The Boxer

Have you ever asked God for a sign? Maybe you have experienced something that you believe to be a sign from God? The Bible is filled with stories about God giving signs of things, of assurances, of impending disaster, of love and forgiveness and so on. But have you ever asked for a sign? I have.

I was having a crisis in faith. I was questioning whether anything I was doing mattered. It’s not easy being a pastor. Here are some statistics from various sources:

•75% report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”

•90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week

•90% feel fatigued and worn out every week

•70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they entered ministry

•70% constantly fight depression

•50% feel so discouraged that they would leave their ministry if they could, but can’t find another job

•80% believe their pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 33% said it was an outright hazard 

Gratefully, I do not fit most of these responses. After nearly 18 years of ordained ministry, and over 45 years of ministry in total I am still energized and excited about the work I have been called into.

Still, there are moments. And in this one particular moment I asked for a sign. That Iwas doing the right thing, that I was on the right path. And I asked for a specific sign. I’m a huge Dodger fan and this particular night they were losing the game. Down three runs at the beginning of the ninth, and late enough in the evening I needed to go  to bed, I asked God for a sign. “Let the Dodgers come back and win the game,” I asked.

And I went to bed.

Next morning I awoke and quickly checked the score of the game. Turned out the Dodgers scored three in the bottom of the ninth to tie. And lost the game in the tenth inning.

“Ok,” I thought. “Was that the sign? I mean, they tied the game.” Not sure, I headed off to my morning (and monthly) meeting with a 4th grade class and a Rotary program called S.T.A.R. “Stop, Think, Act, Review” is an interaction with the kids focused on developing life skills. The theme that morning was, “I am confident in what I do.”

“Ok, I thought, is THIS the sign?” My favorite baseball team comes from behind, but loses, and the next thing I am doing is talking with kids about self confidence. I just wasn’t sure. And isn’t that the way with God. Sometimes God hits us right between the eyes and other times, well, we wait. And wonder.

Leaving the 4th graders, I headed over to Starbucks to grab some breakfast before going to the church, my usual ritual on days I visit the class. I entered Starbucks and got in line, and felt something, but couldn’t quite make sense of it. Then it hit me.

Starbucks usually has music playing, and this morning they were playing a Simon and Garfunkel song, one of my favorites, one I play and sing on occasion. It’s called The Boxer. And the verse they were singing was,

“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him out or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame, ‘I am leaving, I am leaving,’ but the fighter still remains.”

It was the sign I asked for. I just didn’t know that when I asked for it. You see, Jesus never said the work we would do would be easy.

He just said it would be worth it.