The phone rang as I threw back the covers to fall into bed. I tried not to sound annoyed as I answered, but I was exhausted—late night conversation was the last thing on my mind.
"Hi Kathy, it's Skye. I just got out of the Inter-Varsity Bible study. We have a new student from China who asked if there was a mature Christian woman who could mentor her. We thought of you. Would you be willing to meet with her?"
My first thought was, "No! I can't do one more thing." I was already juggling a large project at work, a leadership role at church, and a speaking ministry. A month earlier I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Stress was the biggest enemy of the muscle pain and fatigue I battled daily. It was critical that I budget my time and energy wisely.
Ministry has always been a priority for me, but I've learned not to give a hasty answer to requests. I told Skye I would pray for God's direction, and agreed to meet with Mei one time to determine the level of commitment needed. If it was more than I could give, I offered to match her with someone else.
The next morning, refreshed from a good night's rest, I took time to read Scripture and pray before heading to work. I laughed out loud as I read an excerpt from Leonard Sweet's A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café. His family had the practice of keeping an empty chair at the Sunday dinner table, "a reminder that no matter how many were already present, there was always room and food enough for one more." He asked, "What will it take to get us to make room … for one more person in our hearts?"
Sensing God's direction, I met with Mei several times, and made myself available by phone when she had issues of life, love, and faith to discuss. I prayed with her over difficult decisions, and encouraged her to trust God with the outcomes. She married and left the area a year later; by then, I was sad to see her go. I thanked God for prompting me to make room in my heart for her.
Now that I am retired, there are even more requests of service to sort through. I've learned that just because a need is presented doesn't mean the voice of God is calling. When you're faced with more requests than time, here are some guidelines to help us choose the best and say no to the rest:
1. Clarify what is expected. If Mei had wanted to meet weekly, that would have been more time than I could give.
2. Pray for discernment. God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5).