Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thinking about Service

We are studying Martha this week in the Women of the Bible online study and Mary, her sister, next week.

I have been thinking a lot about service and the bad state that the Martha in the book of Luke and John in the Bible worked herself into. I made a basket pinwheel block for her (pictured above) to put in my quilt. I can imagine her spinning around the baskets in the kitchen trying to get them filled. I can imagine her spinning around trying to get everything done and done well.

I can imagine the whole thing because I know what it is like when I have been the one spinning around the kitchen trying to get things done. I have so been there :trying to serve my family or my friends and I know how it feels when I hae started to get tired and I have felt the bitterness in my spirit and the wonder at why no one is helping me the way that I have thought that I ought to be helped…

I will honestly tell you though that the following thoughts have never entered my head:

” ugh…I have to sew again…I can’t believe that no one else is helping me…Doesn’t anyone realize that this is like the hundredth time that I’ve had to do this alone because no one else is stepping up.”

The fact is that I truly love to sew and I look forward to new projects. I love looking at quilts and for a pattern that might help that special someone feel better, a pattern for a quilt to give to my friend so she will know she is loved, a pattern for blocks that would make a cute baby gift, sewing blocks that will be used in a quilt for a wounded soldier, etc… What a blessing it is to me. What a creative outlet and I could go on and on…Pieces, pieces, pieces, seams, seams, seams, blocks, blocks, blocks, quilts, quilts, quilts, …you get the idea! There is not enough time to sew sometimes…

I truly love and totally get in to this kind of service!

However, I have had these thoughts or very nearly these thoughts at times about other church related service before. Replace the word “sew” with words like work, sweep, cook, clean, wash, host, scrub, etc… and well…you know…

Last Sunday morning, upon entering the church building a little early for the worship service, I saw a woman standing behind a table near the front door. I have seen her at church before, but I do not know her well. I approached her, eager to perhaps help her with what she was doing, get to know her, learn her name and to wish her a “Happy Sunday” so to speak.

I realized my mistake almost immediately.

Within moments of standing near the table, I became aware that she was doing a job that had totally and thoroughly exhausted her. I was told in her first breath that she had been doing this particular job for years. In the next breathe; I heard a list of all the people who benefited from the job she did. Then I heard about how those very people who benefited from her work had not ever helped her with it. When I asked her why she had done the job alone and why no one ever helped her with it she replied coldly that in previous years there had been a few people who had tried to help her but the most that she had ever received from their help was a bad headache.

“I prefer to work alone,” she said finally, looking over her spectacles with a cold, hard stare.

At that, I took the hint, turned tail swiftly and breaking into a near run, I moved quickly to a different part of the church building.

Reflecting back on all this today, I just wonder at how this might have happened to her.

Had she started doing this job those many years ago with a joyful heart, anticipating the good that she would do?

When did things go so terribly wrong for her and why?

Could this be a picture of me down the road?

Will I act like this sometime in the future?

Being a woman who does not like to make people unhappy, I have trouble saying “NO!”

“Sure, Sure, O.k.,sure, I can do that, sure…” is generally the given answer. Out of obligation sometimes, I say “Yes!” but I do like to help at other times.

This could explain my aversion to answering the telephone!

I just have not ever really considered that my inability to say “NO, that’s enough.” could be a sin.

That there is such a thing as the sin of doing a job that I should not be doing.

To think that I could potentially hurt people if that bitterness came out of me as it came out of that lady at church last Sunday. That would be a sin!

I am looking for some answers, I did a search for the word “works” and these are some of the verses that came up:

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. “

Titus 3:5 “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,”

And of course what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10 is important to consider also:

Verse 41-42 “And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

He said there is only one thing is needed. What is it? Maybe just “look and listen” or “listen and look” are faith at work and are enough to “do” sometimes.

The verses that we studied at a bible study recently came to mind:

Numbers 21:8 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
Jesus said in John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,”

In this case Moses was given some specific jobs to do. God told him to “Make”, “Set”, and “Lift”…

The rest of the Israelites (who had been "bitterly complaining" by the way) were told to “Look” at the snake on the pole just as we are told to “Look” to Jesus and be healed. That's all they were told to do...That's all that we are told to do...

Maybe if God tells us to do something we had better get busy with it! Maybe if God has not told us to do something then we better high tail away from there saying “No!” as we go…

I don’t have a complete answer for the dilemma of church service or for the unhappy church lady either. It is God’s church after all. He will "work" it all out and finish the work too, right?

What I do know is that I want to do what the Lord wants me to do and I do not want to do what the Lord does not want me to do. I think that means that for now, I am going to keep sewing for gifts and charitable causes that interest me and I’m going to do the jobs at church that I am excited about. I think that if God gives me a desire to do something then He is “Making it a good work as I continue to be His workmanship.” I also know that if I ever start to act like that lady at church and start getting a headache because someone is or isn’t helping me with the job I chose to do, than I hope that someone will stop at my table, or sink or wherever I'm working and I’ll remember the events of last Sunday before they run away.

Lord, I never, ever want to be anything other than your workmanship and I don’t ever want to stop working on something that you are giving me to do until its done! It is so comforting to think that you will finish the work that you start and that I am your work after all…I’m glad that you aren’t finished with me yet! Thank you Lord, You are so good!…and please help me forgive “you know who” and not run away the next time I see her…Amen!

1 comment:

Granny Fran said...

Keri, I love your blog. There used to be a dear lady in our church who sounded just like that woman you wrote about; the funny thing is, her name was Martha. We loved her and just knew that she was that way. I sure agree with your essay. Thanks for writing it up for us.