Living With No Applause

Love this quote by Henri Nouwen:

"Perhaps we must continually remind ourselves that the first commandment requiring us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind is indeed the first. I wonder if we really believe this. It seems that in fact we live as if we should give as much of our heart, soul, and mind as possible to our fellow human beings, while trying not to forget God. At least we feel that our attention should be divided evenly between God and our neighbor.

But Jesus’ claim is much more radical. He asks for a single-minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. It is this unconditional and unreserved love for God that leads to the care of our neighbor, not as an activity that distracts us from God or competes with our attention to God, but as an expression of our love for God… We might even say that only in God does our neighbor become a neighbor rather than an infringement upon our autonomy, and that only in and through God does service become possible."

The jammin thing is that Henri's life speaks these words. Once a theologian and professor at a prestigious university, Henri gave up honor and accolades to take care of mentally disabled people in a home. He read them stories, bathed them, cut up their food, repositioned them in their chairs, folded their laundry, held their hands, and helped them in the bathroom. These individuals wouldn't have known they were being served. They may have not even said thank you.

I wonder if the humility of serving kneeled him closer to Jesus. Often I think my vision of service is too limited, too narrow. It's dishing out lasagna at the homeless shelter, it's teaching a lesson for children's church, it's listening to that girl crying on the other side of the phone line. It's what other people can see.

Sometimes I forget that serving God is also scrubbing my bathtub, working my tail off at my job when no one is there, and praying on my couch. It's putting a Tinkerbell band aid on a scratch, it's clipping coupons and cooking dinner, it's getting stuck in a slide with my kids. It's folding endless laundry (and wow do I appreciate my mom more after having kids!), it's remembering a birthday, it's holding a hand. It's what other people can't always see.

God never marks off our serving to designate what is service and what is not. If I am living in God and for God and through God, then I will live to serve Him, whatever that means. In God, the most mundane tasks and the ordinary routines can carry a weight of significance. No one else may see what we've done. There won't be applause or recognition or even a thank you, but there is still an audience of a breathtaking God, who has been worshipped because we have loved.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I love your thoughts on service, Kristin! Reminds me of that quote on character, about it being how you act when no one is watching.


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