March 3, 2008
Sometimes, God speaks to me in little whispers. Sometimes, He is silent. Right now, though, He is shouting in both ears. I read an article this morning that briefly mentioned sacrificial living. Even though that wasn’t the topic of the article, those words stood out big and bold to me. Sacrifice and service are difficult concepts to get our arms around. How do we find the time?
I often wonder, "Why are people exhausted from their efforts, yet have little of the yield that they seek?" For example, stress levels are high, time seems to be at a premium, and yet, rarely do you meet someone who is really enjoying their day-to-day life. This isn’t just a fringe phenomenon either. Many people wonder how they got to middle-age without anything meaningful to show for it. Yet, there are people who seem to live life with a joie de vivre that lights all they touch. What is the secret to a life that yields results? What results are significant enough to strive toward? And, how do we measure our yield?
This question prompted me to do some research. A quick (and notably unscientific) survey gave me some insight. I asked a few people for the name of someone who embodied a life well-lived. Once we got past the occasional Donald Trump or Bill Gates, the results were very telling. Mother Theresa, a soldier who had earned the Bronze star, the couple who runs the homeless shelter, and (you may have already guessed this one), their mother:-) were the types of responses I was seeing.
This little experiment just reinforced the message that God had placed before me. Service and sacrificial living are still longed for in this society. Meaningful living is still personified in someone like Mother Theresa. Granted, we all won’t have the same gifts or calling, but that spiritual light that comes from service to others is available to us all. Maybe that is the not-so-secret secret. Maybe, we have been looking at the wrong results. Maybe our yield comes not from what we have or what we have achieved, but instead, by who we have touched.
Cicero once said, "It is our special duty, that if anyone needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power." A simple duty, but not an easy one. Life moves at full throttle most of the time. Any spare moments that we have are often dedicated to getting that last email out or another load of laundry in. Some days, we may not feel very power-ful. However, by taking a moment to pray for a neighbor, sincerely and with passion, we have served another. You have given a helping piece of your spirit, anonymously, to someone who may have no other person in the world lifting them up in prayer in that moment. Powerful thought, isn’t it? By sending another mom a reassuring glance in the grocery store as their toddler throws an "I want candy!" fit, your goal is more noble than you’d probably guess. You are communicating empathy and comfort in an environment that is probably feeling quite hostile. What a gift! By living in that one moment, we are striving to a meaningful result.
Even so, though, we don’t really know whether the neighbor was healed. We can’t really tell if our message to the grocery store mom actually yielded what we intended. How do we measure whether we are "succeeding" in our efforts? As usual, the Holy Spirit has given us just the metric we need to determine whether we are yielding our intended results. It is called the peace of the Spirit. Just as measuring our yield in worldly terms often frustrates, measuring our yield in service and sacrifice instead bring an inexplicable joy and reverance.
The Father, as usual, gives us all we need. Sometimes, we just need to measure results with a different stick. As you go through your day, use seemingly insignificant opportunities such as these to serve. Then, analyze what is left in your heart. Are you still exhausted? Or have you instead been given an abundance of peace in your spirit?