Earlier this month, I read this article while gleaning through articles on the NY Times online. It’s about Margaret “Marge” Winski, the Montauk Lighthouse keeper for the past 30 years. This good and faithful servant is retiring at the age of 62. She had dreamed of living in a lighthouse since she was 12.
Built in 1796, the lighthouse was one of the first public works projects commissioned by President George Washington. When our coast guard moved out on April 1 of1987, Marge moved in. She dutifully watched over the lighthouse, and oversaw sales from the gift shop and visitors. She also held a job at the local post office to make income since the lighthouse didn’t provide any. After 30 years, Marge is hanging up her lighthouse cap and moving to Maine. Because she’s always wanted to live there.
Yesterday, I visited Fisher’s Island, and old army base guarding Long Island Sound, just off the coast of New London, Connecticut. It’s really part of New York state, but the way you get there is on a ferry coming from New London. I met Candy, the Presbyterian pastor for the UCC chapel located on the island to do some worship planning for our presbytery meetings. Basically, Candy is the island pastor. Some people live there year-round as residents about 230), while the other half have private homes they use for vacation which swells the population in the warm months to about 2,000. On a clear day you can see the Montauk lighthouse from the shores.
What strikes me about Candy and Marge is that they are both people who are doing really, really, I mean really, important work. Someone has to stay in the lighthouse at night to make sure all is well, and someone has to be a pastor on the tiny island to see to the needs of those who need her.
There is no way I could do this. Just being alone nights when my wife is out of town drives me nuts. Or not having a mode of transportation to wherever I wanted or needed at any hour of the night or day would put me in a panic. But these ladies do it. They have what it takes to do these particular jobs.
The reality is, in ministry, we have to be better at encouraging people to do what it is that they are good at. In the book of Romas (of which I have a complicated relationship) 12:6-8, we all have different gifts that we’re given and we’re to use them. We also have to take stock of them. We have to be self aware of what we can do. Frankly, it’s our responsibility and we owe it to God, ourselves, and the world to be our best selves. Nothing says we can’t grow and branch out, but we’ve been given those gifts for a reason. Maybe we should explore those.
I hear from many of my friends that “God equips those who are called.” But I think it’s that God calls those who are equipped. And sometimes we don’t know we’re equipped until we get there. Which is why we have to take stock and do some careful discerning of who we are and what God has given to us as tools.
I’m not someone who likes financials, so I will never take a job in finance. I also am not someone who does young adult (post-college) ministry and couples ministry, those are not my gifts . I’m not going to either of them and just hope it works out. I’m going to go do the things I’m already equipped at and then get better and grow from there. I’m not going to do that kind of disservice to people.
We all do a disservice to the church and her people when we blindly think that we could live in the lighthouse, when we know darn good and well we could never last past a week at best. Someone has to watch the lighthouse, but not everyone can.