Several weeks ago, there was a message at church called Greatness Redefined. The gist, to simplify it to the point that resonated with me, was that serving others is greater than being served. In God's eyes, you are "great" if you are a servant to those around you, not if you have certain status or image.
It took awhile for this to sink in for me. In a real way, at least.
It sounded pretty simple, because how I often do I tell people to serve me? I don't seek to be served. Well, maybe not literally, if you're picturing the whole feet-washing scenario or treating those around you like your personal waitstaff. But that kind of serving isn't really the point here. Taking it so literally was really a way of copping out.
When I started to think of it in terms of my spiritual life, things changed for me. How much of my spiritual life is made up of me serving, and how much of it is me being served? When I go to church, I'm served by the worship team, the pastor, the people who welcome me and the people who make and set up the coffee. I'm also served by those who maintain the building, the volunteers who run the sound and slides, and a lot more people who I don't even think of. I don't have to give anything back. I just go and get filled up.
When I go to lifegroup, I definitely spend time encouraging the people around me and building relationships, but for the most part I'm served by the leaders who prepare the discussion and the people who give up their home every week to host. I don't have to put much thought into it; I go, I get filled up.
If I'm really being honest with myself, this is how a lot of things all throughout my spiritual life have been. I'm very involved in church, but how much am I really serving versus how much I am being served?
I knew before we moved to Colorado that one of the first things I wanted to do at our new church was work with students. I've never done it on a really deep level before, and while I knew it would be a commitment and an investment, I didn't really know what to expect.
About a month ago, on a Wednesday when I had worked all day and wanted nothing more than to crash on the couch for the rest of the night, there was a student ministries event. It was only one week until my middle school girls lifegroup was starting up, so I wanted to go and start getting to know the girls. But boy, was I tired. I did not want to give of myself. I did not want to be drained for the sake of someone else.
It turned out that God gave me more renewed energy and excitement and strength through serving that night than I ever would have gotten from a few hours vegging on the couch. One girl who hadn't even heard of lifegroups at the beginning of the night left with information about my group and excited about getting involved. Serving was so much more rewarding than being served.
Since then, co-leading a lifegroup and getting to know these middle school girls is turning out to be one of my favorite things I've ever ventured to do. Besides the fact that I am forced to think about something more important than myself at least once a week, I am inspired by their faith and insights, humbled by the fact that I am an example to other girls who are in the same vulnerable place I was in ten years ago, and so excited each week at the potential for God to use me in big ways.
I don't think I can completely explain it, because I know that before I did this, the thought of "another thing to do" overwhelmed my ability to imagine the possibilities of serving. It's just a matter of stepping out and putting yourself in a situation where God can use your gifts to touch other people. Then watch what He will do!