God's Most Precious Wonders

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Call to Serve

This summer the Lord used many people to teach me about the importance of service. It began early in April when a few days after Chloe’s birthday party, my close friend and long-time mentor became ill. Nancy was told she had perhaps 4 weeks to live, so with that knowledge and a hope that the doctor’s were wrong, we set out praying for God to heal her. Being who I am, I have a hard time accepting negative truths, and somewhere in me I just knew things would be fine. After all, Nancy had been sick off and on for many years; she was extremely obese, diabetic and had already had 2 heart surgeries by this time. So, for her to be using the last of her supposed nine lives, just didn’t seem possible. I knew she would be fine, but still the reality of the doctors’ words made me nervous.

At this time, I knew about service and making sacrifices to help others, but to me, service was something you did when you had time, or when God gave you the opportunity. It didn’t mean dropping everything and pouring out your life to meet someone else’s needs. So while Nancy was ill, I spent the days I was able, sitting by her bed side and sharing life with her. Since I had childcare on Wednesday’s, this was my easy and obvious day for me to hang out with her and catch up on all her news and see if there was anything special I could do for her--something simple that didn't require a lot of sacrafice, like a special meal. Physical contact with her, hugs, foot rubs, etc. were difficult, since her condition required all visitors to wear head to toe gowns, masks and gloves. I even had to change my clothes before I could come home. Somehow, this barrier made it difficult for me to draw physically close to her and I was always cautiously aware of the risks of visiting her. With this in mind, imagine my surprise and guilt stained heart when a mutual friend of ours, April, would attend to her without any reservations in the slightest. It didn’t bother her to touch, hug, rub or kiss her (without even wearing the required physical protection). April’s openness began to convict my heart and I began to realize how withdrawn I had become.

After several months of April attending to Nancy’s every need, staying with her night and day and sleeping with her at the hospital every night, I began to see what true service was really all about. Then, by the grace of God, Nancy lived a few weeks longer than expected and long enough for James’ job to end for the summer. This extra time, allowed me to spend the last two days of Nancy’s life by her bedside, along with April and another mutual friend of all of ours, Patty. It was the night before Nancy was to pass away that Patty and I had the most wonderful spiritual conversation about service and providing for others, being the hands and feet of Jesus, if you will. I told her how touched and humbled I was to have witnessed April live out her faith and love for the Lord, by caring for Nancy so tenderly. We talked about the true meaning of Christianity and the fruits of our walk and I began to feel guilty that this sacrificial offering of myself didn’t come so easy. Sure, I was willing to provide, to serve, to love, but sacraficially? Could I have sat by her bed for so long and cared for her with such affection, clearly not, since I was having a difficult time attending to her physical needs during the short spurts I would visit. I knew I wanted to offer more of myself, but I wasn’t sure I could actually do it.

Then, another close friend of mine who had developed brain cancer, the same week that Nancy was first hospitalized, was growing increasingly worse. Less than 4 weeks after Nancy had passed away, Annie went to sleep in the Lord as well. This time, however, God gave me the grace to be the hands of feet of Jesus for Annie. No, not much of what I did came naturally. It was difficult for me to care for her hygiene without feeling awkward, but I had determined that I would not allow my feelings to step in the way of my service to her. I would care for her the way God had allowed April to care for Nancy. I felt a desperate need to love on her, as if it would somehow make up for the lack of care I provided Nancy. So, for more than a week, I stayed by her side, slept in her room, and tenderly cared for her as if she were the only person in the world. I gave my family into the care of their father, and stepped back from life and saw an amazing chain of service take place before my eyes. I witnessed how others were ministering to me, so I could spend my days with Annie. James sacrificially, and without reservation, gave me all the time I needed and wanted to be with Annie. It wasn’t until after Annie had died that I realized how much James had sacrificed for me. His sacrafices allowed me to spend as much time with Annie as I needed. Others served our family as well, allowing James and I the opportunity to spend time with her together. I felt a confidence and peace in knowing that I could call on others to assist me in this time of need. And, it was through the service of others, that I realized how desperately I wanted to live my faith in a tangible and meaningful way. I wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus and passionately wanted to serve His children.

As a final thought, I challenge you to remember that life has many seasons; times when we are full and maybe even overflowing, and times when we are weak or in need. God doesn’t always call us to serve in the same capacity, for some he uses our time, for others our talents, and still for others our finances, but God does desire for us to serve. Nonetheless, however, there will be times in your life when it is time to acknowledge your need to be served. And though it can be difficult to humble yourself and receive the care of others, I pray you would allow others to be the hands and feet of Jesus, for you.