Last night, I had a phone conversation with a good friend and the topic of “ministry,” and “serving God” came up. We had been talking about emptiness in our lives as we approach a certain age, and our desire to serve God. There was a heavy pause, and she asked, “Why do we do this to ourselves? Does it actually say in the Bible that we have to do something BIG for God?”
That’s something I have thought about (and struggled over) a lot in recent months. There seems to be a driving force among Christians to “do something” for God. But not just anything; something BIG. It haunts our every thought. It mocks our situation. Older people have either overcome it, or never dealt with it in our generation, but as some of us creep toward thirty, it becomes an incessant hammering in our heads: what are you doing for God?
Sometimes I wonder if this lack of contentment in our lives, if this guilt-driven obligation we feel to “repay God” isn’t sent from the devil. Why? God is not a God of guilt. We are forgiven. We are embraced. We are saved. In scripture, over and over again, it talks about His desire for oneness with His followers. God wants obedience and love. Sometimes, He asks certain people to do certain things… but that’s just when He designs the mission. Moses didn’t sit on the mountain and think, “Now, how can I serve God? I know! I’ll free the Israelites!” God went to Him and said, “Get your backside down to Egypt, you have work to do.” (And like most people called, Moses didn’t really like the sound of that.)
What do we believers do? We try and find a mission. Sometimes, we’ll even invent one in order to feel like God approves of our life choices. We assume even if He hasn’t given us any indication of it that we belong in an outreach or “mission” of some kind. We think that the only way to please Him is to serve Him in a “mission,” and if we have an ordinary job, we feel bad about it. We push ourselves to “impress God,” “repay God,” or “do His will.” Instead of being content in our “simple, small lives,” and focusing on what really matters (like our relationship with Him, and in “occupying until He returns”) we seek to complicate them by constantly searching for meaning. We are full of doubt and insecurities, wondering if God, like Zeus, is going to strike us with lightning if we somehow miss “whatever He wants us to do,” or “don’t use the gifts He has given us.”
But here’s the thing about God: He’s not exactly subtle. If like Moses, He calls you to something specific, it’ll be apparent. You won’t miss it. And even if you do, He’ll have other believers pound you over the head with it. Plus, God gives everyone gifts. He’s not an angry dictator waiting to beat you if you use it for awhile and then find another passion. God is a God of Joy and Mercy, not of Guilt and Regret. He gives us free will for a reason.
Deep down, we all want to do something BIG for God. But is it because we want to serve, or because we want to be noticed by other Christians? We want to be a Moses, not one of the unnamed masses. But not all of us are truly called to a mission on that scale. So we invent callings, so as to feel included, and run the risk of displeasing God simply because we can’t be satisfied with whatever life we have been given. Remember, God honors the humble servant much more than the proud one, displaying his piety to one and all.
It’s good to want to honor Him. It’s good to want to serve Him. But Jesus taught us that it’s just as important to wash feet as it is to do the “BIG” stuff.