Service

Continuing in the spirit of Lent, I am offering another spiritual discipline for you to consider.

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” For some of us it is the age-old question of what comes first the contribution or the connectedness?

Research has shown people who feel connected to something beyond themselves feel moved to make a contribution to others in the world - to be of service. Likewise, research shows people who make a contribution to the world or their community feel more connected to something within and bigger than themselves.

Funny how that works.

Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

It is important to distinguish between choosing a life of servanthood and choosing to serve. In choosing the latter, you still have control of the who, the how and the when.

When we choose to become a servant, we are giving up control of the who, how and when. We are allowing ourselves to be used when, how, where and for whom God chooses.

And, of course, there is a difference between authentic service and self-serving service. It is human nature to want to be recognized and praised for our acts of helping others. You’ll know true service when you forgo the compliments and approval and let being a servant be a way of life - not something you do, but someone you are.

In The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg writes of five ways to enter a life of servanthood. One of these he calls The Ministry of Being Interrupted. This is my favorite of Ortberg’s suggestions!

To truly be of service for another, you have to put your needs and wants aside. This ministry calls for being available for people who are not on our schedule and for doing things that are not on our “To Do” List.

And, here’s my favorite part.

His idea is to practice this ministry by, “keeping the latch off the door.” He says one day a week, a month, a quarter - whatever fits for you - leave your calendar blank. Sit. Wait. Wait for someone to need you to serve them. Simply be available.

Wow!

Becoming a servant - not just being of service - is about becoming more fully human. It means practicing forgiveness toward mine and others’ weaknesses and limitations. It means truly loving my neighbors - all of them.

I recently heard a Sufi teaching that goes like this.

As the seeker prayed, past him came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the seeker went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving Creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

And out of the long silence, 
God said, “I did do something. . . I made you.”

Look around, become a servant for your family, your friends, your co-workers, complete strangers. Clear the calendar for one day. And wait.