Yesterday I went to the school for severely disabled students in my area. I just needed to pick up some paperwork, but ran into a former coworker, who took me around to see some of my early intervention graduates. Eight or ten of my former students were there. The last time I saw any of them, they were two years old, and they're all in grade school now. They were all in wheelchairs; none of them were verbal. Though it was fun to see them, I left the school sad. I spent hours and hours with each of those children when they were babies - stretching otherwise unused muscles, singing nursery rhymes, reading books, pointing to pictures, teaching them to sit up or crawl or walk. Did any of my efforts change the prognosis for those kids? Did I honestly think they would? Did I really think, before yesterday, that those kids were going to wake up one day and climb trees and talk back to their parents? If not, then why do I do what I do?
And what is the measure of success? Looking back, was I wasting my time? Or was it enough to get to be a part of their lives for a little while?
I feel the same way about church. I love our church, and I'm not nearly as critical or bitter as I was a year ago toward the church in general, so I say this with no intention of condemnation. It bothers me that the American church, in general, uses a business model for growth. We have vision statements and projections and action plans, and we measure success and failure by what is seen. Why can't it be enough to get to be a part of people's lives for a while, to love and serve and obey, as we were told to do? If this isn't our goal, then what exactly are we trying to accomplish? And how are we measuring success?
I don't really know what I'm trying to say tonight - I'm thinking out loud, more than anything else. But I do know this: as I think back on the time I spent with those children, in particular, it doesn't feel like wasted time. I loved those children. And love for its own sake is the best measure of success I know.