(written five weeks ago; pulled from my notes and published now)
About a year ago I was fresh from South America and trying to settle into life here in the United States. The emotional rise and fall of changing cultures and homes made me question myself as a person and my place in the American culture where I was dwelling. For example, what should my occupation be? What degree should I pursue? Where is my place in the circle of my friends? Two and a half years can cause a bunch of changes and these thoughts swirled through my head for days, leaving me feeling fatigued. My selfish side justified my tiredness. “Look EJ,” it said, “you just finished two years of service, giving of your precious time in a foreign culture. Many times, people didn’t understand you and what you felt. Inconsiderate and unfeeling, the took advantage of you and your time. Enjoy this time of being a returned missionary. Allow others to laud you and burnish your sense of entitlement. It’s okay to relax and be served.”
That’s what one side of me said. Deep within me, I felt myself revolting. Something didn’t sound right. Was service actually something that could be accomplished only in far away places? No, I knew service was an integral part of being a Christian. I also know that my life had now changed and that my life was now not as dedicated to serving others. I felt caught in the midst of this juxtaposition: the desire to rest vs. knowing I had more to give.
It came to a head one night at a youth function. Finding a spot apart from the rest of the group, I drank in the tranquility of the night. Sitting there I pondered on these questions. “God,” I cried, “is there no rest for the weary? Can I not take a break from helping and serving and giving? Why demand me to continue to serve when I just lived twenty-eight months at a mission station in Paraguay?” God allowed my thoughts to ramble. When I had finished, I continued to sit there, staring into the darkness. Throughout this running together of thoughts, I had been interrupted by some of my friends who wanted to talk. In my need to be alone, I confess to making a poor effort at conversation. The thoughts faded into contemplation, the friends returned to the main group, and then God showed up. Not with the brilliance of a falling star or the booming voice of the thunder but silently and swiftly, like the shadow of a forest animal crossing a moonlit aperture in the forest shrubbery.
“My child, to whom much is given, much is required. You’ve been given much.” The thought came and left as soon and as quickly as it came. But like the brilliant passing of a meteor which can still be seen minutes after its disappearance, that thought stayed with me. I grew misty eyed as I pondered its import. My pity party was over. O – V – E – R. No mas. It felt unfair to not have any divinely sanctioned personal time. To look ahead at the future seemed overwhelming, the task too huge. I could only see the present which seemed like a large room and I a small child trying to find its way through it with a dim flashlight. My desire was for pity and self-recognition; nonetheless, for my own betterment I knew I had to listen to that thought.
Not that I had that much. I’m only a young man with a vision and dreams. I face questions of career and education. I struggle with anger, lust and ego. I was raised by Christian parents, know who my siblings are, and attend a Bible believing church. What do I have that is the “much” that God told me that night? Okay, I’ll grant that the latter three things I just mentioned are a pretty big deal. If I focus on them, I am in a minority. I have that “much.”
Being young, I have more energy than older people. If I get their wisdom for projects and provide the energy, the synergy is delightful. Being young and footloose I have more time for humanitarian projects in other places. Older (read married) people find it more difficult to find the time and energy to do the things I have access to. I have that “much.”
That was then. Jump forward past two semesters of school and a summer of construction work to the present week. Last night, that call of service got a much needed kick in the pants. Life is hard. To live sacrificially is difficult to do and lately my zeal for doing good has waned.
Good works do not save us. They do not gain heaven for us. As Christians, we are created to do good works. But after we are saved, we bring glory to God by looking for ways to be a blessing to mankind. This is accomplished in many different ways and in every way possible. Helping a child tie his shoe, retrieving an item for someone, or complimenting a person. These are good works and after we experience salvation through Gods grace, we are designed by God to do good. Ephesians 2:8-10 brings this out. Paul’s explanation indicates that we are saved so we can do good works. In essence, we have a license to act and do good. We have duty to fulfill. Time restraints on this injunction do not exist!
So do good because its good.
Do good because you are commanded to do so.
Do good because you are created to do good.
Now, go and do.
written from JAARS, a place that does good. For more information about JAARS, click here.