and begin to work with the grain to bring out the beauty of the finished product. The funny thing is as God works on us in the grinding stage, when He is done and starts the finishing stage we sometimes get impatient at the sudden ,what appears to us to be slow sanding process.

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