It’s quarter to midnight. I have to be at church at 5:30 a.m. to make sure last-minute logistics are covered and someone is available to meet the bus drivers when they arrive. Fortunately, this ain’t my first rodeo…
A carefully (and perpetually) packed toiletries bag stands watch in my bathroom, with duplicates of everything I use in my daily routine. That way I never get stuck somewhere without deodorant or a toothbrush.
In my linen closet is the only set of twin sheets we own, brightly colored to stand apart from the chaos of endless fitted sheets and mismatched pillowcases. Sleeping bags are mummy’s tombs, so I always take my own bedroll to camp—and it’s always ready.
Of all the things I expected to face in youth ministry, travel has been a glaring unexpected aspect of my calling. I go to multiple camps and retreats every year, a conference or two, and I have an occasional out-of-state wedding to perform… I should have signed up for miles or points on something! But I’ve managed to sync up my life with my travel schedule so precisely—everything in its place and ready to fly!
So I lug my suitcase up from the basement. This thing feels heavier than the last time I used it. Probably because I’m old…and it’s midnight. I hoist Mr. Samsonite onto the bed, fling him open and….
…to my horror, it’s filled with dirty laundry! In my haste to keep my life ordered—as I wrapped myself in pride for life-hacks even a Pinterest addict would envy—I overlooked my dirty laundry. I didn’t pull it out, recoil from the camp stench, throw it in the washing machine with too much detergent, and complain about the one stain I couldn’t eradicate… Nope. I just left it in the suitcase and stored it the basement after my last trip.
Exhaustion overwhelms me as I realize what time it is. Because I didn’t adequately deal with my dirty laundry earlier, it’s a much bigger problem now. I’ll be working into the wee hours of the morning, and starting this next trip even more tired and overwhelmed than I already am. And what if I can’t get it all done in time? Then, not only have I failed at handling my dirty laundry, I’ll have nothing to wear! Naked, for the world to see, simply because I inadvertently shoved the dirty, smelly parts into the basement.
Summers are hectic. It’s a myth that everything slows down in the summer. Even when we scale back on regular programming, it feels like we accelerate to hyperdrive with everything else. If we aren’t careful, we’ll hold on to dirty laundry we’ve failed to deal with. And we’re already so tired. And it’s the middle of the night. And we feel like we have to keep going…“for the sake of the ministry.”
So, a word of exhortation between two “fellow travelers.” Unpack your dirty laundry, friend…
What if the best way to “keep going” in ministry is to let the stink out of the bag?
Who is holding you accountable?
Who is asking the hard questions?
Who is looking past your perfectly packed toiletries case?
And what would it mean for your ministry? Your Life? Your soul?
Unpack your dirty laundry.