When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here am I.”
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
Exodus 4: 10-12
The Bible is filled with examples of unlikely people who were called to serve. It could be that they lacked talent, or their life circumstances were wrong, or their life history was checkered, and yet they were still called by God to serve.
Abraham was called by God to basically pick up his life and move, and not only that, God didn’t tell him exactly where he was moving, only to start walking and God would tell him when he had reached the destination. That couldn’t have been convenient. And yet Abraham went.
Moses came upon a bush that was burning one day. And God spoke to Moses out of the bush. Moses didn’t run the other way, but answered “Here am I.” (Exodus 3:4) The Lord told him that he would lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Moses’ first reaction wasn’t that he couldn’t be bothered, but that he lacked the gift of speech, needed to lead and speak with people. Moses had a stuttering problem. God told Moses that He would guide his words, and when Moses couldn’t get the words out, his brother Aaron became his mouthpiece. Centuries later, we don’t remember Aaron the mouthpiece, but we remember Moses, the unlikely leader.
David, a shepherd boy, slew Goliath, a military giant, with the help of God. He eventually became a king, and Christ descended from his lineage.
The leaders of the Disciples—Peter, Andrew, James and John—were not very good fishermen. And they were the leaders of the early church, and spread the Gospel throughout the world.
The greatest Apostle, Paul, was persecuting the early church. And his Epistles comprise the majority of the New Testament and they are read to this day, throughout the world.
These are a few of the more well-known stories from the Bible. And outside of the Bible, there is a two-thousand-year history of improbable people who became leaders and saints in the church.
We are all called to serve. And sometimes that call might be inconvenient. I happily served the church in Asheville, North Carolina, for over four years, and was very happy with my life there. I certainly didn’t ask to move to Florida. I was called, and it wasn’t convenient, or easy, to sell a house and more important, to leave a community and a life that we loved.
Sometimes that call might be improbable. Probably all of us have been placed in situations where we felt like we were “in over our heads” with some task that we were called to do. When I was a young priest, I felt inadequate most of the time—the first time I heard a confession, or saw someone pass away. The firsts of everything were hard. Even now, there are times when I feel like I’m in over my head. I also can’t tell you how many times God’s grace has helped me do something I thought was improbable or impossible. I think of the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9, where St. Paul writes how Christ said to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When we feel confident and adequate, is there a need, or room, for God’s grace to work in us? It is when we feel unconfident and inadequate that God’s grace comes in and fills the empty spaces.
If we truly want to serve, we have to do three things. First, we have to put ourselves in a place to serve. I can’t really serve anyone on the couch watching TV. (However, in order to serve efficiently, we all need periods of rest, so watching TV can be restorative and help us serve better, we just can’t be doing that all the time.) Going to work, being with our families, volunteering, basically showing up, puts us in a position to serve. Second, we have to answer God’s call to serve. God calls each of us, through our talents and our circumstances, to serve. I have a call, and a talent, to serve as a priest—I have a talent at writing, speaking, singing, etc.—the things that a priest needs to be able to do. Imagine if I took these talents and didn’t use them. That would not be serving God, or serving others appropriately. Outside of my role as a priest, I could be called to serve through circumstance. Really, any of us could. An example of circumstantial serving is witnessing a car accident, and springing into action calling 911 or rendering aid. This kind of unexpected circumstance could happen to any of us at any time. And when it does, we are called to serve, even if it is inconvenient. Imagine rushing home or rushing to a meeting and witnessing a car accident. I would like to think that whatever we are rushing to would be secondary to serving someone in a medical crisis.
And third, when we serve, we need to serve in the way that is needed. Imagine if a new neighbor moved into the house next door. Being a kind neighbor, I go and offer to lend a hand. The neighbor says “can you help me paint one of the rooms?” And I say “no, but I can mow grass.” Then the neighbor says “I mow my own grass, if you want to help, please help me paint.” Serving has to be done in the way that service is needed, not only in the way you want to “serve,” because when “service” is done in this way, it’s more advancing one’s personal agenda than serving another.
Lord, please give me a servant’s heart—a heart that loves to serve, a heart that serves even when it is inconvenient, a heart that steps forward to serve even when I feel inadequate, a heart that leaves room for Your grace to fill the empty spaces, a heart that listens to what is needed, rather than only to my own desires. Help me to be a better servant, today and always. Amen.
May we serve even when it is inconvenient, when one feels overwhelmed, and according to what is needed. And in all instances, leave room for God’s grace to fill in the empty spaces and the inadequacies, because really, it’s all about serving Him, and when we are truly serving Him, He helps us in our service.