How May I Serve You?

Credit: Pixabay via Creative Commons

Credit: Pixabay via Creative Commons

Children have never really liked me. At least not en masse. Well even one-on-one the odds are generally not in my favor. In the words of my three-year old sister, “you don’t really know what to do with little kids, do you?” Well said, kid. Well said.

Cooking is something I love to do, something I’ve become pretty good at over the years. But I max out at six or so people. Feeding a large group is way beyond my skill level. Baking is totally out of the question. I’ve heard it said that cooking is an art and baking is a science. I am not a science girl. Potlucks and large-group meals are not things I will generally sign up for, unless chips and store-bought salsa are acceptable.

Painting is such a debacle that I’ve actually been asked to not help people paint rooms. My oblivion to detail makes me a less-than-ideal candidate for helping clean public areas like church bathrooms or shelter kitchens. I’m technologically challenged and uncoordinated enough to make the simplest household repair a chore. Awkwardness abounds when I am forced into small talk with people, and exponentially so every hour before 10am.

I’m not good at, even actively bad at, a lot of things, and most of those things are exactly the sorts of help churches ask for from their people. For years I’ve felt utterly useless when it’s come to one of the primary exercises for any good Christian – serving. Children’s ministry – out. Greeting – nope. Music – it would just be mean to make people listen to me sing. Every aspect of outreach and short-term missions trips sends me into a cold sweat of inadequacy. Factor into all of this the idea that all women are wired for domesticity, at which I fail in almost every way, and all I can do is hang my head.

The first time a friend called me a “pastor” I freaked out a little. To begin with I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea that women should lead or preach (a struggle that is more than resolved, thank the good Lord above). Furthermore I didn’t hold any kind of office or position in the Church, and I came from a background that lauded pastors as “the Lord’s untouchable anointed.” Really BIG deal. Claiming association with the role of pastor was beyond sacrilege. My friend gently pointed out that the term pastor means shepherd. Shepherds tend to their flocks by leading them to good food and water, keeping them safe from predators, caring for the sick and injured. Shepherds are familiar with each sheep individually, and the sheep become loyal to their shepherd as he proves his faithfulness to their care.

My friend then called attention to ways he had seen me live out this kind of care. I taught classes and studies, digging into deep meaning and context and teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves. I spent time meeting with people, listening to their struggles, identifying with those issues, encouraging and praying with them. I strove to create community in as many ways as I could, opening my home for meals and movies and games and small groups and Seder meals. He called these things “pastoring,” kindly chiding me for refusing a role for which God seemed to clearly have equipped me.

Since that lunch date many years ago I have grown comfortable claiming my pastoring ways. I’ve learned to embrace the odd mix of charismatic pray-er, counselor, Bible teacher, and encourager. Like so many of the women who have followed Jesus through the centuries I’ve come to understand that my contributions may not mirror culture’s expectations, but this makes them no less valuable.

I may not be able to teach your three-year old, clean your bathroom, or cook eggs for thirty people. You don’t want me trying to paint your nursery or fix your broken cabinet door. But what I have to offer I gladly give. As Rachel Held Evans puts so beautifully in A Year of Biblical Womanhood:

“Mary found [the only necessary thing] outside the bounds of her expected duties as a woman, and no amount of criticism or questioning could take it away from her. Martha found it in the gentle reminder to slow down, let go, and be careful of challenging another woman’s choices, for you never know when she may be sitting at the feet of God.”

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