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January 14, 2009

GFL Devotional Journey—Day 10

Boy, I know what this one is about. I have fallen into this trap repeatedly. Maybe it's because I grew up in a pastor's family and constant unquestioned service - filling whatever roles weren't already filled - was a way of life. I still tend to see a ministry opportunity or need and ask myself, "Could I possibly do that?" rather than "Should I do that?" or "Am I the best person to do that?" or "Does God want me to do that?" or "Has God gifted me to do that?"

That question - "Could I possibly do that?" - almost always leads to "Yes" and to a bad experience.

Like the time when I volunteered - out of guilt - to serve as cook for a high school retreat when I was 8 months pregnant. Could I possibly do that? Yes. Should I have done it? No. I don't possess any of the gifts needed for effectively serving in that role: hospitality, service, preparing food, making kind-hearted conversation with surly teenagers while my hormonal condition made me want to smack them, spending two sleepless and painful nights sleeping on the floor while my nearly-born youngster kicked my ribs and stomped on my bladder. No, I don't have those gifts. Bad experience.

What freedom God provides in reminding us that he created us intentionally and with purpose. He doesn't expect us to be anyone else or to minister out of a sense of guilt of shame. There is no guilt or shame in saying no to an opportunity that might actually distract us from God's purpose for us. After all, chances are the need exists because someone else came up with the idea but didn't fill the spot. That doesn't mean God wants us to do it.

At the same time we're setting ourselves free from guilt, though, we might be tempted to see service as a form of self-indulgence and personal fulfillment. I believe service in God's name should bring joy, but often requires self-sacrifice at the same time. How do we serve according to our gifts, and not out of guilt, but at the same time make the appropriate sacrifices to do what God wants us to do?


Today's devotional hit me hard. I'm really good at saying "yes" without thinking. My husband will often say, "Why did you think you could handle this?" and I will say, "I don't know--it just came out!"

I think your last paragraph is important, Amy. While we are made with unique gifts and are called to minister within those, sometimes the gospel calls us to sacrifice in ways that make us uncomfortable initially. I--like you and Caryn--don't really have any answers on how we discern the difference between bad boundaries (or overcommitment)and being healthily challenged by service.

However, I am thankful for the times God has called me out of my comfort zone to discover new gifts and ways to serve him. If anyone has discovered tools for telling the difference, I would love to read about your experiences.

Another great devotional for me too. This issue's at the center of so much for us as leaders, and as women. I think I tend to want to meet everyone's needs. And I've learned that I can. I can do anything I need to. I've done it before. But here's a great lesson: Just because I can doesn't mean I should. Even the apostle Paul talked about it like this:

"'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

God made us so wonderfully--and so wonderfully capabale. But yes, He has purpose. So when I've done "everything" that's permissible, I've also suffered for it. I've undercut God's plan to use the WHOLE body, not just one part. When that one part (namely, me) does everything, it's not really for the good of others. Often I do those things out of selfish motives: guilt, fear, pride, need for attention.

I'm learning now to wait for the Lord before moving forward. To ASK before I DO. I want to watch God work--not me.

First, let me say that this devotional journey seems to be just what the Lord ordered for me at this particular time. So many of the issues we've looked at are pertinent to exactly where I am...right now!

This particular day's journey has been the last push I needed to make a decision that I know will not be well-received by all involved, but is definitely the right decision for me.

As someone on the very precipice of empty-nesting, I've been seeking the Lord for new direction. What will this next season of life look like?

It's been a time of reflection and assessment - how has God gifted me? What should my focus be? Complicating it all is the fact that as an organized, administratively gifted individual, I could fill many niches. I could become totally overwhelmed with responsibilities. I know because I've been there.

One line of prayer and thought that has helped me goes back to Psalm 139: God knit me together in my mother's womb. What are those things that God knit in me seemingly from birth?

For me, I look back over the years and see a strong love for babies and young children as well as a love of writing.

I was the "neighborhood babysitter," from about the age of ten upwards, and, as a young mom, I supplemented our income through home-based daycare. Currently, I oversee the preschool ministry at my church and will soon bring the nursery under my leadership and the umbrella of "Early Childhood Ministries."

At the ripe old age of 46, I entered a college program that yielded a degree in Early Childhood Education and Care four years later. That experience turned up the flame of my passion for young children.

From the time I could hold a pencil, I've scribbled down pages and pages of "My Thoughts." It's been a means of processing the world around me and later, a way of sharing what I've learned.

While I'm still praying through all those details, I'm learning to "dream big," waiting on the Lord to fulfill His plans in me. Firmly committed to following Him, not the pressures of unfilled needs - cuz ya'know, I think Amy is exactly right: "chances are the need exists because someone else came up with the idea but didn’t fill the spot. That doesn’t mean God wants us to do it."

@Karen - I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. So encouraging.

I had to learn to say NO the hard way.

I now believe that it's absolutely essential that we learn to use the gifts that we are given in the areas that God wants us to use them. More than the importance health-wise for ourselves, it's essential because those ministry gaps need to exist in order for others to be given the opportunity to serve Him effectively with their gifts.

I hear everything you are saying, and I agree, I overserve, I fill the gaps, but am I serving out of others needs or where God wants me. This is tough for me to discern. I have the time, so why shouldn't I give it all to HIM, even in places that are not my gifting. Yet am I using my time in the right way? HE gave me that too. What are my gifts? Where should I serve? What do you have in mind for me God....

I think we as women all struggle with this problem. This verse has helped me.

John 5:19-20 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these."

Even Jesus didn't do everything that he saw could be done, he didn't heal everyone, he didn't make every blind man see. Why not? Because he had such an intimate relationship with his Father, that he was obedient to what he saw His Father do in heaven. As the Lord's prayer states: Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus listened to His Father's voice and was obedient to what God told him to do. He was attuned to God at every moment; for every opportunity that arose, he submitted himself not to his own will, but to His Father's.

That is certainly my heart's cry--to be so in tune with the Spirit that I only do what God has uniquely called me to do--nothing more, nothing less. I'm not saying it's easy, because so many things get in the way and distract us--selfish pride, obligation, fear, wanting others to like us, etc. But therein lies the challenge, to hear not the shouting voice of the world, but the still, quiet voice of God and then to respond in obedience.

Thanks for this Amy, it is just what I have been talking about this very week!! Often we are asked to "fill a spot" because there are not enough people to fill it and because we happen to be there...we often fill it out of guilt "well, no one else was going to fill it"!!!
For example, just cos we have little children doesn't mean we should help out on the creche team...and we really shouldn't be made to feel guilty about it if we don't!
Yet when I talk to people about going where your gifting lies instead of just doing something because extra people are needed, I get funny looks!
So this article has made me think - "Yes, I don't need to feel guilty or fill that spot, just because" " Let me listen to God's calling and go where He calls me and I will be more efficient and work in Joy knowing I am being used to the full capacity that He has called me to!"
Be blessed...

Dear Amy, Thank you for your transparency. I must admit that I am at a point of decision myself even as I type pertaining to several areas of service to which I have volunteered. This is not easy. Each one is good in and of itself and does serve the church body in meaningful ways. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust our Lord and not on our own understanding, yet I am finding it difficult to remove myself from the decision making! I will pray for you and the other ladies as I pray for myself that our Father in His tender ways will make His will known as we seek to glorify Him in our thoughts, attitudes, and deeds!

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