Because I’ve been working in the yard for the past week every spare minute, I have either dirty fingernails or no fingernails.  My hands, arms and legs are scratched and bruised.  My toenails are black from being rubbed in the dirt, as I’ve knelt to plant or pull up or transplant. 

It seems that everything we do in life leaves some kind of imprint on our bodies, minds and perhaps even our souls.  Since camp, I’ve been bone tired.  I’ve rested and slept; but my body didn’t seem to be able to find a spot in the bed where I could get comfortable and really relax.  Then I realized that what was missing in my sleep equation was that I need hard physical work to relax after a time of great stress. 

At the end of a period of time where I’ve been living under tension, hard, really hard physical labor is the only thing that helps me to relax.  Therefore, I got up from the couch and began working in my yard.  It is 90-plus degrees in Florida. The heat and humidity make pulling weeds and trimming hedges while maneuvering around thorns and briars a real physical challenge.  Yesterday, I raked and picked up leaves under the moonlight.

Today, my day began with a pastors’ prayer meeting.  Each one of us shared the joys and struggles of our individual ministries.  One pastor is losing her associate who has become her right arm.  He will be deeply missed.  Another minister is also losing his associate who showed up on his door step with his family about a year ago and has been a drain on the ministry since.  Joys and struggles mark our ministries and our souls. 

One young man is waiting to hear if he will become the senior pastor of the church where he has served as interim for four years.  The church has prospered and grown during this time but the committee is noncommittal about their intentions.  Another pastor has been promoted to the senior position.  While excited about the advancement, it isn’t a situation to which he has ever aspired.  He loved what he did for almost 20 years.  The adjustments have been more complicated than he imagined.  Joys and struggles mark our ministries and our souls.

This morning, as others shared, I sat thinking about the joys of working off the tensions of ministry with hard labor.  Joys and struggles mark a completeness as our heart become intertwined with the heart of God.  Like a grapevine, we cling feverishly to the Life Giver while struggling to learn and do our best for the Lord.   As we moved around the room laughing at the joys and wincing at the struggles of each person, I thanked God for marking my life with my personal joys and struggles and allowing me to minister in the precious field of labor where he has placed me.