On service.

These days, I’ve been gathering up my spare minutes like so much jingling change and jarring them up like children did for comic books in the 50’s. And every odd night I’d think, hey, I haven’t written something for a while.

I had been hoping in my reading, in the meetings, in my interactions with the Christ in others, to stumble upon a fresh-baked loaf of something, so I could serve up something whole and wholesome.

But these last few weeks I’ve been inexplicably filled, and not with any one thing. Is it our human nature that prefers a roast duck centerpiece over five loaves and two fish? Well, here’s what my baskets brim over with.

My weekly Bible study count will reach four starting next week; right now I’ve been attending three on a regular basis. At one, I read with anywhere from one to four women, coworkers of a sister in the church. They all have children my age or much older; some of their children have children. Some have come out of Catholicism; others dynamically received God in their college years. Tuesday afternoons, as the clock ticks closer to 5, the headlong pace of my review video-watching gallops closer to breakneck. I tell myself, “It only takes ten minutes to get there.” Two minutes later, “Actually, five minutes.” Ten minutes later, “I really should get going. I’m going to be late.” I race to the car and race over. (The real ETA is about three minutes. I’ve tested.) Sometimes I make excuses for myself. “The only sisters coming today have been Christians for decades. They can take care of each other. They don’t need me.” But when newer sisters arrive, who come full of questions about the Word, the Lord reminds me, “Whom do you serve?”

My rhema lately has been the verse, 2 Timothy 2:6. “The laboring farmer must be the first to partake of the fruit.” It’s an imperative. And that’s truly the case. Yes, Anki cards, like General Sherman, wait for no man.

But joy is seeing a woman light up in realizing that Stephen’s two last prayers in Acts 7 were almost an exact replica of the Lord Jesus’ last prayers in Luke 23. She realized that our journey doesn’t end at being born in the Lord and doing good, but at growing up into Him in all things.

Joy is hearing her share about the utter horror of waiting for a mammogram finding and breast biopsy, and the rebirth of finding light the next day, even before the results returned.

Joy is seeing a shy undergraduate who has attended wordlessly for weeks ask a question for the first time.

Joy is having lunch with a student week after week, and each time hearing a little more about her anxieties for the future, her struggles with friends, and her budding story drafts.

Whom do I serve?

Acts 6 starts out with a little racial tension. Jewish widows who spoke Greek were not given as much money as Jewish widows who spoke Hebrew. For a church community in which everyone sold everything and all possessions were kept in common (Acts 4–5), this was a huge problem. The twelve apostles had a lot on their plate, as well—much too much. So they called together the believers and told them to choose well-attested men to take care of this practical need. Stephen was one of those men.

There’s a couple in the church here who have two young children. Some meetings, the older one sits and leafs through picture books while the younger one flops around and drools. Other meetings, they both play a game of make-the-loudest-sounds-possible. No holds barred. The first few weeks, the pair would come with the parents to every meeting. The last two months, I haven’t seen the mother or the children nearly at all; except when I visit their house. Their father, full of the Spirit and burden and prayer, comes to every meeting, and is an enormous help to the work here. But my heart pangs when I think of where the mother must be.

In Acts 6:2, the apostles say, “It is not fitting for us to forsake the Word of God and serve tables.” It’s true. These twelve were told by Jesus in the flesh to go forth and speak the word to every village, unto the uttermost part of the earth. They can’t be pinned down by widows. The egalitarian in me wants to holler, “you can serve tables, too!” But in the Body of Christ, not everyone has the same function. I’m just not as OK with that fact as I should be. So who should take on the thankless job of apportioning resources to a heterogeneous population? Not just any idle swain. Not just any neighborhood yokel. The church chose men full of the Spirit and wisdom.

I might think, well, not everybody is full of Spirit and wisdom. Shouldn’t we reserve the full of Spirit and wisdom people to do more important matters in the church? Like, speaking to people? Just about anybody can serve tables.

But choose them they did. And what brothers were they! Stephen ended up speaking the truth to the children of Israel so prevailingly that the people ended up covering their ears (it must have been too painful to continue listening) and rushing at him, stoning him to death.

Was such a man overqualified to serve tables? I think in the eyes of God, he was just qualified. It is the world that stratifies occupation by prestige. Who said that an elementary school custodian does lower work than a stockbroker? Or a neurosurgeon doing greater work than a home-schooling mom? There is no respect of persons with God, but there is respect of persons with man. The world says, “Acquire education, acquire wealth, acquire power, acquire status.” God says, “you did not choose Me, but I chose you, and I set you” (John 15:16). Wherever God has placed us, that is our job. Whatever our qualifications are for that job, those are the right qualifications. Does serving tables make Stephen less important than Peter? I think not.

Back to this couple in my local church. It is my own thoughts that relegate childcare to a lower position than fighting for the Lord in prayer at the prayer meeting. I can inwardly rail against what must have been the couple’s shared decision. I even came close to tears discussing this with someone, wondering if that’d be my fate, too. I shouted, “I love the meetings of the church! I don’t want to miss them to take care of children!” And who knows, maybe that won’t be my calling. But if it is, who am I to speak?

The Lord touched me about the discrepancies in my absoluteness to Him. Why was I willing to give up all my possessions and relocate to sub-saharan Africa for the gospel, but unwilling to take care of crying toddlers two nights a week for the gospel? Why was I drawn by the prospect of being a full-time student and a full-time worker for God, staying up, doing double-duty, but not drawn by the prospect of being a full-time homemaker and a full-time worker for God, doing dishes, making meals, cleaning up?

There’s a lot of ambition in me to do something iconoclastic; to be imitated, to be pedestaled, to be spoken of in awe-struck tones (“how did she do that?”). That part of me recoils from the road more traveled, the tried-and-true. But this desire has nothing to do with my love for God or my call to serve Him.

The Lord is seeming to say to me over and over again, “you said you were My slave. Are you really My slave?” It’s a word shackled with history, but in the Greek slave and servant are the same thing. “Or are you only My slave if My service is something that appeals to your disposition?”

It’s hard to write this. I still want to be veiled to everyone in this hazy glow of “wow, she’s so spiritual and so absolute.” No, I’m a grubbing narcissist who wants to ride on God’s coattails to the lofty heights for my own praise, rather than to His glory. But God is working on this worm.

“What’s a miracle?” A classmate once shouted into a microphone. “A miracle is that we serpents, children of Satan, can be transformed to become the bride of Christ.”

So here I am, serpentine nature splayed for all to see. But I’m looking away at the One who was the real bronze serpent, having the form of sin but without sin, raised up for us.

Numbers 21:9 “And if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked upon the bronze serpent, he lived.”

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False dichotomies, errant wordsmanship, slapdash musings.

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Earthen Only

Earthen Only

False dichotomies, errant wordsmanship, slapdash musings.

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