Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Giving Hope in the Shadows

Accolades and recognition. Isn't this what human nature craves? We claim humility, and then announce to all social media outlets the deeds of our humility. At this point, it ceases to be humility.

I'm including myself in this observation.

We want everyone to know our lives count for something. We want to be seen as caring, responsible, active, and serving while also trying to keep all the balls of family and responsibility juggled. And we want to look as good as possible while juggling.

What's the point of service, of ministry?

The point is there is a world around us in despair. Our neighbors and community are a people with masks that hide the pain and dysfunction of life.

It's our responsibility to love them, to listen, to meet a need if possible. Listening is key. Walking with someone through tragedy, carrying their burden as your own.

The unsung heroes of my world are those who quietly serve. They take a meal to a family in need, where no eyes are watching. They stand in a hot kitchen and dish out food for the homeless. They rescue a young mother by giving her an afternoon of rest and freedom. They shovel mud out of flooded houses and deliver clean water, as well as hugs. They lay their heads on a hard gym floor at the end of a long day, or crawl into an air mattress that goes flat during the night. The unsung heroes pray weekly at a local coffee shop, no fanfare, no applause. The utterance of their lips speak of the needs of others. The heroes I know are not strangers to hospitals and nursing homes. There is no difference in span of life.

You may never see their names posted or their deeds applauded, but that doesn't deter their work of love.

When I was a teenager, growing up in the hills of West Virginia, my unsung heroes came in the form of my mom's best friend and her husband. After losing my mom at 15 years of age, she fixed lunch for me every day until I graduated from high school. She prepared a feast for me, day after day, year after year. Grilled cheese, ham and cheese on hoagie bread, burgers and fries, and dessert awaited me, and hugs were dished out before I rolled back to school with a full tummy. She even peeled my oranges and separated the slices; and a couple of times she slipped money in my pocket, given by her neighbors. I don't know of anyone on the planet whose heart is bigger. Very few people knew she did this for me. But God did and her acts are recorded in His memory. One year her husband made me a goodie box with all my favorite things. This is an example of caring "for the least of these."

Who we are as a people outside the church walls is much more important than who we are on the inside of those walls. We were not commanded to minister to the like minded. We are commanded to go to the uttermost places of the earth. The uttermost may be in your community, your state, or your own four walls.

Choose service without the hope of announcement. After all, the One who see all and knows all is the final judge. He will remember the deeds unseen, the intercession uttered, and the lives forever changed. The acts of love done in the secret place are many times, the most needed, and the most lasting.