Recently, I have been meditating on joy and specifically joy through service. Some of my first memories of service are things like volunteering at Vacation Bible School and my first mission trip. My crazy parents allowed their thirteen-year-old daughter to go on a mission trip to Peru. We learned a drama and presented it in children’s schools and churches. I learned so much about God, prayer, my personal faith in God, and I experienced joy serving in Peru. The first service opportunities are those that are fun and exciting. Some kinds of service may be easy and even fun. I think God made us each to have individual spiritual gifts and thus we enjoy different kinds of service. You may have read my story about traveling abroad to share the love of Christ in the form of drama, and thought “that is SO NOT ME”! Luckily, you have your own gifts that make certain service opportunities an easy yes.
The next kind of service that came to mind is cleaning my house. I am right in the middle of the struggles of motherhood. I work full-time and my husband and I balance childcare with both of our full-time jobs. Our lives are just a little chaotic, and the daily chores of our house are a sort of service to each other. It is mundane, it is boring, but also it must be done. There is not a lot of joy in these tasks, but there could be. I could begin to choose joy in the midst of these very real and necessary tasks of my life. My daughter does not thank me for doing her laundry, but God has called me to care for my daughter. And so God has called me to do these acts of service. God calls us to do things that are boring but necessary. And I think, if we shift our perspective to see that mundane household tasks can be an act of worship, it can make it easier. Recently, I’ve seen this in putting my daughter down for a nap. I have literally no patience for putting her down for a nap. I would like to be able to throw her in the crib and then run off to go do the things on my to do list. Of course, she does not fall asleep if I throw her in the bed (note, I do not actually throw her in the bed). I watch Margaret’s Grandmothers rock her and sing to her and she falls asleep. It takes a little bit longer, but it is effective. This week I’ve been trying this, I sing a hymn or worship song and rock her and it works! Grandmas are smart, they also are not in a rush to get to something else, I think they know the snuggles don’t last and so they take their time putting my little one to bed. I have changed my perspective, to think this is a moment of worship, I don’t want to help Margaret fall asleep, but it is much more effective.
The last kind of service is the kind of service that you don’t want to do. This is going to be different for every person. When I was in college, I went to a small church and I remember the pastor asking our small congregation to all volunteer to help with children’s Sunday school. I remember indignantly thinking, “I am not called to that and I don’t have small children,” and so I did not help with children’s Sunday school. Recently, I was convicted when a close friend explained that when we participate in the Baptism of the children at our church, we are promising to help in the upbringing of these children. This means participating in their discipleship from a young age including helping in the nursery. I realized I am called to help in the nursery, now, today. Let me be honest, I do not feel like helping in the nursery especially now that I have my own little one. Children are often snotty and some of them don’t listen! As my own daughter gets bigger I am realizing that the nursery is not just a place that people drop their kids off during church, it is a ministry. Serving in the nursery is an opportunity to love parents and give them time to listen, as well as teaching even babies. I believe that while my daughter might not totally understand, she can still be taught basic principles of faith. And so I have signed up to volunteer in the nursery, even though it is NOT my calling and even though volunteering will mean changes to my relaxing Sunday morning schedule. Some kinds of service are a sacrifice. They are not my favorite things to do, however, when I have chosen to serve God and his people even when I did NOT want to, I have found joy. I am expecting that God will show up in the nursery. It may not be the exciting joy of my youth mission trips. It is a more persistent and quieter joy, but it is a beautiful kind of joy.
May God show you all the joy in all types of service, both the kind you love and the kind you don’t!
Rachel Schwandt and her husband Fr Michael disciple and love at St Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring. Rachel also serves at Texas Children’s Hospital as a nurse. Rachel and Michael have one tiny human named Margaret who is a professional funny face maker.