Our Sunday School class recently completed a study of The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary D. Chapman and Ross Campbell. In our final week, we discussed Acts of Service.
Particularly on the cusp of the Lenten season, I found it a fitting lesson.
More so than at any other point in the Christian liturgical calendar, this period – these 40 days – beckon us to self-audit, to rid ourselves of the excess that so pervasively takes hold and prevents us from even giving acts of service much thought.
As I listened to my peers in Sunday School that day, discussing the merits of acts of service in the context of young parenthood, I sat there quietly thinking to myself, stuff is not stature.
Some of the other mothers were sharing their experiences serving meals and engaging in fellowship with those using our church as a temporary source of shelter. In one poignant example, a little boy ran up to a friend of mine, who had been there to serve dinner, and asked her if she was sleeping at the church, too.
There went that little voice in my head again. Stuff is not stature.
Here was a child who did not even have a stable place to lay down his head each night. How easy it would be to judge his caregivers, to self-righteously question why they ended up in such messy circumstances in the first place. How easy it would be to swoop in, “volunteer” for a few hours, pat myself on the back for “acts of service” well done and then go back to my comfortable house with nary a second thought of it all?
My friend who served in this ministry did so for the right reasons. She has a humble heart, and whether she knows it or not, she is a living, breathing example in my life of what Christian love ought to look like.
But I am seldom one to rush toward these types of do-gooder assignments. And it’s not for lack of opportunity.
The trouble for me is that I can never seem to get past the sticking point that is the hypocrisy of human nature. You know what I mean.
All too often, it seems we are willing to help others when it suits us, or in extreme circumstances, when they are really down on their luck. But turn the tables a little bit, and when all seems on par, we can all too often retreat to a state of indignation or even jealousy, treating our brothers and sisters in Christ as fierce competitors.
But for the grace of God our families are not the ones seeking shelter at a church.
If we were, how might that impact us? How much of our identity, our stature, is tied to our stuff?
If the answer makes you a little uneasy, as it did for me, you’re onto something.
It’s not that fear of losing what makes our lives safe and secure should motivate us to serve. Rather, it’s embracing the kind of unfathomable love represented by the events of Lent.
Stature, the kind that matters to me anyway, is made up of the intangibles. The kinds of character attributes most of us admire but that few of us exhibit to a degree of perfection.
If doing acts of service helps us to coax those traits out of our personalities a bit more, and with any degree of regularity, all the better.
Even if the kids are small and it’s a bit inconvenient to take them along. Even if it’s a school night and we might not make our usual bedtimes. Even if it means I won’t be able to squeeze in a work out that day. Even if it cuts into the money I had earmarked for yet another “want” in my life. Even if it makes me uncomfortable.
When opportunity arises (and it always does), I will start stepping up instead of stepping away.
I will seek the only stature worth wanting – a servant’s heart.