I never thought much about serving other people. I have always been a person that sees myself as a hard person. I didn't have the easiest childhood growing up. I was rebellious as a teen and young adult and it carried on into my adulthood. Even when I became a follower of Christ over 10 years ago, I never realized the 'behind the scenes' aspect of the church. I sat in the same church for 7 years only knowing ONE person. One.
Let that sink in for a minute.
I was faithful to keep showing up in obedience for church attendance. That was the only area pretty much that I was obedient in. I sat alone most of the time, unless someone in my family happened to attend with me. I fellow-shipped with, well, myself.
I had no mentor at that time to come along beside me and help me walk the path God had called my heart to. I bought bible studies and tried to study the Word on my own. Here I was walking in the newness of Christ and had no clue if I was doing it right or if I was doing it completely wrong. I wanted God. I needed Him. I also needed something more.
I loved my preacher, but didn't know him or have a personal relationship with him. I shook people's hands when it was time for the greeting, but that was the absolute extent of my 'fellowship'. If I am honest I always got severe anxiety when it came to shaking people's hands. I had always said I don't 'like' people, but God has a way to soften even the hardest of hearts. Walking in the newness of Christ also found me fighting spiritual battles that I had no clue how to even fight.
The one person I knew in the entire church kept after me to get involved and to serve. I didn't like hugs, but she kept on hugging me and telling me that she loved me.
She battered me with kindness, love and a driving desire to see me get connected. She was relentless in her pursuing of me. My heart began to soften. I heard myself agreeing to get involved in co-leading a bible study group with her. She took me under her wing and she not just mentored me, but she ministered to me. She was serving me.
I didn't realize it at the time, but God had put her in my life to batter the wall I had built around myself and heart until finally it crumbled down. I don't trust easily. I don't love easily. As she served me, she encouraged me. As she loved on me, she helped me through forgiveness and grudges that were a stumbling block to me.
I slowly began serving others. I would find myself still being reserved with people and serving minimally. I found that I had a knack for teaching. Through the trials I had been through trying to teach myself taught me how to study the Word and by this time I knew the Word pretty well and felt comfortable enough to step out and teach. Once I set out to embrace this God given gift, doors opened to me. I was a reserved teacher.
My passion has always been new believers and trying to help them in their new walk. That was pretty much the only capacity I was willing to serve in. I could be that teacher and hold myself aloof from others. I did begin to build relationships with other teachers, leaders and a few of the pastors, and I built relationships with the people I was teaching or in a study group with, but I still held back.
My biggest struggle has always been not knowing what to do and when. How do I hear His Voice call me to something if I already have a made up answer in my mind?
I have always had low expectations in my life. If you have low expectations, you don't suffer from disappointments. No one can hurt you, if you don't care. No one can tell you that you are making a mistake, if you don't even try. I hid behind my kids for years. I home-schooled and I was busy, so I couldn't possibly give my time to serve. I had 3 kids all within a 3 year age span and they needed me more than the church.
Even when they got older and could care for themselves it still was an excuse I used to justify my lack of servitude to others. I was physically serving, but it was selfish serving. It was serving that made me feel superior if I am honest about it. I felt like a big shot, with pretend humility...because my HEART wasn't joyful in what I was doing. Probably because I let ME get in the way of what GOD wanted to accomplish through me. SO He decided to change His tactic with me.
I had a shaking up at the church I attended and began to attend a new one. I left several positions that I was serving in at the former church. Those were positions that I had worked so hard for and threw my whole life into, but by the end I realized the heart problem that I had. When God pushed me to leave that former church, my reaction was 'But God I worked so hard to get there, I studied so much to be able to teach, I walked through struggles and well Lord YOU are the one that wanted me to do all of that and be IN those positions so what's the DEAL'???
His response through this very slobbery and painful prayer session...was 'Who's is it? Is this you serving yourself, or you serving Me... those are MY positions that I set you in...Leave them behind and do not step one more foot on the ground of that place until I tell you otherwise.' It has been 3 years and I mark that to obedience.
**Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.**
As I began attending the new church something began to change. I WANTED to serve. I WANTED to fellowship. I WANTED to hug people and tell them I loved them. I WANTED to give people a piece of myself and not hold it back. I had finally found JOY in serving. I had finally found JOY in fellowship. I had finally found JOY in hugging people and telling them I loved them. I found myself seeking those out across the aisle to hug on or shake hands with and tell them I was glad to see them. I found myself seeking out newcomers and making sure that they weren't missed. Oh but serving on a larger scale...that is tremendous JOY.
Being so reserved for so long with people has given me the insight to 'read' them.
I see people even in my own little church who are walking the same path I did. I see them coming but not serving and becoming a part of the body. I see children used as the same shield that I did for so many years. I see people wanting pats on their back and self-serving recognition for serving. They haven't found the JOY in Serving.
So how do you know if you are Joyful in Serving? I can give you a recent event as an example.
We recently have had a few large scale events/dinners for the whole church and friends to enjoy. To be able to put on anything of that scale takes a lot of behind the scenes preparations. (Everything that goes into Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings take week long preparations). These preparations take volunteers/servants. Who are the volunteers/servants? The church body, in other words you and me and whoever is sitting next to you and on down the line.
The past 8 months have found me and my husband not being able to serve at all. His medical problems resulted in long hospital stays and a huge gap in church attendance. I was cautious and reserved with what I could volunteer for. So fast forward to this past Sunday. I had volunteered to lead the servers on the food line, but someone (who will remain nameless) decided that the whole thing was my ballgame. Setting it up etc. To say I was a little overwhelmed was an understatement. Even though I felt tremendous pressure I set my face like flint and tamped down those fears. I was distracted by every little thing on Sunday. My focus was wholly on doing a good job for the church. BUT...GOD.
As I began to serve...I found tremendous JOY in serving. I loved to see each and every person come thorough that line and be served. I had someone come to me before service even and ASK if I needed help serving. They had not yet served in the church, I loved that...it gave me tremendous JOY to say yes! I loved being able to serve beside her. Everyone one else asked as well, but they were ones that serve in other capacities in different areas. She sought me out, because I would have never wanted to put her on the spot and put her in that position. I found such JOY in that.
I also found JOY in my husband serving others in standing at the door opening it for others, helping the guys cooking if they needed it. Seeing the JOY in his face to being able to serve again was worth all the hardships we have had and continue to have in our life. God has showed me the JOY He has in me...how could I have made serving all about myself for so many years, when it is ALL about Him?
How could I want to be a leader, but not be willing to humble myself and serve? How could I be jealous of titles and positions and strive to better myself only and not think about the others in my local church body? How could I be so selfish to hold myself back from others when there might be ONE person I could single out to love on, encourage, mentor, and pursue relentlessly when that is what God did for me? How could I not serve and call myself a Christ-follower? He served. Are we greater than Him?
LORD, I praise Your Name and I thank You for everything that You do in my life. Forgive me LORD for all of those years of being self centered, self focused, and stingy with my affections. Thank You Lord for allowing me to see the JOY I have found in serving You and others. Help me to not be selfish. Help me to continue loving on people. Thank You LORD for that mentor so long ago that pursued me with Your love and devotion, I know that it was You and I am grateful she was obedient to Your commands. May others that are falling into the same patterns I did, wake up and find joy in serving. LORD give them an opportunity to say YES and help us as a body to WANT to serve with JOY...In the Mightiness of Jesus' Name, Amen.
**John 13:12-14 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.**
**Romans 12:9-13 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.**