Sunday, October 19, 2008

May I be of Service?

I'm gripping the metal bar as I kneel and hold the ramp firmly to the floor. Beside my head a sixteen pound ball is rocking in unsteady hands. I am serving this person, these people, helping them find a moment of joy, making them feel good about who they are, what they can do. I am at their service.

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Today is Sunday. I overslept and had to rush my children through breakfast, rush to pick up my mother in law... ex mother in law... and rush to church. The youth pastor was giving the message today, the first in a sermon series, while my pastor, my friend, is on an out of town trip.

I overslept!

I only got up once last night. Sometime around 3:00 a.m. I checked my email. I went back to bed. I went back to sleep! And, all told, I think I slept about a seven hours and fifteen minutes. The most I have slept in more than a year and a half.

I woke, feeling... rested. Oh... what a wonderful feeling. I made coffee while I hollered at the boys to hurry, and inside I felt like I am going to be OK.

I don’t know how I became such a sensitive soul. (By the way... do you know the difference between your soul and your spirit... it’s worth pondering!)

I am the only man in my family with this particular bent. I don’t regret it. I am sometimes embarrassed, to be seen as such a softy, but I know it to be who I am, and I feel good in allowing myself to relax into this part of who I am.

I want to be gentle. (I serve a gentle master.)

Most creatures do not seek gentleness. Beside me, here at my desk, the dominant yellow-white angel fish and the dominant black-white angel fish continue their feud. For four years they have protected their respective halves of the 50 gallon tank and stage their border skirmishes beside the ceramic castle I made. They each have admiring mates to preen for. The mischievous red tail shark honors no borders and slips throughout the tank, teasing both sides.


I recognize that this ongoing stressor in their tiny lives keeps them healthy, active, free from boredom in their small world.

The stressors of my own life have helped me grow in ways which surprise me. I feel one of those areas of growth when I am kneeling before the Special Olympics athletes I serve on Saturdays.

I coach Special Olympics bowling.

My team is four individuals, each very different from the other, each with unique ways of wanting to do things, each needing something a little different from me. They are probably the most needy of all the athletes there. None of them speak.

I love them.

Three of them use ramps. The ramps are made of welded metal tubing. I ask each athlete as they come up, shuffling, or staggering, and rushing for no more reason than the joy of finding it is their turn once again. I ask, or gesture, are they satisfied with the way the ramp is set? For two of them I give them the 16 pound ball I selected and tested for balance, and let them place it on the flat space at the top of the ramp.

I’m not supposed to face the pins when they bowl. That is their moment. I encourage them to push the ball hard and fast, while I drop to one knee and pull my elbow in so it won’t interfere when they push the ball to the top of the slope where the ball rushes down and drops loudly onto the wood of the lane.

I hold the side of the ramp firmly so it won’t shift. It tries to jump twice. First when the ball begins to descend, and again when it falls the final inch from the rails to the floor.

I chose a heavy ball because if the athlete pushes the ball too lightly, it will still have enough inertia to knock the pins down.

One of the athletes, a woman with cerebral palsy, wants to do as much for herself as possible. She doesn’t want me to touch the ramp, she wants to carry the ball to the ramp.

On her fourth frame she grasped the ball from my hands, pulled it tight to her chest and teetered toward the ramp. I try to keep my hands about a foot to each side of her so she is on her own, but I can react quickly if she stumbles. She fell over, backwards and to the side, too quickly for me to catch her.

It was too quick for me to catch her, but I managed to scoop the heavy ball away from her as she tumbled so it wouldn’t land atop her. The ball landed with a loud bang as her hat tumbled off and a look of shock spread over her face.

She was upset for a while after that. Between moments of glee at taking her turn on the lane, she would point to her hand, and her elbow, and grunt sadly.

“I know, it hurts. It will get better. You are doing very well though. I’m proud of you.”

She would shout inaudibly and stagger to her place at the ramp where I would once again suggest moving the ramp one way or another, and when she was satisfied, hand her the heavy ball.

As I knelt before her each time I thought about her joy in being there, at knocking a few pins down. I thought about how kneeling has been a sign of putting one at someone else’s service.

After her fall I made sure she was distracted until she was close to the ramp. She did not try to take the ball from me until she was ready at the ramp.

Each time I knelt to hold that ramp steady I found a certain pleasure in serving.

From time to time I have written of how Jesus knelt to wash the feet of His disciples. That act of humility by God incarnate, done before His creation placed rough hands on Him, dragged Him off to be judged by men out of their depth, tortured by men who found joy in their inhumane craft, murdered by creatures He formed.

From time to time I have written of how God serves us. How the universe is held together by forces we barely imagine, held together in a fashion which permits us the freedom to love or hate.

I’m feeling better. I had a lot of sleep last night. Over seven hours.

I’m saddened over some things. I’m confused by others.

But when my heart is understanding what it means to serve, when it understands my place of privilege, of loving, of being gentle, then I feel whole, complete.

For most of my life I didn’t understand that.

In our culture to serve means to be beneath someone else, to be less than someone else. When we go to a restaurant or are waited on in a store, we expect service which makes us feel important, makes us feel in charge.

Each Sunday I go to a church service. A church service. Who is being served? It may feel like we are being served. That we are being fed, being taught, being given a sense of community and family.

But when I go to church, and I worship with a humbled heart, knowing I am a created thing, and that I am in service to Him, I feel more than good. I feel like I am living a life filled with nights of eight hours’ sleep.

I am no longer married. When I think of her, my mind, my heart, still calls her my wife... though it is no longer true.

She is gone. She walks a path different than mine.

She has failed me. I have failed her.

I failed to serve her properly. She fell. She was hurt. Her joy turned toward her hurts. I failed to serve her.

I serve my students. They see me as Authority. I give the grades. I give the praise. I give the discipline.

My students are wrong. I am not their master. I am their servant.

Each day they come into my classroom and sit in their places, and I present my service to them.

My place is to provide coaching for skills they need, to think more clearly, to develop healthy habits, how to be good students, how to be good citizens, good people.

It is my place to serve my students.

It is my place to serve my employer, the school district.

It is my place to serve my community, to educate the children of my neighbors.

It is my place to serve my society, my world, our future.

And...

I have been given the privilege to serve a God who serves all Creation... In doing so I am fulfilling and fulfilled.

13 comments:

wilsonian said...

Praise God for more sleep! Woooot!

And you serve well, Will. You have been an inspiration to me many times, in ways that might surprise you.

Peace (and more sleep...)

Judas Hate said...

I've been thinking about you Brother!

Nothing clever or profound to say...Just wanted to stop by and give you a hug (will you ask Jeremiah and Isaac to help me out with this;-).

Love ya.

Justin

Owen said...

Sleep is good. I haven't had enough of it myself in the past few weeks with this commission giving me a run for it so, I envy you your sleep :)

It's good to be able to serve. I miss working with the truly poor as we did when we first came to the city. I have no regrets leaving the mega seeker sensitive staff with its targeted ministry...rambling, stop.

But I would like to find a away to begin to authentically serve the poor and marginalized in our city. Honestly, I'd like to do that more than the kind of speaking ministry that seems to come my way. Learning to say no to others can help us to be like Mary and her fiat, her YES, to God. I'd like to be more like that. Thanks for serving us here Will. And as wilsonian says, wooooot on the good rest you got.

Susan said...

You sound as though you have peace in your heart at last. Found acceptance in Gods plan for you. Now your heart is ready to move forward and the service you do for Him, weather bowling coach, as Dad, or as teacher, you are giving back to the Lord.
I feel positive about your future.

Anonymous said...

yes, I see changes in your Will. Not only hear but see. That is good!

Curious Servant said...

Thanks folks.

I appreciate the kind words.

Again, over six hours sleep last night!!!!

Shall I define the terms "soul" & "spirit"?

Soul refers to body, mind, & spirit... Our total self.

Spirit is the indwelling part of us that is touched by God... the Spirit comes in to our Spirit. The Lord's Spirit visits us. It is the eternal self.

Rose~ said...

I found your post here very enrapting as you shared your thoughts. I can relate to your disposition in a lot of ways. God bless.

Jada's Gigi said...

I'm so glad you are sleeping more...may it continue!
Its an important thing to learn and a tricky one and I don't suppose we ever fully grasp it,but when we are weak..He is made strong. He prized service and being lowly of heart, He laid down His life.

Lucy Stern said...

Will, glad you are now getting some much needed sleep. A little Chamomile tea before bed will also help with sleep, it will help you relax....

Service to God and man is what it is all about. I know that when I serve others, my own problems seem small. Stay Strong.

becky said...

I've been following on and off and dropping a few anon. comments here and there.

Will, want to tell you--cheering you on.

becky

Curious Servant said...

Thanks, all!

Been too busy to write... but I've been doing a lot of thinking. Which means I should sit down and write, because that is how I best sort things out.

Three nights this week Jeremiah has told me he misses his mom.

She seems to have no interest in contacting them... and just about said as much once.

I learned yesterday that my home owner's insurance paid our church's insurance company $100,000 (because J was playing with fire, resulting in the church burning down). They never told me.

I am switching insurance companies and the new company asked me about the claim.

You would think they would have at least told me they had covered me for such an amount!

My emotions move back and forth a bit. I am feeling better about where I am, but more and more disappointed in B. She is running off and making some foolish choices, but her failures towards our children are harder to take than her betrayal of our marriage (and our friendship).

I am keeping VERY busy.

The fish are really stirred up for some reason. They just finished eating, and I don't recall seeing them this aggressive towards each other in a very long time. I wonder what is going on in their tiny little brains to move the feuding to continuous battle.

Hmmmm... nearly as petty as people.

Whew... my thoughts are disorganized tonight. It has been a crazy couple of days.

I need to pray. I think I'll go to the Prayer Room after I put the boys to bed tonight.

Anonymous said...

She seems to have no interest in contacting them... and just about said as much once.

Will, your choice to end this fiasco was a good one. This shows where her heart has been and would continue to be...this is very very sad. I see you going forward.......keep praying your heart out and we will continue to do so foryou also.

Curious Servant said...

Thank you.