Friday, August 4, 2017

When Ministry Means Small Jobs, Big Love, and Dying to Self

The work of caregiving is hard. The hours are long. When the person receiving care is in your home, it's a 24/7/365 kind of job. If the care-receiver is too weak to do for themselves, the caregiving involves everything from preparing and feeding food to emptying and cleaning bedside commodes.

There's nothing easy about it.

Mother Teresa often talked about doing small things with great love. That's how she cared for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, but she didn't invent the idea. Her philosophy for ministry came straight from Jesus. 

"When you've done it unto the least of these my brethren, you've done it unto me..." "Love one another as I have loved you..."

Yesterday was a hard day, as some days are. I started the day full of energy, but found I'd slept through a problem in the night, and had a lot of cleanup to do. It was one of those not-much-goes-right days, and I was quickly exhausted by it.

One refrain played in my head: "Small things, great love..." Every time I thought of those words, I was reminded, "Least of these, done to me..." Those few words fueled my work yesterday. 

Throughout the day, I prayed, "God, give me a servant heart that doesn't balk at the hard tasks." To be perfectly candid, that's not the kind of heart I had at the beginning of the day. I wept off and on all day, not because the work was hard but because my heart wasn't quite right.

 By the end of the day, though, I wasn't begging for a changed heart anymore; I was thanking God because He'd already accomplished it.

That heart-change has nothing to do with whether or not I have a "good" heart. It has to do with the fact that I have a good God. A faithful God.

When we ask God to make us more like Him, He'll do it and take delight in the doing. 

Yesterday, I counted on God's grace, and He didn't let me down. 

No matter how small, stinky, or difficult the task, we can do it with great love if we allow the love of Christ to fill us and work through us. 

There's one other requirement for doing a small job with great love, and it's the one we like the least: dying to self. If I am to do the hard jobs of caregiving with great love, I will have to die to myself and my desires. I'll have to live for Christ and those He loves.

What did I want yesterday? I wanted to wear a summery dress and go out for lunch with friends. I wanted to laugh over our meal and worry about nothing more complex than whether or not to have dessert. I wanted all my housework to be done and extra money in the bank. 

Instead, God's work for me yesterday was to die to that dream, and spend the day caring for an elderly man. To wash soiled sheets and clothes. To clean up the potty chair and mop the bathroom. To prepare food that couldn't be eaten. To weep with those who are too worn out to weep. To rejoice over the tiniest of victories. To die to self.

When those jobs were accomplished, the things I wanted seemed trivial and trite. They didn't matter at all. At the end of the day, I could honestly call it a good day. 

What I remember about yesterday is not the mess that was made nor the things I cleaned. What I remember is the love that was shared. I hope that's what Sam remembers, too. 

If you think of us today, pray that I have a servant heart, willing to do the hardest tasks with great love because I'm not just serving Sam. I'm serving Jesus.

If you're facing hard tasks, try doing them this same way...ask God for a heart that loves even in the most difficult situations. Relinquish your desires and embrace those of our Father, who knows what's best. 

That's what ministry is all about: dying to self so we can do small things with great love in the name of Jesus.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40 niv

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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When You Have a Plan but God Has a Better One

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line