Let’s learn to serve. And please, let’s also learn to say, “Thank you for your service.”
Many people in my church used to have the notion that ministry is a high-falutin’ position occupied primarily by preachers and missionaries. Forget that, I said. The Biblical concept of ministry is service, sometimes in a spiritual arena, but always with a spiritual purpose oriented toward others.
Not all service or ministry is necessarily spiritual, of course. In the old-fashioned British stories, young men and women often worked “in (household) service.” There’s government service too, and in countries with parliamentary governments, they even call the leaders “ministers” and the departments “ministries.” And while perks may abound, work does more.
Military service, too, centers on the needs of others. Our young servicemen and women don’t ship off overseas because it’s such a great deal for them. Though they may occasionally hear, “Thank you for your service,” I’m sure it’s not nearly enough, considering the sacrifices given.
Police officers can minister as much as pastors, and these days in Chile patrolling the streets means a 24/7 job, badly underpaid, and scandalously underappreciated. In fact…dare I say it? Lately, public servants have been vilified as the bad guys of the show, as we say here, instead of thanked.
I’ve taken to expressing gratitude in church a lot more often than I used to. Perhaps some who play the guitar or teach the little ones recognize their efforts as a ministry, but others gape at me when I say, “Thank you for your service.” Evidently they don’t see sweeping the floor, preparing communion, fixing the toilet, or taking out the trash as valuable work.
Glamorous or not, the services big and small that they perform “as unto the Lord” are all ministries as essential to our church body as the pastor’s messages. And though we might try, it goes without saying that he and I can’t do everything for everybody.
But we definitely have learned to show appreciation for the sacrificial contributions of others… And verbally is always better.
“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve… I am among you as one who serves” –Jesus (Mark 10:45 – Luke 22:27)
Recently the church folks ministered to us in another way by sending my husband and me on an overnight trip to Vicuña in the Elqui Valley. Whether they considered it a ministry of generous giving and their way of saying thank you, we enjoyed this lovely anniversary gift.
Our time in Vicuña, home of Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral, offered an opportunity to visit the museum commemorating her life and legacy. Though she came from a humble background, today Mistral’s face graces the Chilean $5,000-peso bill, and her name lives on over scores of schools and bookstores throughout the country. Along with her literary achievements, in her day Gabriela Mistral served as an international education consultant and as a diplomat to Italy—until she offended Mussolini with her anti-Fascist stand!
Here in this translated excerpt, she inspires others to serve as well:
“All nature longs to serve… Where a tree needs planting, plant it. Where an error needs correcting, correct it. Make the effort others squirm out of. You be the one who removes the stone from the road, you be the one who removes the hatred from hearts and the difficulty from the problem.
“…But don’t fall into the mistake of thinking that only great work earns merit; there are small services that are good services: Decorate a table, arrange books, comb a child’s hair. There are those who criticize, there are those who destroy, you be the one who serves…
“God has His eyes fixed on our hands, and He asks us each day, Did you serve?”
In Spanish, the word ‘servir’ has another connotation of usefulness, functionality, or worth. To say someone or something “no sirve” doesn’t just mean he/she/it doesn’t have a task to carry out. It means they don’t amount to anything. Their existence fulfills no purpose, at least not the purpose for which they’re intended.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms (many “folds” or many facets)” –I Peter 4:10
Droplet Gift #20: I will serve with my writing, praying each day, “Lord, how can I minister God’s grace to those will read this today and someday?”
I’m sure you agree, this world is a very needy place. If you or I had to feel responsible to reach and touch everyone, we’d simply collapse under the burden or run and hide. What we need to do is serve those people God puts in our path, according to our own gifts, opportunities, and resources. We all have a job to do, a special service to offer.
A smart move, though, is not to jump on every service cart that rolls by. God never meant each one of us to play the same part in His plan, as the characters Nicolás and Melissa so poignantly learn in Pursuit of the Pudú Deer and The Seahorse Patrol. “Your service to God may not be what you’ve always thought,” friends challenge them.
Not everyone needs or even responds to the same type of ministry, either. That’s why God, in His manifold grace, has bestowed many-faceted gifts on His Church.
I believe my path leads through writing. Those who serve God, the world, and the Church as word warriors strive against the enemies of despair and dullness and darkness. We weave entertainment into encouragement, information into inspiration. The fiction of today can transform the reality of the future.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” Ernest Hemingway said. He was right, it takes toil and tears to serve up dishes of bliss and blessing.
How to Serve?
How can I share my heart today? How can I minister—not preach, but serve with a spiritual purpose, remember? What can I offer that will help younger women? What stories can I spin that will resonate with them? What do you want to read, older ladies (like me), that will enable you to reach the younger ones with the truths and lessons you’ve learned? Sincerely, I thank you for your service in advance, if you’d tell me what you’re thirsty for today.
Lord, don’t take me home until…my service is finished, every last word written, every drop of blood and sweat poured out. “Well done, good and faithful servant” sounds a bit like “Thank you for your service.”