Monday, July 02, 2007

Volunteering - it doesn't pay

Because I was so completely self-absorbed in my past, I have a hard time these days focusing on myself unless it is to rebuke myself for something I did or to search for the root motivation for the good things I try to do in order to make certain my heart is in good shape. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to find something I need to work on which serves to remind me of my exceptional need for a Savior. But rather than feeling relieved and grateful that Jesus will represent me before the Father, I tend to feel disgusting and dirty. Self-flagellation mode is not foreign territory to me.

Do you get the sense that I need to rest in the beautiful grace that was given to me? I know I do, and I admonish myself for not experiencing it better. Typical. I do know this grace. I acknowledge it as the reason why I’ve felt able to trust God. But I don’t let it cover all of the areas of my life. If all I did was focus on being a mom, a wife, and a woman trying to grow stronger in her relationship with God, I imagine I would feel anxious, as if I wasn’t doing as much as I should because I am aware of this world I live in and the struggling people in it. I would feel assured that I was doing ‘some’ of my jobs, my most important jobs even, but I fear that I would feel like there was supposed to be more, like I wasn’t doing the job God “prepared in advance for me to do.”

I’ve often told people that “God didn’t save me to sit on my tush” in response to their observation that I do a lot at church. I do tend to fill up my days with as much as I can. And I believe there are five reasons for this:

Pride. I love getting pats on the back for serving others. My church is so good at supporting and appreciating its volunteers that I get a ‘high’ from it and crave more. I like to think that what I do, only I could do. Like there are all these Lisa-shaped boxes that I need to fill. When my husband had his motor scooter accident last year, I had to ask the different ministries that I was involved in to find someone else to cover my duties. It was a bit of a blow to me to realize that life could go on without my contribution. A much needed blow.

Distraction. Focusing on others keeps me from having to focus on my own life.

Feeling necessary. Being busy gives me a false sense of importance. As if being chosen by God from before the time I was born to receive the gift that His Son would die to give me isn’t enough to make me feel important. The thought of quitting all ministry involvement for one year can keep me up at night in a panic. I don’t necessary believe that I need to halt all involvement in order to better know God’s grace, but I definitely agree that I need to experience it more than I currently do.

Easily motivated. I am not one of those Christians who needs to have my arm twisted behind my back before I agree to work in the church nursery once a month. In fact, I admit that I have a hard time turning down any opportunity to serve. But not all Christians are like this, and church leaders know it, so we are sometimes bombarded with sermons meant to motivate us to live intentional, active lives of servitude. Every time I hear one of these sermons, I check my schedule for any half-hour slots of time I may have available and promptly pencil in another activity. Wouldn’t want to waste what little time I have in this life taking a relaxing bath or watching a sitcom….. Yes, I realize I’m insane.

Philippians 2:12. Perhaps I am ‘working out my salvation with fear and trembling.” Sometimes I fear Christians focus so much on grace that they overlook all the works Jesus asks us to do. Works won’t get you into heaven, but I think they might determine what we’ll do once we get there. I don’t really want God thinking all I’m good for is grocery shopping and drooling over shoes (although I am really good at both!). As much as I like that, I don’t want to spend eternity doing it. Seems it would lose its appeal after the first or second decade, don’t you think? Developing ethical characteristics in my children, learning how to be graceful and patience in the midst of crippling trials, taking care of the poor and investing time into getting to know people – now those are skills that seem like they’d go far in heaven.

I’m working on trying to relax and experience grace more. I can’t be perfect, and I’m getting tired of failing at trying to be everyone’s go-to-girl. Don’t you think volunteering in ministry should be done out of an eager joy to serve others, rather than a guilt-ridden, prideful heart? Me, too.

No comments: