In a few weeks, we will be hosting a group of teens for a weekend youth event. I’m feeling a little nervous about this.
Although I cooked a lot for Todd’s single friends when we were first married, hospitality isn’t something I’ve done enough of since my kids were born. I’m being stretched in this area, from the teen boys that wander in with my son to the groups that now meet in our home. Many times we’re just getting started when I realize I have a cobweb in the corner or dog nose prints on my windows. I have to swallow my pride and soldier on. I am happy to report that the sky has not fallen, nor has anyone mocked me for my imperfect housekeeping skills.
But an entire weekend? In this house? With teenagers? That seems a little scary. It also sounds like my quiet evening routine, which I treasure, is going to be interrupted. I don’t want to think too hard on whether it’s fear of the unknown or the interruption to my comforting evening herbal tea that’s bothering me more.
That seems to be how it goes when you serve. Just about the time you get comfortable, something else pops up. I no longer freak out about nursery duty, mostly because I’ve had some of the grossest experiences of my life there and lived to tell about it. The week of children’s camp that had me hyperventilating in the days leading up to it turned out to be fun. And the third year of children’s camp, when it was 108 in the shade and kids were wilting from the heat, well, we all got through that too.
It makes me nervous when we start surmising apart from Scripture on why God does this to us. I’ve heard many sentences that start with “I think God does this because…” that ended up making us the center of things and not him. It also sounds ridiculous to be discussing banal things like nursery duty and Junior High Sunday School when Christians are being martyred in China and missionaries are risking everything to bring the gospel to closed countries.
But when I read Ephesians 3, I’m reminded that this has always been God’s way. Paul’s writing from prison, and he’s assuring the Ephesians that it’s okay, that God’s got it all covered. The same God that gave him the grace to bring the gospel to the gentiles will enable him in his imprisonment and them as a church. He reminds them (and us) that God’s love is greater and deeper and more wonderful than we can ever imagine, so regardless of what they’re up against he’s using that to fulfill his purposes. He’s building his church and enabling his people, and through the church his wisdom is made known to a degree that even the angels are amazed at the sight.
Americans are accused of making church too complicated, and I agree that there’s truth in this. Christians worshipping in underground churches aren’t arguing over what color to paint the sanctuary. But even the simplest meeting requires acts of service. Someone has to sweep the dirt floor of the hut, bake the communion bread, and make sure there are candles to light the room after dark.
God is there where Christians gather in secret for fear of their lives. He’s also there when the nursery staff realizes they’re dealing with a particularly nasty case of rotavirus, and with the Sunday School teacher when the Junior Highers just sit with their arms crossed, scowling at the floor. He’s there when the speaker at the women’s retreat realizes that she’s not only lost her train of thought, she’s lost her place in her notes as well.
Anyone who’s been there comes out of it feeling that he or she knows God just a little bit better, but we’re mistaken when we think it ends with what we’ve learned. It’s about a Holy God, using sinful people to do a thousand little things, but letting those little things add up to a giant demonstration of his wisdom that’s so glorious even the angels are compelled respond with praise that echoes through the universe.
If I try to make that just about me, I make far too little of God.