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Friday, February 1, 2008

For You - Not Me

For five years my husband served as Pastor for a small church along Highway 49 in the foothills of the Sierras. It was a beautiful place to live! The view from our home was breathtaking. We lived on nearly two acres of hillside surrounded by towering pine and oak trees. Most days we were guaranteed the most beautiful blue skies. And for a girl who had spent every day before this with both the gray overcast mornings of the Southern California basin and the smog that would sit just above us except when the winds would blow through, the pure blue sky was a gift to be enjoyed.

Although our surroundings were beautiful, these were five of the most difficult, grueling, life transforming, growing, heart-wrenching, painful, very difficult (I can’t think of anymore adjectives to use to describe what I am trying to convey) years we have yet to experience both in life and ministry.

I remember one day in particular. I was complaining to God about all the chairs and tables my husband and I had to set up, the coffeepots we had to clean, the vacuuming, the errands, the toilets we scrubbed and the floors we mopped – the servant’s work. I was trying to explain to God that he was wasting all our experience and education by having us do so much menial work. It seemed every other day we received a phone call or email from someone traveling somewhere exciting to speak at a conference, taking on or starting a new ministry, or doing anything better than what we were doing or so we thought.

That afternoon my husband was to perform a small wedding for a couple in our church who had recently given their hearts to Christ. My husband had been counseling with this couple who were in their late forties and living together. They had decided together that they would make things right before the Lord by getting married and wanted to do so in front of their families in our little church sanctuary.

I remember double checking that everything was ready for this small gathering of about twenty before heading home to quickly shower and change and heading back to the church. I found my seat in the second row with a few minutes to spare before the service was to begin. I thought of my four children at home and the amount of money I was paying someone to watch them all day so that I could be here. I thought of the many things that I would rather be doing on this beautiful fall Saturday afternoon and how my home stood in shambles with dishes and laundry because I had been down at the church or running an errand for my husband as we prepared for this small wedding.

The ceremony started and the couple nervously took their places. The bride came out wearing a beautiful cream colored dress with a tint of pink. Her face was beaming and she proudly walked the small aisle with her sister by her side. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

During the ceremony, the bride was struggling and needed some tissue. My husband graciously stepped aside and reached for some Kleenex. He took the time to help her find her place and gently reached for her bouquet so that she could wipe her tears and hold the hands of her groom.

Tears began to stream down my face as I watched my husband serve the bride with such tenderness and care. He is a beautiful model of servanthood for me and rarely tires of meeting the lowest needs. I was beginning to feel like such a worm and rightfully so.

As we gathered at the tables set up afterwards and enjoyed a simple lunch and wedding cake together, I was introduced to the bride’s only sister. It was an encounter that I will never forget. She had traveled several hundred miles to be there that day. Their father had passed away years before and she wanted to walk side by side with her sister as she was presented to her groom. I was soon to understand why.

She thanked me profusely for everything we had done. Feeling like a complete hypocrite, I brushed it off and told her (knowing full well what my thoughts had been just moments earlier) that it was our pleasure to be here with them and sharing in this beautiful event.

With tears in her eyes and a joy in her face she said, “you don’t understand, I feel like I already know you, you see I have been praying for you and your husband.”

Praying for me and my husband?

WHAT?

She went on to explain that she had prayed for her sister’s salvation for fifteen years and for the past eight years she had committed herself to setting the alarm clock everyday for 5:30 am to pray specifically for her sister’s salvation. Every. Single. Day.

She had all but given up when her sister telephoned and shared that she and her boyfriend had started attending a small church near their home. She could not believe what she was hearing. She told me that her prayers changed at that moment and she began directing them towards us.

She prayed that the Pastor of this church and his wife would be mighty servants of the Lord. She prayed that they would be willing to look beyond the outward appearance of her sister and all the baggage and circumstances of her life and see her heart. She prayed we would be the ones that God would use to bring in the harvest of souls in the life of her sister and boyfriend.

At that moment I knew I was standing on Holy ground.

These words moved from my mind, to my lips and landed in my heart,

“for you, Lord, I want to do it for you, for others – not for me!"

Lord, Please forgive me.

I never looked at cleaning the church bathrooms, setting up chairs on Wednesday nights or making coffee for our ladies bible studies the same.
Today, I no longer have to clean the toilets or mop the floor in our church. There are others now who get to set up the tables and chairs. We are blessed with additional servants (staff) to oversee the children’s ministry, nursery, record keeping, and the multiple other places I served during those days.

I am rarely involved in the details of an event or have to run an errand for something like coffee cups or paper towels. But I will never forget those long five often lonely years of serving and doing at times what felt like meaningless work. God used us in a mighty way!

Are you questioning the circumstances of your life and the place the Lord has placed you and seeing it as menial in comparison to others? Like me, are you tempted to think that there must be something better God could be using you for? Have you asked the Lord to use your life, your experiences, and your gifts to minister to others? Be careful, He may hand you a vacuum, or a baby to hold while a young mom attends a meeting, or gasp be the official coffee maker.

I have a precious woman who is in her second year of making coffee every Tuesday morning for our ladies bible study. She is growing in the Lord with such beauty!

I would venture to say that God is at work at the back of the line in ways you cannot fathom. I certainly couldn’t.

Listen to the words of Jesus my dear sisters and hear the heart of our Savior, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

Lord, help me to understand what it means to be a servant of all. Teach me how to lead, through serving.



In Him...Chris

Chris can also be found at her personal blog Come to the Table

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13 Comments:

Blogger Denise said...

May you be greatly blessed.

February 1, 2008 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

Chris,
That was absolutely beautiful. How easy it is to be dissatisfied with the mundane tasks for Christ when often those are the ways in which He ministers to others.

Thanks for sharing from your heart.

Love, Linda

February 1, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger Heather@Mommymonk said...

Chris,
What a wonderful example of being Christ's vessel. I appreciated your honesty about having the right attitude when doing menial tasks. And how amazing to have God reveal to you that YOU were the answer to many prayers. It brought tears to my eyes.

February 1, 2008 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Heather@Mommymonk said...

Chris,
What a wonderful example of being Christ's vessel. I appreciated your honesty about having the right attitude when doing menial tasks. And how amazing to have God reveal to you that YOU were the answer to many prayers. It brought tears to my eyes.

February 1, 2008 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Chris--You have brought me to tears. I really needed to hear this today. As a minsiter's wife, I can grow weary of always being the one serving and sharing my husband. Thank you for this amazing reminder that God works through our willingness to surrender and serve in the small things, as well as the "big" things.

February 1, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

Chris,

You have no idea how I relate to this one. There are so many times ministry seems thankless and when God rolls back the sky to let us see what was going on behind the scenes the whole time? Wow - it's humbling. What a great reminder to be ever mindful of the unseen as we minister.

Much love,

Lisa

February 1, 2008 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Mary Lou said...

This brought tears to my eyes...what a humbling but rewarding experience. Thanks for being so transparent.....I've prayed for my sister for probably longer than fifteen years, not as consistently as that sister...very convicting to me on that part of your post. May God richly bless your ministry in the coming days.....dlowran1(at)comcast(dot)net

February 1, 2008 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Thanks. On a day when I'm handling some very menial tasks at work, I appreciate this fresh perspective.

February 1, 2008 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

What a profoundly beautiful post Chris. Do you know I was just feeling that way yesterday - wondering what in the world I was doing for the kingdom in my limited little world. I seem to have so much time - but it is always filled with the things I am called to do for family, etc. This speaks to my heart.
It is also so meaningful because my younger son and daughter-in-law are pastoring a very small church (while he still works a full-time job) and serving in exactly the way you have described. It is sometimes discouraging, as they pour their hearts into people only to be disappointed time and time and time again. But they know, as you know, whom you they are serving and why.
What a wonderful blessing this was Chris.

February 1, 2008 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

That was such a cool story Chris! There is nothing so beautiful as being told you have been prayed for.

February 1, 2008 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Darnelle said...

"Are you questioning the circumstances of your life and the place the Lord has placed you and seeing it as menial in comparison to others?"

Gotta confess . . . Yes - and for a lot of years. I am learning though. Only He knows what needs to be done in this heart. Then, and only then do I come off the back burner.

Your story was beautiful and thank you for hanging in there during those hard years.

Darnelle

February 1, 2008 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

What a wonderful post. I almost felt like you were sitting here with me and telling me this story. I needed to hear this today. God Bless!

February 1, 2008 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Great post, great reminder. We may never know the impact of our ministry in the home, in the marketplace, in the church. But God knows, and sometimes provides a little glimpse like this to encourage us.
Thanks for an encouraging word!

February 2, 2008 at 12:19 PM  

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