It was my senior year of high school, and I was playing on a volleyball team at the Iowa Games in Ames. I was playing at the net, went up for a hit, came down wrong, and suddenly, my back failed to do its job of supporting my body. I was on the floor, had to be carried off the court, and went to the hospital to make sure there wasn’t something extremely wrong.
I literally had no strength in my legs, and it took several hours before I was able to support myself safely. I was out for the rest of the tournament.
Even today, I struggle with the reality of having a bad back. If I push myself too hard, like move my furniture all over the house, I’ll pay for it for days with a sore back and limited range of movement.
Unfortunately, the lesson of slowing down isn’t a pill I’ve been too eager to swallow.
Once again, in the busy month of December, I found myself without the effective service of my back. I can’t even honestly pinpoint what I “did” to put my back out, but I found myself, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, hobbling around like I had an extreme interest on what I was seeing on the floor.
I was out of commission.
Unable to do the simple tasks I was accustomed to doing in order to care for my family.
Carrying laundry baskets was out.
Bringing in groceries...nope.
Emptying the dishwasher...nada.
After days of misery, I acknowledged the fact that I needed to seek help for the condition of my back. It wasn’t getting better, I was getting more and more frustrated, and I needed improvement if I was to have any hope of pulling off my Christmas “to do’s.”
So, I headed to the chiropractor for treatment and very very slowly, things began to improve.
Shortly after my back went out, a friend of mine offered (demanded) to come over and said, “You better have something for me to do when I get there.” And, because she knew my mental state was in just as much disarray as my physical body, she brought me a fancy coffee to drink while I watched her clean (mom clean) my kitchen. She left me with lifted spirits and scoured sinks.
It was relief.
About one week later, my mom and grandmother showed up for a weekend of Christmas cookie decorating. While they were at my house, my 86-year-old grandmother caught our family up on at least five baskets of clean, but unfolded, clothing. She sat in our basement for hours folding our unmentionables.
‘Acts of service’ is her spiritual gift, one of which I’ve been a recipient for decades. She often laments the fact that she doesn’t have any “talent.” She wishes she could decorate like my mom, play instruments like my husband, be clever like my oldest son, or more humorous like me.
She sighs and often remarks, “I’ve just always been good at cleaning and ironing. How boring.”
I adamantly disagree.
I simply cannot count the number of times my grandmother has blessed me and my family through her acts of service. When she visits, my kitchen is always tidy. Something a mom of three boys is always thankful for. She constantly asks what she can be doing to help me.
She’s scrubbed, cleaned, ironed, folded, vacuumed, dusted, swept and scoured while at my house. On her last visit, she even bought me a bottle of glass cooktop cleaner to try out. She’s perpetually making sure she’s meeting my needs in terms of housework while she’s here. It’s always a gift I can’t thank her for enough.
Although I’m sure hours of folding laundry in my basement with my excessively loud boys doesn’t exactly rank high on her “Top Ten Ways to Spend My Christmas Vacation”, it has blessed me more than words can express.
Isn’t that the way it goes most of the time? Our “regular,” acts of service and the hum drum outpourings of our meager talents can literally mean the world to someone else. In my misery, I wasn’t looking for a new Lamborghini or diamond broach, just someone to put a little bleach in my toilets and elbow grease on my kitchen counters.
My friend came at the perfect time to both lift my spirits and clean my kitchen. My grandma didn’t shy away from asking me repeatedly how she could most help me during her visit. Receiving the blessings they bestowed upon me through their spiritual gifts is exactly how God designed this thing to work.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
I struggled for years with the fact that my husband can rip a funky riff on stage, and I could only sniff a funky rip from my kids’ pants. My spiritual gifts do not require me to employ a nice voice or guitar, but rather a pen and teaching tools, a sponge and soft scrub and a mixing bowl and measuring cups. But, like the the gifts my husband uses on stage, my gifts have been administered to me for the exact same purpose: to serve others.
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:18–25)
This December, as I laid around my house pouting about the uselessness of my body, Christ’s body came to serve me. If it weren’t for people willing to employ their “less honorable” gifts on my behalf, I could still be wallowing in unfolded laundry and grimy dishes.
Friends, God has so creatively designed each and every one of us for the express purpose of glorifying Himself and serving one another. For some of us, it looks fancy and glitzy and full of glamour. For others of us, it looks dirty, smelly, tedious and full of gaseous emissions.
But, for all of us, it looks like an outpouring of grace bestowed upon us by our Creator to bless one another.
As the digits on the calendar have rolled over yet again to this new year, I encourage each of you to jump in and start using your gifts to serve the body. You might think of yourself as the gallbladder of the body of Christ, but trust me, someone is in desperate need of a functioning gallbladder right now!
By withholding your spiritual gifts from the rest of the body, you are doing a disservice to the healthy function of the Church. We need each other, gallbladders and all.
So make this your year. Purpose to figure out just exactly how God has gifted you to increase the effectiveness of the church. Whether it’s trying out for the worship team or throwing out the garbage after nursery school, you have been promised it will bless others in a way no one else can.
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