Torturous wires taut across the neck, turning at the headstock, and slicing across the pads of a newborn guitarist’s fingers. The pianist inside me, trained in ramrod straight sitting and graceful keys lilting, protested at the intrusion of nylon and steel. It was too much, too painful, and I gave up before my fun manicured fingers became callused and hard.
Inspect the fingers of a guitarist and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.
Inspect the balls of a dancer’s feet and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.
Inspect the palms of a gymnast and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.
Inspect the heart of a Christian and you might find calluses. But what stories do they tell?
A callus is a thick and hard part of the skin, developed through friction over a period of time. Guitarists, dancers, and gymnasts want them because they help. Guitar strings are pressed harder. Barefoot turns are executed better. Bars are gripped easier.
In the hearts of believers, however, calluses have two stories to tell.
First, they can be evidence of devotion. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the better we can endure hardships and trials. Our hearts and spirits are callused in a way that prepares us for what comes our way. We are callused in a way that helps us hold onto God and our faith even when it seems like our world is falling apart.
A new believer does not have those kinds of calluses simply because she’s only begun her walk with God. Like a beginner guitarist, dancer, or gymnast, it will take time, experience, and perseverance before calluses appear.
But there’s the second kind of calluses we don’t want. We don’t want calloused calluses.
Read: Hebrews 6 (NLT)
Callused: having formed or produced a callus
Calloused: hardened, insensitive, indifferent
In chapter 6, the author of Hebrews addresses believers who are veterans of the faith. These are believers who know the fundamentals or basic teachings of Christianity (v1-3). These are believers who have been serving other believers (v10), or in other words, believers in the ministry.
He instructs them to mature and move forward. Then he encourages them with these words (v9-12):
Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
To me, it sounds like the author knew about ministry burnout. He knew about calloused calluses.
Anyone in the ministry knows how hard it is. It can be easy to get caught up in the passion of the front lines: dressing up for VBS, playing on stage every Sunday, greeting every person that walks through the front doors of the church, sharing your insights on Scripture.
But the rose-tinted glasses come off pretty quickly. Behind every costume are months of planning. Behind every instrument are late night practices. Behind every greeting, getting up early to arrive at church before on-time. And behind every Scripture insight, days on your knees, praying, maybe crying.
Behind every ministry is this gut-wrenching, messy, holding-your-head-above-water, giving totally, receiving hardly anything, kind of love.
And it’s easy to become calloused, that’s with an “o.” Calloused. Hard. Insensitive. Indifferent. Spiritually dull. Because it’s hard, because it can be lonely, because it can be crushing.
But there’s hope! I love how there’s always hope 🙂
God gave us His promise and His oath. These two are almost synonymous, but an oath usually “invokes a divine witness” (Google). An oath is a “promise strengthened by such an appeal [to a deity or revered person or thing]” (Dictionary.com).
God bound Himself with an oath, using His own name (v13), so that we can be “perfectly sure” God won’t change His mind about us (v17).
Do you feel as if your ministry – in church, at home, in the community or work place – is beating you up? Is your spirit in danger of indifference and dullness? Is your heart in danger of calloused calluses? Don’t despair!
You are meant for the better things that come with salvation. (Tweet that!).
Things like refuge, great confidence, a strong and trustworthy Soul Anchor, eternal life in God’s inner sanctuary (aka heaven), and hope (v18-20).
God remembers how hard you work. He remembers the love and care you continually give to others. So keep on loving and caring and enduring in the ministry because no matter how challenging it gets, we have hope in Jesus. (Tweet that!).