By Dionne Kane
Recently, I asked my pastor a question that stopped him in his tracks. It wasn’t the first time I’d done so, nor the second.
It kind of makes me laugh when I do this because there is this thing Pastor does when he is trying to hide his own confusion. This hand-on-chin-nodding-head-thing while looking all thoughtful and serious. The thing is that it only makes his confusion all the more obvious. So when I have to ask him a hard question it sort of takes away the seriousness of it when I’m laughing as I ask the question. And when you are laughing and proposing a confusing question at the same time, you really ought to assume that there is going to be even more confusion ahead.
The question I asked my Pastor was how I could serve God. Not an uncommon question, and maybe even one you’ve asked your own pastor. The deeper your relationship with God, in my opinion, the more compelled you are to serve, sometimes out of joy but sometimes out of obedience.
The reason Pastor was confused by my question, though, is because I do a fair amount of serving already. It probably seemed a little redundant. I volunteer in the nursery, help with monthly janitorial duties, host a weekly small group, and try to engage our church in a community outreach website. And, well, whatever else comes along that grabs my heart. I am a servant by nature. I thrive on serving, especially when I know that I am glorifying God in what I do.
Once, a long time ago, I actually quit a job I had just started so that I had time to help a friend through a crisis. And it was an easy decision. Easy, in part, because I truly hated the job I had, because I had only worked there a couple of weeks, and because I loved my friend. To me, that was an act of service and glorified God.
I don’t mind working the nursery three weeks in a row because someone is on vacation and someone else has company coming. In the past I might have been known to be the one that will always cover an absent worker when needed. I love the nursery and the babies, these precious, innocent babies that are such gifts from God. I love the joy of seeing them change from week to week, and the satisfaction of providing exactly everything they need: food, dry diaper, warm arms. I am completely competent, and it’s my way of serving God.
I love setting up a task list of needs and delegating to make sure the person in need gets covered. I enjoy the occasional stress involved in meeting one person’s transportation needs, or getting someone else hot meals during a recovery, or arranging volunteers for back-up childcare. I love helping, knowing that I made a difference. To me, it’s all serving God.
After Pastor awkwardly stumbled through figuring out what I meant, he told me he’d think about it and get back to me, and we went our separate ways: him to the pulpit, and me to one of the back rows with my kids.
Oh, yes, did I mention I have kids of my own to serve? Only three, and the occasional foster child – or two. Pastor preached and I listened, and prayed, and pondered. And I may have even cried a little. As I sat through the service (Ah, that word! It follows me everywhere!) my heart and mind began to be convicted by something. An irritating little itch of truth started poking me.
The question I had asked was how I could serve God. But at the heart of the question was really a different one that I wasn’t even aware of until I began to really think about it, and until the Holy Spirit began poking me with that itchy truth. As my question, and the meaning behind it, began twisting and reforming in my mind, I stumbled flat onto my own selfish nature.
At the heart of, “How can I serve God?” was the ugly nugget of selfish nature, self-service, self-fulfilling pride and laziness. “How can I serve God?” would have been more accurately represented if I’d have said, “How can I serve God the way I want to serve God?” It’s a pretty different question once you break the two down and sort them out. One seems so Godly and wonderful, the other not so much.
I had recently found myself in a new life or, rather, a new place in my life. Out of need, I had started back to work and taken the first available job that seemed flexible with the needs of my kids, and the needs of our family, as well as our bank account. A few nights a week and on weekends, I did desk work, made reminder appointment phone calls, and alphabetized three hundred gazillion files in a moldy office with negative people. It was easy enough work, it was a paycheck, and it was important to my family. Unfortunately, I’d had to give up all the volunteering and “helping,” and my spirit was feeling dry – dry like dust on a windy day; dry like wilting. I wanted to know how I could get back into serving. However, I wasn’t asking my pastor how I could serve God in my new job or in my new ‘life;’ I was asking how I could get back into my old, comfortable, complacent spot of competency and self-fulfillment.
I was able to spend a fair amount of time that day wrestling it out with God, asking Him “how” over and over (and not listening to Him answer, because He wasn’t answering me with the words I wanted to hear). It’s my fortune that he’s more persistent than I am, though, and finally I heard what He was saying. God was calling me out of my safety net and into His world, this world: the world inside my office.
He was calling me to do his work, and not my own. God was presenting me with hurt, abandoned, unsaved people, and asking me to love them, to talk to them, to be His light for them. I was aching to hold a warm, soft newborn, but God was aching for the sweet 19-year-old broken hearted girl in my office who didn’t know Him and His love. I was hurting from not being able to provide a warm, inviting environment for my friends once a week, but God was hurting for the divorced young father who loved his car more than his child, the woman he left, and the child who was torn between them and who had all turned away from God. I was thirsting for other people’s gratitude, but God was thirsting for other people’s acceptance of His gift. My desire to serve was so meaningless when held up side-by-side with God’s desires to have me serve for His glory.
I am being called out. I’m being challenged and stretched, and I’m being molded and formed. I am being remade as a daughter of God, a child of our King, and as a light for Christ as I’m handed my orders for service. My calling is not to serve other people under the guise of serving God, but to actually serve God. It’s time to remember who my boss is, and what my job duties are.
Dionne spends most days wondering which day it is, what time it is, and where she is supposed to be, finding most answers scribbled in black sharpie on the back of her hand. Her husband and children as well as a devotion to authenticity provide plenty of blog fodder over at her
most recently established blog .