Saturday, October 31, 2009

Warrior, Lord, Servant, Architect...

So evidently God didn't want you all to help me discuss His acts of service...which is perfectly fine, because He gave me something wonderful when His timing was perfect. (Or when I was quiet enough to listen. That might have been the case.)

So! Here, finally, is the next in my series of posts on the five Love Languages (as written about by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts) and how they apply to our relationship with God.

Love Language: Acts of Service

As children, we take this love language for granted. Our parents (hopefully) showed us love through this love language, for when we were little, they are the ones to cook our meals, clothe us, help us with chores that are beyond our capability, etc.

But as we grow and mature, our parents naturally do less and less for us. Eventually, we get to the point where people only do things for us for two reasons: 1) Someone or something is giving them an external incentive to help us, or 2) They want to. That desire is the Acts of Service love language.

For some people, Acts of Service are still a very natural way to show love for someone. The very fact that they love someone makes them want to do things for them. These people naturally look for ways to do things for their loved ones. For others of us, though, it's more a mental, “Hmmm...it's been a while since I did something special for my husband. I bet he'd appreciate it if I did something again. What can I do?”

You see the difference? Virtually everyone knows that, if you love someone, you'll do special things for them now and again, and almost everyone does it. The difference is in how naturally it comes to the person. And, of course, the difference is also in how much it means to you when someone else does an act of service for you.

I don't really speak this love language. Sure, I'm a mother, so I'm constantly performing acts of service for my family, and because I'm busy, I always appreciate any help that my husband or anyone gives me. But if I don't get that help, it doesn't make me feel unloved in the slightest. That's the difference.

My mother might have spoken this love language, though. I wish I could go back in time and ask her. She often complained about times when people could have helped her and didn't, though. She'd break down in tears over it. Thinking back, I want to cry, because I never realized that she was begging for help because that's what made her feel loved. I always thought it was because of her physical condition or because she couldn't handle housework and five kids alone. And yes, I DID help her. After all, I was the oldest, and as every oldest knows, you're Mom's built-in help until you leave home.

But I don't know how often I consciously thought of something extra I could do for her when I was a kid—something she didn't tell me to do. (Thank God that was able to spend six weeks with her, serving her, a few months before she died. Otherwise...well, I just thank God for His grace and goodness.)

Before I go on to what I found in the Bible, I'd like to point out two “warnings” about this love language.

Those who love this love language can easily dig their own trap. Because they speak this love language, they can drive themselves crazy doing anything and everything for their family. The problem is that then, if they complain that their family doesn't do anything in return, their family is left thinking, “What is there left to do? You do it all! I was going to do ____ for you, but you got to it first!”

When we speak this love language, we must also remember that acts of service done in the wrong way or at the wrong times can spoil children, invite others to take advantage of us, and sometimes downright mess up real-life situations. (Like when some well-intentioned person at a four-way-stop tries to let you go ahead of them, and winds up confusing you and three other drivers.) Therefore, acts of service must always be weighed against what God says is good for that person. We never want our acts of service to deprive someone from learning a life skill, keep them from accepting consequences, or harm the process of maturity. For example, if a child sins and you want to show them you love them anyway, the wrong way to show love is to take away the consequence. The right way might be to do something absolutely unrelated, separate from the consequence.

I share these warnings because these tainted views can also affect our viewpoint of why, how, and when God does things for us. We can sometimes be accused of acting like spoiled children, expecting God to spoil us even more "if He loves us." We cannot do that. We must always be willing to trust His vision, His way, and His knowledge of everything that we cannot see.

So! What acts of service has God done for us?

The obvious one is He sent Jesus to die for us. But there are so many beautiful things that His death and resurrection encompass. Those are what I wanted to find...and somehow, as I said, I was having a hard time finding how to express what is often thought of and felt in such a vague way.

But then the Twenty-Third Psalm popped into my head, and God suddenly laid out several panoramas before me.

We all know the psalm of the Good Shepherd: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." So instead of posting it here, I'm going to attempt to describe the pictures that God showed me, moving through this psalm and cross-referencing other beautiful, powerful verses and posts where I've gone more in-depth in what God's shown me.

v. 1 - The Lord is the one who cares for me. He supplies everything I need, binds my wounds, washes me and serves me, and guards me against the predators of my soul. When one of those predators kidnaps me, He is willing to leave the entire flock just to rescue me from the mouth of the lion.

v. 2 - He shows my soul where it may find the nourishment it needs, for He is the bread of life, and He brings the water that satisfies my soul so it will never thirst again. He supplies these things to me in a spiritual place that is surrounded and filled with peace.

v. 3 - My soul is like a house that has been abused and damaged. It was neglected and falling into ruin. But He is the Architect who has chosen to restore my soul to its full glory. He is the Workman who is lovingly and tenderly taking away everything that is damaged and ruined in my soul and supplying beautiful, new things in their place. He is the Owner of my soul who has paid the full price for my restoration. And He has dedicated whatever resources are needed, for as long as it takes, for my entire life, to complete this good work. For He is a Master Craftsman who will not settle for less than a perfect restoration.

The path of righteousness may be hard and may appear uncertain and dangerous. But He never expected me to blaze this trail on my own. Instead, He went out of His way to blaze the trail for me and to write a guidebook giving me everything I need to know. And if that wasn't enough, He has returned to walk it with me every step of the way, even explaining what the guidebook means.

v. 4 - Even when that path leads through the darkest and most dangerous places in my life... times when the enemy of my soul is surrounding me and seeking to destroy me...even then, I don't have to be afraid, for He is my Warrior, with legions of angels at His command who are more powerful than any of those that the devil has. He will guard and keep my soul.


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v. 5 - Not only is He the Warrior in that place of darkness, He is also the Servant, setting up a table and filling it with every good thing that my soul needs and wants. He lovingly prepares everything and arranges it on that table, until the table is overflowing. Then He is the Lord of the feast, beckoning me to His table, that my soul may feast on His goodness and be filled to overflowing. The enemy of my soul is still out there, howling in rage as he watches me feast. He hates the way the Servant anoints my head to ease the pressure of life and replace the stench of travel with the sweet aroma of His presence. Yet the Warrior still holds that enemy at bay, and the Servant still serves me measure after measure of the righteousness and peace and mercy and grace and more mercy, peace, and grace and joy no matter what and hope--all of which my enemy longs to snatch and ruin. But no one can take it.

v. 6 - And it is this table full of good things, this bounty, which is given to me out of the abundant mercy of my loving Father, and which He has commanded to travel with me no matter where I go, and be replenished every morning, so that at any moment my soul may turn to this feast and partake. For He has chosen to make my praises His throne, that I might forever dwell in His presence no matter where life takes me. For His presence is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Group post, please...

I've been stumbling over this next installment in my little Love Languages series for the last month.

The next language is Acts of Service. I feel like this should be easy for me, since this is essentially what this blog is all about, yet I keep pulling it out and trying to get somewhere...and ending up nowhere!

Obviously, the biggest thing that Jesus did for us is that He came to earth and died. Yet...we all are so "used" to that idea, that I want to break it down. I want to discover and illustrate more detailed and specific things that He's done for us...things that we all-too-often forget were a part of what He came to do.

So tell me, please...what specific acts of service has God shown you that He's done for you? They can be things things that are in the Bible, or they can be things in your own life.

What can you share?
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