Read an interesting quote yesterday. So tell me: Do you agree or disagree?
The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner)
So at first glance, I’m like, Yes. Yes! Yes with a smiley-face-with-heart-eyes emoji! Especially when it comes to my kids (which you saw in Tuesday’s post on ideas for teaching kids the spiritual discipline of service). I want them to not just drag themselves through service, like our stick-shift doing 45 MPH in second gear. I long for them to find that burbling well inside of them: their part of the Body of Christ.
But then—I think, say, of young motherhood. Where initially, I couldn’t wait to see the double lines on that stick, couldn’t wait to pick out maternity clothes, couldn’t wait to gaze into a rosy little face that somehow looked a lot like mine. “Deep gladness” could definitely describe so many parts of motherhood.
But there was another part where caring for people constantly felt like keeping my head above a rising flood. Sometimes, I felt faceless. My toddlers were far too young to offer much gratitude, to comprehend my lack of sleep, my lack of any life outside of sippy cups, sibling rivalry, and Goldfish. I suppose their needs could legitimately be considered the world’s “deep hunger”. But was I doing this because I was “so gifted” to be a mother? It didn’t feel like it. It felt like a season where I was never enough. Where my kids could use someone with a longer fuse, about three more pairs of arms, and a passion for loading the dishwasher. In fact, it seemed like most of my passions were collecting dust while I wiped, well, pretty much everything else.
So it’s both, right? I find a great deal of wisdom in Rick Warren’s SHAPE acronym and other tools that help us find out how we’re made to serve, kind of like I feel here in Africa: vibrantly, throbbingly alive.
But there are other times when serving somewhere isn’t what we’re made to do. It’s just what needs to be done because of enduring love; when we willingly choose people over dreams and sweet spots. Paul Miller writes, Nothing is easier to start; nothing is harder to finish than [faithful, persevering] love. If we do only what we’re gifted to do, we may miss some of the sweet, rich moments of pouring ourselves out not just because it brings us pleasure, but because we choose to care.
Truth: Some of us are more likely to choose what’s hard to do for God…just because it’s hard. Others of us see an opportunity and think, If I don’t do it, who will? (And occasionally some version of, “sign me up for the martyr’s club!”) (See this post for the difference between self-righteous service and true service.)
If we choose to only serve because it’s the right thing to do, we run the risk of martyrdom, what I’d call the “elder son” syndrome (from the parable of the prodigal son, when the elder son is still distant from the Father, going through the motions), and thriving in the good works God uniquely crafted us to do.
Instead, when I feel like–well, my options are to do this or get eaten by a big fish—I am not powerless. I can still volitionally choose to serve; my friend calls this making “adult decisions.” I choose to serve; I take responsibility to serve. I take responsibility for my schedule, for my courageous boundaries and yeses. I have the power to create margin to serve God out of delight.
In Tuesday’s post on teaching kids’ service, I quoted Evelyn Underhill:
St Theresa said that to give our Lord a perfect service, Martha and Mary must combine….Thousands of devoted men and women today believe that the really good part is to keep busy, and give themselves no time to take what is offered to those who abide quietly with Christ, because there seem such a lot of urgent jobs for Martha to do. The result of this can only be a maiming of their human nature, exhaustion, loss of depth and of vision, and it is seen in the vagueness and ineffectuality of a great deal of the work that is done for God. —Evelyn Underhill*
Richard Foster writes, Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. Yet obviously Jesus went to the cross, too, for the joy set before Him. It seems it’s not our obligation that tickles God pink, but our happy choice.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on this one.
Like this post? You might like
- Your Opportunity…vs. Your Call
- The Happy Potter
- Memos to Myself: On the Dangers of Overcommitment
- The True Cost of Overcommitment
- Love Says No: How Boundaries Can Express True Care
- Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: Fairly Painless Ideas to Teach Kids Service