By Nancy Strackany
This summer I was in a group that studied the book, “Celebration of Disciplines” by Richard J. Foster. It is a wonderful book with deep insights into God’s heart for us. One chapter, The Discipline of Service, especially the service of small things, stood out for me. The author uses Dorcus, in the book of Acts, ”who made coats and garments for the widows,” as an example of “this service of active helpfulness.” This, Foster calls, the “simple assistance in trifling external matters.” These small things are often overlooked for larger types of service which as Foster says, “require great sacrifices for a moment, whereas small things require constant sacrifice”.
I am reminded of the everyday mundane chores, making meals, doing laundry, cleaning, picking up after husbands and kids. We give service as we do these things if we do them as unto the Lord. Our temptation to quit is great when we feel unimportant or unappreciated, or our talents wasted. But these are the very things that God wants us to prove ourselves faithful in.
Another example of small service is guarding the reputation of others, as Paul says, ”Speak evil of no one.” Gossip among women is sadly notorious and I admit to having gossiped myself, even within my own family. Fortunately God has helped me see and prepare for this temptation and to practice the discipline of holding my tongue.
Going a step further, the guarding of the reputation of others, is a service rendered when we not only refuse to gossip about someone but to let others know that we will not speak badly about anyone when the subject comes up. This kind of witness is one that isn’t often forgotten by those involved.
There is the service of being served. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, the ministry of the towel, as Foster calls it, Peter at first refused. But Jesus tells us that to allow other to serve us is an act of submission. And in some cases a gift of love. Do we allow others to help us, or like myself on so many occasions do we have the attitude of I can do it myself. I’ve had a difficult time asking for help and God has shown me my pride in this. I felt because the way someone else might do it, it would be less well done, or more trouble than doing it myself.
I remember a time 44 years ago, on the first Christmas I was married. I had little money to buy ornaments for our tree and so found a pattern for some felt Santa Clauses. I remember none of the specific or the incident but my husband still remembers that I would not let him help. I am sure I thought, I am artistic, you are not, I want all the fun and satisfaction, and probably praise. But if my husband can still remember this, I know that God does. Allowing help, accepting a gift, saying thank you, letters of appreciation and encouragement, all acknowledge others and affirm their worth.
Throughout the year, the service of hospitality is also important. And it is one that is often overlooked because invitations are too complicated. People often want just companionship, not a fancy meal. They don’t care if your house is clean, they just want to get together. And while having a visitor we can practice the service of listening, For as Foster puts it, “an impatient half listener is an affront to the person sharing.” We, he reminds us, “would do well to listen to others in silence and see if we don’t hear God through them.” When we listen to others thoughts, fears, burdens and sorrows we allow the love and compassion of Christ to flow through us. This is a service we can share anywhere and as we start, Jesus will be our teacher.
Finally another small service is that we can share the word we receive from God, with others. No one person can hear all God has to say. We all receive God’s wisdom and we are expected not only to grow from it but to share it. Our prayer each day can be, “Lord Jesus, as it would please you, bring me someone today whom I can serve.”