Today was a GREAT day!
I was able to go back to church and worship with the brethren after missing seven weeks of services due to illness and various traumas at home. I was teased several times when asked if I would like to "fill out a visitor card." HA! What a joy it was to see so many wonderful faces, feel welcomed and wanted by others, sing together with hundreds of other voices ... it was WONDERFUL.
Today was also a hard day. Within the body of Christ there are many needs. Many hurts. Many disappointments and trials. And we are called to bear one another's burdens ... no matter if it is convenient, easy, pleasant, or what we want to do at the moment. Our brothers and sisters need us, and when God calls us to minister to one another, we have to be ready to serve - ready to encourage - ready to admonish - ready to stand in the gap if they are too weak to fight - and ready to LOVE. No matter what. And loving others takes energy. Time. Effort.
There has to be balance, of course. Scripture does not support us neglecting our spouse and children for the sake of ministry. Our calling is at home first, and then to others ... especially as women. The Lord did not place 200 women, or a 60-member youth group, in our home for us to nurture, discipline, train, and disciple - He gave us a spouse and children. Children who need our focused attention all.day.long. The calling of marriage and family requires constant sacrifice and focus, and a continual dying to self - and neither can be entered into lightly.
But the Lord also gave us spiritual gifts to be used in the body of Christ. If we have the gift of teaching, we must teach. If we have the gift of mercy, we must encourage and support. If we have the gift of administration, we must help the logistics of ministry run smoothly. So the question is ... how can we be fully committed to our first calling as wives/mothers and serve the body of Christ? The trick is finding a way to be obedient to both callings without neglecting one - to serve the other.
It has taken me a long time to strike that balance, and sometimes I am still off kilter. The Lord has had to show me, sometimes painfully, that I cannot serve on fourteen committees and still meet the needs of my family, no matter how organized I am, or how much I may want to. I cannot be out of the house 2-3 nights a week meeting with women, no matter how great the need, because our family is then divided. Dennis and I need to be home, together, with our children, ministering to them ... and, serving each other. Which means, any ministry we are involved in must fit into our family life - not take priority over it. And the only way to find that balance is constant prayer, seeking the Lord's wisdom and making sure we are doing what HE is asking us to do ... serving where HE wants us to serve ... not just joining something because we want to and then asking Him to "bless it." I have done both - thoughtful, careful, patient prayer about an activity or leadership position ... and rocketing into something because I find it interesting, fulfilling and challenging. Guess which one ends up being a positive, growth-filled, spiritually maturing experience?
I will confess ... there are times that I do not want to serve others - including my own family. There are times when I hope that everyone I see at church will tell me life is fantastic, they are in the Word every day, their marriage is effervescent, their children are walking in truth, and they are praising God and thanking Him in all things. Why? Because that is EASY! It takes zero effort to smile, hug someone, and tell them you are excited to hear that God is doing great things in their life. But to stop walking and actually talk to someone when you just want to get to the bathroom ... to focus on her and actually hear what she is saying ... to give up our own agenda and let the Lord use us the way He wants to use us (regardless of how uncomfortable or awkward we feel) ... this takes an act of self-sacrifice. It requires caring for others more than we care about ourselves. It demands attention to detail - tone of voice, tear-filled eyes, anxious actions, and a heart that is breaking right in front of us. Are we willing? Are we willing to sacrifice an easy, enjoyable conversation with a dear friend in order to listen to a woman share her confusion and disappointment in her marriage? Will we give up our coffee and donut so we can sit on a wall and listen to a woman share intense grief about the loss of her unborn child?
Will we give up SELF to serve others?
Will we start in the home, and give up our wants and desires to love and serve our husbands - and train and disciple our children as the Lord commands?
We can do both! Scripture and history are filled with examples of men and women who did. But - they all started with the key ingredient: loving the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. And only then were they able to find the perfect balance between obeying His command to be a help meet and a trainer of righteousness - AND - to fulfill the will of God by ministering to the church body with the specific gifts they had been given.
We have to love the Lord first. We have to SEEK Him first. Find where He is working - and join Him. When you fill a jar with rice and try to cram in a handful of un-shelled walnuts, the lid will never close. But when you put the walnuts in FIRST, all of the rice slips and slides through the cracks and the lid spins tightly onto the jar.
It is not always easy to be a wife - a mother - a sister in Christ. Each requires constant attention, flexibility, effort, planning, time, energy, evaluation of expectations, and - commitment. As women, our first calling must be to our husbands and children ... and then, when He calls us to minister to a brother or sister in Christ, HE will find a way to make the two worlds fit together in perfect unity. He does not ask us to work out all of the details. He simply asks us to OBEY - and to trust. And He
will take care of the rest.