These next few weeks, I want to share with you my vision for serving with joy in the messy places. Birthed not out of a knowledge that I’m doing it all right. Not from a place of confident service. Not from a girl who will ever have all the answers.
But from the pain and the questions, the “missed” opportunities, and the miraculous chances for change. From the sometimes small faith in a big God who moves in amazing ways among the smallest of islands.
Five years ago, guilt almost paralyzed me. I was convinced that I should’ve said more, done more, listened more, prayed more. But my friend still died.
And really, guilt could’ve driven me. Driven me to give, give, give so that it would never happen again, so that I could make it all right. So that I could redeem my failures with successes.
But when things are most difficult for me, I go to Him with the pain. And He reminded me of some things.
We should not be driven to serve out of guilt.
I love to serve. Love the cross-cultural relationships I get to enjoy living in Indonesia. Love the chance to meet needs. Love the opportunities to work alongside my kids to both give and receive on the small island where we live.
But it can be messy. And the results don’t always turn out the way I want them to. And sometimes I feel a bit lost in the harsh realities.
But when the motive is guilt, the joy of serving dies. When guilt is what drives us, we forget that we have access to a God who loves both the people we serve and us. When trying to right past mistakes and trying to please others and trying to save ourselves is what pushes us to serve, we lose the message of grace in our service, the power of grace in our past, and the gift of grace in our everyday.
My friendship with Yuli was cut too short. But the chances for change didn’t die. Her family has welcomed me into their shack countless times. My baby turned into a toddler who practiced his Indonesian words with Yuli’s nieces and nephews. Then I added another baby. And another. And Yuli’s younger sister—who had lost her only sister—joined me on outings, and visits to my house, and in conversations about heart things.
And her people—Yuli’s ethnic group—moved into a special place in my heart. She introduced me to this group of people who have great needs and amazing gifts. And thanks to her, I pray for them, walking among them, joy, not guilt, driving me to hope for life for them all.
And when I give, I give within my limitations, trusting God to use my tiny gifts to accomplish the seemingly impossible things I can't and wasn't really meant to do. I am free to watch His miracles unfold in His timing.
Maybe you don't live overseas. Maybe the places you serve are within your own town, your neighborhood, your own home. Maybe the people you serve aren't foreign, but oh-so often painfully familiar. And maybe you are fighting mistakes from long ago--your own and others from your childhood.
Wherever you serve, whoever you give to, if you are either driven to serve or paralyzed from serving due to guilt, then let grace free you to finally make choices with joy.
I don’t know what will happen someday with Yuli’s sister and parents and neighbors. I may not get to see hearts changed. I may not have my questions of “why” answered. And I don’t always know what I’m doing as I serve.
But I know that if guilt is driving our work, if guilt is making us give, if guilt is convincing us that we need to do something, we may lose the chance to truly love.
Ultimately, grace is what can overcome guilt. And grace changes everything--including us--in the end.
Next time I’ll talk about the other dangerous motive for ministry. And soon, I'll go into the things that should motivate our service.
photo credit, Scooter Lowrimore