Sandra and her husband don't frequent local thrift stores for clothing bargains or gently-used shoes. Occasionally on date nights, though, they'll pop into one in search of … single mothers.
Thankfully, they're not human traffickers. Rather, they're Christians who are itching to partner with a God who is actively engaged in the world today. Sharing God's heart for these women and their children, Sandra and her husband pay for the women's purchases and then take them to a supermarket to buy them the groceries they need.
Though these Friday night adventures are counterintuitive to the kinds of messages we're fed in our culture about living to please ourselves, as they've offered themselves in kingdom service, Sandra and her husband have tasted a kind of life that really is life.
Of course God's invitation to adventure necessarily looks different in each circumstance.
• One woman offered her family's extra winter coats to a shivering family at a local school bus stop—even though she felt really awkward doing it.
• Another woman, a registered nurse, slipped into the home of a single friend recovering from knee surgery to vacuum, sweep, and dust—even though the job was way below her skill set.
• One woman stopped beside a local highway to share juice and crackers with a young family traveling cross country whose car had broken down—even though she'd miss the church committee meeting she'd left home for in the first place.
Strangely, surprise, smallness, sacrifice, and spontaneity are the unexpected marks of the adventure of kingdom-following. In this upside-down economy Jesus ushered in, those who pattern their lives after him—embracing awkward, inconvenient, humbling, and unlikely service—are those, like Sandra, who discover the kind of adventure for which they were made.
The Danger of "Big" Service
What too often keeps us from the ones God loves is our temptation to make serving others into a really big thing. With the best of intentions, we can inflate "service" into an unwieldy beast when we decide that it is what happens on the annual church mission trip to Mexico, or when we accompany the youth group to build Habitat homes in New Orleans, or respond to God's call to mission work in Africa. It's actually a convenient story for many of us because—if we live in an American cul de sac, or if we work in an office park cubicle, or if we can't travel overseas because we're pregnant—then … we're off the hook.
Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.