Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ON MINISTRY (Part 2--The Point)

I wrote that lengthy, detailed article about Carolyn's surgery and hospital stay for two reasons: to get myself in motion writing and to provide some background for this, the main point, if anyone is interested in detailed background. Feel free to skip

What I want to write about is suffering, and caring for those who are suffering, those who are helpless, and what I have learned about those things during the past 3 weeks. This was my wife's 12th major surgery so in some ways it wasn't exactly a new experience for me (or her!). In a more important way, however, it is a remarkable experience, a life-changing lesson. My greatest fear in attempting this is that I shall fail to communicate verbally something that is so purely experiential.

As we anticipated this surgery and all that comes with it (anticipated most of the stuff, anyway), I had this intellectual grasp of what I would be doing. I've done it before. You have a helpless patient, a pain-racked patient, and it's someone you love dearly. Things need to be done--things which despite long years of intimacy are still discomforting to the one who cannot care for herself as usual. I'm not going into specifics--y'all know the kinda stuff, not limited to holding a basin for someone to vomit into, or washing their face afterward, but stuff like that.

So, I've done that before and I don't mind doing it. I don't. And she knows, as much as humanly possible, that I don't find such things repulsive or disgusting. I love her; I'd do anything to help her when she's suffering. But this time it's different. God has taken me in hand, put His arm across my shoulders, and drawn me a bit closer, let me see a bit more of His grace through His son.

As I sat through those worst hours there in the hospital, doing my little routine with the basin and the wet cloths on her forehead and so forth.....sometimes I sat and waited for the next call to service and realized that I wasn't being a dutiful husband, suffering through these menial chores with a stiff upper lip, deserving of so much appreciation for my dedication. What I was is this: Blessed. I experienced something which previously I had only read about: the joy of serving another person, the blessing which God bestows upon His children as they learn something about "ministry"

I want to say it out loud: I love caring for her. It's a joy to care for her in whatever way I can. I'm so grateful to God for taking me past that selfish state of "being noble" and suffering dutifully. Jesus said He came not to be ministered to, but to minister. Have we ever twisted that word into something grotesque! Most "ministers" haven't the foggiest concept of ministering.

We all know the story of the "Last Supper" from the Gospel accounts. As the apostles arrived, Jesus garbed Himself as a servant and washed their feet. And we hear a lot of sanctimonious preaching about how we need to do likewise, and some denominations take that literally and have services during which folks wash one another's feet. What do you suppose they are thinking when they do that?

What do you think Jesus was thinking as He did that? "I'm gonna do this to teach these guys how to be humble" If you think that, you are making Him out to be disingenuous at best. This was a cultural practice, a courtesy extended by hosts to their arriving guests. The household servants washed the guests' feet because they were dirty! Jesus Christ came as the Servant of Jehovah. This was His heart on display; He loved those apostles. He wasn't thinking "Yuck, I've got to do this just to make the point"

If we love the brethren, we will serve them with the same heart....not begrudingly (well hidden, of course) but joyfully. It was Christ's great joy to serve His children. It will be so in all eternity as well.

We're home now and Carolyn is regaining some mobility and can care more for herself but still needs help. I am still in service here. I still rejoice in it. I am beginning to feel that I've failed in my attempt to communicate this. May God make it clear to all who read this, despite my poor effort. Ministry is servant-hood. Poor, pitiful folks who think "being like Jesus" means being King......or some other big shot. The Christ whom the church is to emulate is that Humble Servant, joyfully washing the feet of the disciples.


Zhey Chua said...

Amen, brother!

Thank you for this beautiful reminder of what ministry is and ought to be.

Shanna Locker said...

Ed, You did a great job communicating the point. It was timely for me to read this. My grandma, age 85 had a major stroke on saturday. I spent all day Sunday in the ER with her until my mom, and aunts & uncles could arrive. She is helpless. She can't feed herself. She can't walk, she can't adjust her position in get the idea. I've been caring for grandma in her home since she broke her knee in March 2007. We've gone through a hernia surgery together and other things, now this seems like the final trial before she goes to be with Jesus. I feel blessed to care for her. "Do unto others..." We all, someday will want the same, willingly given, in love - Yes, Christ and His attitude is the example! Thanks Ed.