You’ve seen those inspirational memes too.
“It’s always too early to quit.”
“Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.”
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Sounds good on a poster, and this philosophy sure works when you’re gritting your teeth through rehab or physical therapy.
But how do you know when it’s time to put the period on a ministry that’s defined your life?
For the past quarter-century, I’ve had the enormous privilege of traveling extensively during Advent to share the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the woman who knew him best. I’ve written about this drama ministry in the past, requesting fervent prayer, reflecting on God’s sense of humor in calling a middle-aged, now senior Scandinavian to portray a Jewish teenaged virgin.
Six years ago I sensed that the window of time was closing for the telling of this story, but the opportunities continued to come, always through word of mouth. Last year I traveled again with Mary to several Christmas outreach events out of state.
But now I’ve moved away to a new region of the country and more significantly, I’ve reached the age where I’m wondering if it’s time to hang up the veil.
And yet God has provided one more opportunity for me to tell her story back in the very place He gave the words 25 years ago, Cape Cod. It would be fitting, wouldn’t it, if this Saturday’s presentation is to be my final time to portray the woman Jesus called mother. A quarter-century of ministry come full circle back to the place it began.
How did the people of The Book know when they were released from ministry?
Numbers, the fourth book in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament, tells us that Levitical priests were to serve for 25 years. Their prescribed tenure began at age 25 and concluded at 50. (Numbers 8:24-26)
When it came to Moses, the great leader of the Exodus, God not only forbade him from crossing the Jordan River but informed him that it was time for him to die (Deut. 34:1-5). The same was true for Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29), and for Joshua (Joshua 23).
The Apostle Paul did not receive a specific injunction from God. He simply knew that his earthly ministry was rapidly drawing to a close when he famously wrote in 2 Tim 4:7, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’
I am deeply sentimental about firsts (easy to mark) as well as lasts (harder to identify). If Mary and I are to part ways until we meet in person one day, it will be a relief in many ways. Portraying her has been challenging physically and searing emotionally. I have never ever felt adequate to the task. It has forced me to cling fiercely to God and wait patiently for the empowerment of the Spirit. A personal overshadowing.
And that’s exactly why I will miss it.
How do you know when it’s time to quit? As I’ve pondered the question, I remember what Mary may have heard when she asked God how to tell her family that she, an unmarried virgin, was with child.
The time for telling will soon make itself plain.
And as his Spirit was with her, he has been with me as well. When it’s time for the telling to cease, He will make it plain.
Until then, since you’re reading these words would you whisper a prayer for those who will be present on Saturday? May they not see Mary but rather Jesus, her son and her Savior. On the cross the mother beheld her Messiah.
It’s what she would want. Me, too.