“ COI. That’s a big goldfish, right?”
“No, that’s Koi. COI is my ‘Circle of Influence.’”
Over the past 24 hours, I have received much wisdom through the words of members of my family, fellow bloggers, and the priest at St. George’s. I am applying these words of wisdom, here, to the focus and extent of what I call my ministry.
My sister (wise beyond her years) pointed out to me that I cannot save the world. I am reminded of the story of the old man and the starfish. The old man was walking along a shore with his grandson at dawn when they came upon thousands of starfish scattered on the beach. The old man gently picked up one starfish and released it in the surf. A few steps later, he picked up another and let it loose carefully into the water. “What are you doing?” asked the young boy. The old man replied, “When the sun rises, these starfish will be stranded out of water; they will dry out and die.” “But, Grandfather, there are so many! You can not put them all back. What difference will it make?” The old man smiled, released another, and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Last night, my brother (also, very wise) explained that to change the hearts of people who carry hatred around with them, takes a great deal of effort on the part of parents, schools, preachers, the media, etc. In other words, it takes a village. My brother would not say “it takes a village;” that would be too Hillary, for him, but I know and agree with what he said. A while back, I wrote, All I Need to Do is Show Up; it is about how I plant seeds and sand and God does the rest.
Add to that, something my nephew said at lunch, yesterday…namely, that I don’t need to influence the whole world but just the people around me…and that that includes and starts with Me. His point is well-taken, particularly his emphasis that I must address my own character and faith before I can rightfully and adequately address others’. I call those other people around me, my Circle of Influence, or COI.
That circle is defined by my location and circumstances. Physically, I am located in rural upstate South Carolina, surrounded by people who often feel strongly about certain issues; some of those issues are subjects I often write about. However, I am also located on the internet and reach out to people who have somehow stumbled upon my writings. But, this morning, the priest at St. George’s caused me to rethink the whole concept of MY circle of influence.
(Before I pass on to you what the priest said, I must insert that my personal, spiritual ‘location’… which requires regular mid-course correction and is therefore not fixed…does hopefully draw deeply in the Spirit…at least that is my prayer.)
The priest addressed the way we typically handle challenges in life. I apply it to the challenge of my ‘ministry.’ He asked, “What is the first thing you do, religiously?”* He suggested that we usually try and try again, using our own effort. A fellow blogger addressed this same issue using the example of golf. As he put it, “There is the effort equals outcome approach, and there is the wisdom equals results approach….On the simplistic side of the effort equals outcome approach, we will line up the putt with the hole as best we can and putt the thing as many times as it takes to get the ball in the hole.” I daresay, that approach is not the best one, score-wise. (You may find the rest of his thoughts in his essay, Arriving…Effortlessly.)
The priest’s very wise suggestion for the Best way, was to get out of the way. He pointed out that the center of my efforts is usually ME. (I think that is exactly what I admitted to, above.) His sermon was about the Trinity…since this is Trinity Sunday…and he described the three aspects of God as 1) God, the Creator; 2) God, the Redeemer; and 3) God, the Reveal-er: the Reveal-er of the Revelation of God. (I like that.)
Furthermore, he added, it is not what we accomplish that makes us Christians, it is what the Holy Spirit accomplishes with respect to us. But we (by ‘we,’ I mean ‘I’) must get out of the way. Instead of praying, “God give me the strength and wisdom to…(whatever),” I should pray “Lord, it is in your hands. I turn it over to you. Let me (help me) get out of the way.”
It is about trust, he asserted. Religion, he said, is not doctrine, creed, rules, and regulations. Religion is “trusting God in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us (me) to trust God.” That’s profound. I have to repeat that: The Holy Spirit works in me to trust God. So, I pray, “Lord, help me to trust.”
From this point forward, therefore, it is my intention, within my ministry, within my circle of influence, to fall backwards into the waiting arms of God and say, “Lord, I trust You. Help me get out of the way.” May that be the revelation of the Holy Spirit in me.
(* I was struck by the clever use of the word ‘religiously’ in his question. He could be asking what we do when we address a challenge in a religious sense, i.e., in our discussion of the issue with God; or he could be simply using the informal sense of doing something ‘regularly.’ Both apply. Both are cause for thought.)
(The image at the top is a stained glass window made by a good friend of mine.)