Five years ago, God took me from an active place of service and set me down in a chair.
I didn’t like it even a little bit.
I stretched. I wiggled. I scooted around until only one spiritual bum cheek was left in the chair. If I had thought it would have worked, I would have raised my hand and offered to write a long prospectus about why He needed me up and working.
But my pencil was worn to a nub from the list of suggestions I had already given him. And besides that, He hadn’t really asked for my opinion. With each of my efforts, God put out his hand and kept me firmly in the chair.
I pouted some. I whined a little. I often felt sorry for myself because all the other kids were allowed to run around in the world while I had to sit in my chair. Then, I pouted and whined a lot more.
God was not moved to change his mind. In fact, He didn’t seem particularly sympathetic to my plight.
Finally, I began to sit still and look around. As it turned out, I could see God much better from my chair than I had seen him while I was up and doing things. I could hear him speak clearer without the disruptive noises of the world and the sound of my own voice in my head.
Each time I saw God or heard him speak, I scooted my chair a little closer to him. Every time I scooted closer, I saw and heard more of him. During the years I spent in that chair, He became bigger and more captivating.
(Don’t shake your head here. I do realize that it was me who changed and not God, but it reads better this way.)
Recently, God pulled back his hand and said, “Get up, girl. I’ve got some things for you to do.” And I walked back into the world where God’s people are working.
It was good to be back. I felt useful. And I came away with a few Christ-like achievement points gained in the spiritual world by genuine service.
Five years ago, I would have found a lot of pleasure in those achievements.
Now . . . not so much.
Why? I don’t know.
But here is what I think.
I think serving, in the Christian sense, is a complicated concept.
For some of us, like my friend, Marla, serving others is as natural as breathing. It is at the heart of her relationship with Jesus. As she takes in more of him, she needs to give more of him away in acts of service. If she could not, I think her heart would burst with the size of him.
But for others of us, service is a unit of measure in the body of Christ. To our eyes, it looks as though the quantity and quality of the tasks God gives us define us. They determine our worth to him and our importance among his followers.
And I’m pretty sure that, often, our acts of service are the basis of spiritual pride.
What do we do about it? I don’t know.
But here is what I think I might think.
I think we walk toward God. When He gives us a task to do along the way, we respond.
We call that service. (God may very well roll his eyes and call it something else. To say that we are “serving God” is to assume that we can help him in some way . . . kind of like my kids thinking I can’t cook unless they are there to stir the lettuce.)
If we fail at the task He gives us, our natural response is to stop and beat ourselves up.
If we succeed at the task . . . if we let God work through us to love on someone, or speak spiritual wisdom, or trust him to keep us standing when the ground becomes shaky, our natural tendency is to hold our successes up to God and suggest that we should both be very pleased with them.
Perhaps the problem is that, in both cases, we take our eyes off God and put them on the success or failure of our service. The mind set on the spirit is life and peace. The mind set on the flesh . . . even the acts of service that God gives us to do . . . is death.
If that is the problem, what do we do about it? We are human. We are naturally insecure and self-centered and leaking pride from every pore.
How do we react any other way?
This one I know.
Several times a week, I walk in the county park, which is where God meets me to show Himself and talk about stuff and drag my out-of-shape body up the big hills. Most days my spirit feels him there. Some days I am overwhelmed by his presence.
As I walked this week, I pulled my new Christ-like achievement points out of my pocket to show him. They really were very nice points. I was excited about them and I knew they would make him smile.
But when I held them up for him to see, I caught sight of God again . . . the God that is big. The God that held me in a chair so I would become captivated by his power and beauty and love for me.
When I held up my hands, all those little trinkets of spiritual service fell through my fingers and landed at his feet because I couldn’t look away from his presence.
We must not remove our eye from looking alone to Jesus Himself even to adore his image within ourselves; for if we do so, we shall go backward rather than forward. Charles Spurgeon