Unexpected Lessons

This post is a little bit of an extension on last week’s post on complacency. Specifically, it has to do with complacency as it pertains to service.

Something that I’ve seen (and experienced) many times, is that when it comes to service, Christians sometimes have a tendency of going in with the “What can I give to this person” approach. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to serve and great to want to give and spread the Word of God. But there’s still a little bit of complacency going on here.

This can happen both in the missions field or in our everyday conversations: we go in thinking about what we can give. It is a selfless approach, but, in some aspects, it also raises us – the giver – to a place higher than those who are receiving.

I was thinking about this on an hour-long drive back to school today while listening to some of my favorite worship songs (“The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson, “All Hail King Jesus” by Jeremy Riddle, etc.). Something I realized was that some of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned have come in the places many may have expected I would be the one doing the teaching.

I’ve been on three different missions trips: two to Panama and one to Mexico. Every time, I think I managed to receive more than I will ever be able to give over the rest of my life. In Panama the first time, I received joy and saw love at such great heights to give me tools to equip me to fight the battle against depression. The second time, it was an opportunity that blessed me in deepening relationships with my team and creating new, lasting friendships with some of the people we worked with. Finally, in Mexico, I was able to grow and be affirmed in a passion that helped to show me what I want to do for work after school.

Ultimately, what I learned is that there are not many cultures in this earth who are separated from ideas of love and generosity. Further, giving is so much more than physical or financial needs. The people I was around on every trip provided such rich emotional experiences that could never be replicated.

The key to experiencing this was that, before every trip, at least one great mentor told me to be prepared for what God might be preparing to show me through His people in whatever circumstance I would be. It’s not to say that you’ll have a profound life-changing experience every trip you go on, but it’s much more difficult to learn anything if you are expecting to only be teaching.

The beauty of service is the mutual experience of giving and simultaneously being filled up. This isn’t just a large-scale, international thing either. As I explained, this can happen daily, even to people you would always consider of a higher standing than you. Sometimes, all it takes is one small action of service to someone who isn’t expecting it, and you can impact their life. Likewise, their response can fill you too. Even if the most they give is a smile, that smile conveys joy. I truly believe that joy is contagious. If you can humble yourself to believe that you are as much in need of joy as any other, the joy contained within a simple smile can spread to you.

So in every situation, be looking for what you can give. At the same time, be looking for what others are giving and what God is giving to you.

To God be the Glory.

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