What Works for Me, Part 6: Serving Others

The third basic component of my spirituality is by far the most difficult for me. I’m simply not wired for service, and my character defects—my pride, selfishness, and self-centeredness, just to begin with—really make me basically resistant to serving others. 

But that’s not an excuse. 

For me, spirituality is not about what I “AM”, but also about what I’m CAPABLE OF BECOMING.

I spent years resting on the person I believed that I was, and was essentially convinced that I was as good as I was going to get. 

But the damage that I had inflicted, on myself and on people whom I cared the most about, eventually convinced me that I needed to do whatever it took to CHANGE. 

So whether or not service is an “easy” thing for me to do is beside the point. I have been told—not just by spiritual mentors and leaders, but a whole history of enlightened people—that service is an essential part of getting out of myself and leveling my pride. 

One of the hurdles I have had to overcome is the idea that “service” ONLY denotes some kind of special time or place that is set aside—a trip to help at a soup kitchen, or a trip to provide humanitarian aide in another country. Service is CERTAINLY that, but service is ALSO much more simple and easy to embrace on an ongoing, daily level. 

Service can happen by being willing to sit down with people—especially friends and family—and being willing to LISTEN more than I TALK. To be genuinely interested in THEIR lives, and to ask questions about them. 

Service can happen when I ask the people I work with, “Hey what I can I do to help,” going beyond any of my own specific projects and agendas. 

Service can happen when I do the dishes without being asked. 

Service can happen when I don’t roll my eyes at being interrupted and asked to come lend a hand. 

Service can happen when I honestly tell the story of my spiritual journey, when I am willing to tell share what I’ve experienced and seen without an expectation of my ego getting stroked or any PARTICULAR type of reaction. 

For me, service is also an odd combination of intentional decisions and spontaneous reactions. 

I know people who, in fact, seem to be naturally wired for service. They are the first ones to raise their hands when ANYTHING needs to be done, regardless if it’s a glamorous task or something that is going to get your hands REALLY dirty. What’s more, is they seem to even find joy in it. They are able to serve without really thinking about it, spontaneously. 

MOST of the time, that’s just not me, although there are glimpses. Every once in a while, I catch myself (after the fact) having willingly volunteered to do something that has nothing to do with my ego, or my “giftedness”, or the spotlight. 

I’ve just done it. 

Instead, I have to focus my mind and set my intention to serve. I have to do things like set reminders—write notes, or put an alert into my phone—that encourage me to serve. 

(The good news is that all of these intentional acts, if done often and consistently enough, have the potential to create a HABIT of service inside me. I like that, and I am hopeful for that time.) 

So these are the three building blocks of my spirituality, and I daresay that even though they are quite basic and simple, they are devastatingly effective. 

When done right, I believe they have the power to change EVERYTHING. 

Trusting God, cleaning (my own) house, and serving others has done more to create a healthy environment for spiritual growth than any other program, or small group, or sermon, or worship experience that I have encountered. 

(Not that those things didn’t HELP; they just weren’t enough for me, in and of themselves. I’m just stubborn that way.) 

Just a note: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I’m planning on taking a couple days “off” from writing to be with my family (and to travel to see my parents and sister in Virginia), so it will be a few days before I begin the final section of this series. When I start up again, I’m going to try and bring all of this together and talk about how I live all of this out on a day-to-day, tactical basis. 

Until then, I hope everyone has a peaceful and blessed week.