Sunday, December 07, 2008

Serve, Sacrifice, Depend

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:35-38)

I am in the midst of a season where He is asking me daily to serve, sacrifice, and depend - to daily do something of service, something that requires sacrifice, and something that couldn't be done apart from dependence on Him.

It's challenging because in the process I'm learning a lot about myself - things like how much I do in my own strength; how little I actually sacrifice; and how easy it is to rationalize things as service to God without getting my hands "dirty" in ministry to others. It's a blessing, though, because God is teaching me that real service, sacrifice, and dependence often begin where choices end.

Let me explain. It's easy to serve when we get to choose what we do. I've heard it said that the real test of servanthood is how you act when you are treated like one. So true - and yet that is when true servanthood can begin. When we choose to respond to someone who acts like we "owe it to" him or her, with love and service as until Christ, we truly enter into service. Developing an attitude of service - a habit of service - on a daily basis will make those times much easier, I hope.

Similarly, I've learned that I like to choose my sacrifices. Sure, I'll give up that dessert, that extra something for myself, that item that I hardly use anyway. But when we don't have a choice about the sacrifice - when God rearranges our day, or when we find ourselves with a child with special needs or a spouse with a stroke ... when circumstances force us out of a country we love and back to a "home" that feels foreign ... when we are packed and ready to go and a phone calls tells us we'll be staying ... those involuntary sacrifices seem to hurt the most. What God seems to be teaching me is that the voluntary sacrifices will prepare me to handle those that I don't get to pick.

And it seems like it requires me being in a place where I have no choice but to depend on God before I remember what it feels like. In the daily round, my good intentions to pray before every new work task or decision seem to be forgotten. But when the mail brings unwelcome news, or an email changes the course of my day, suddenly dependence becomes second nature. My lessons of late are teaching me that I can seek out things to do that require dependence on Him - step outside my comfort zone if you will - and not have to face those crises of faith before true dependence kicks in.

The Christmas season brings reminders of service, sacrifice, and dependence beyond anything I've ever been called to. At our women's tea this week the lesson was on Mary's Song. Mary really reflects the heart of someone who has learned these lessons well. She exemplifies the hard thing that we don't choose. God chose her and blessed her, but she still had to face the crowd with a swollen belly - a crowd that easily could have stoned her. Mary knew just a little of God's plan, but it was enough to cause her to praise God, holding on to what she understood until He would show her more.

God has graciously allowed me to choose the vast majority of my service, sacrifice, and areas of dependence on Him. But when harder service, sacrifice, and dependence comes, I can learn much from Mary. I can learn to praise God for what I do know and understand, trusting Him with my questions. Like Mary, I can submit to His plan, realizing that what He really wants is a soul that magnifies Him.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
(Luke 1:46-47)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very, very good as usual. For all
of our talk about commitment--I think you hit the nail on the head
when you confessed that you like to' choose your sacrifices. You and about 99% of the rest of us! Mary is a good role model of what
God would desire from us. Thanks
for a thought provoking piece.