Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
So I just had my one-month anniversary here at CooperRiis and my goodness what a time it has been. There has been a LOT going on here at the farm, most of which I cannot talk about. I would love to just ask you all to continue to lift up CooperRiis, the residents and staff, and myself in your prayers. There can be a lot of darkness in a place that handles mental illness, anxiety, and depression. It saddens me to see how people who suffer with these types of illnesses are mostly stigmatized rather than loved in society. We so overly focus our attention to certain charities or demographics - orphans, sex trafficking, poverty, etc. that we tend to abandon the not-so-popular vulnerabilities like mental illness or intellectual disability. Don't get me wrong, I love adorable Chinese babies or the immediate satisfaction that comes from feeding the homeless...but let's face it, we receive a blessing from these acts of justice just as much (if not more) than those receiving it. Sometimes, I think it would be good for us to take a step back and evaluate whether our acts of service stem from pure servanthood or desire for self-entitlement. I mean, we're human...it happens. Yet there's something that rubs me the wrong way when someone says the main purpose they serve is because "it makes them feel good." It's not a bad result, but should it be our number one incentive?
Now different people have different convictions and I think that is one of the beauties of the body of Christ. We all hold different passions and like to serve within those areas, but what if we branched out a little bit more? During morning meeting the other day, one of the staff members encouraged residents to use this time on the farm to channel a new part of themselves, to experiment with something they have never tried. Grew up in the suburbs? Try milking a goat on animal crew. Addicted to soda and junk food? Try an all-organic diet. Have a maid growing up? Scrub the toilets and mop the floors on campus crew. We all grew up in different ways, in different places, bred with different habits and different lifestyles. I am so inspired by people here who grew up in the city and discovered a passion for gardening and agriculture. They went out of their comfort zone to try something unfamiliar and discovered a lifework that they loved and enjoyed.
It makes me wonder how much we might miss out on if we never try new things or allow ourselves to get out of our comfort zones.
I might be bias. I think the Lord has placed a spirit in me that does enjoy change, that enjoys diversity in people and within work. I have lessened my judgment towards those who may stay in the same place or do the same thing their whole lives - maybe that is part of the spirit that God has placed in them, one of longevity and contentment. But I think we do need to be careful with just how comfortable we allow ourselves to be. I believe that it is often in times of discomfort that we find God. Not to say that you need to jump off a building and break your leg to find the Lord in your pain - but rather to engage in areas of unfamiliarity that allow the Spirit to guide and teach you within the unknown.
I think this applies 100-fold in our acts of service.
Jesus didn't tell His disciples to be a servant to just the widows or the orphans or the poor. He tells them to be a servant to ALL.
In my first ministry class, I chose to study orphan ministry and I felt very drawn towards this area over others. Course I was a baby. I really hadn't experienced many other areas at all; and so I mostly went with what I thought I would enjoy. As I explored other areas outside of orphan work, I discovered that I have several stigmas that lie within my heart. Several of these stigmas have just recently risen to the surface as I serve a demographic that is often ignored, is one of the more difficult demographics to work with, and may not ever provide a personal satisfaction. Yet I serve because the Spirit has given me a Spirit of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) and a desire to spread the hope of Jesus to others - not for my gain, but for theirs and for the glory of His Kingdom. There are many, many different evils in this world and there are many different people who are in need. We can't meet every need, we can't serve every person...but maybe it's time we at least open our minds to advocate for those who don't have many advocates. Maybe it's time we serve wherever we may be led, not just to places that bring us the most personal satisfaction.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33We cannot save the world, but we serve a God who has overcome and has offered a way for people to be saved. If we are to be His disciples then we are to serve all - the elderly who resents you, the teenager who curses at you, the cripple whose appearance makes you uncomfortable, the schizophrenic who scares you, the bagger who gives you an attitude, the driver next to you who cuts you off. Our service is not only how we act, but how we react, how we treat others, how we extend love on a daily, hourly basis. Do we lay down our lives or do we expect others to respect us first? Do we favor serving some over others? Do we serve just because it makes us feel good or because we genuinely love God's people and desire to serve them in His Name?
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8As I continue to live and serve here at CooperRiis, the Lord continues to teach me how to be a servant of pure motive and heart. It is most definitely a process, but by His Spirit I learn little by little how to serve people who may hate me in return. How to love those who throw things or curse at me. How to lay down my life over and over that I may reflect a Savior who laid down His own life - not for the righteous, but for the sinners.