“He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
Some of you have already heard this story. Please bear with me; I retell it for a reason. Last Tuesday I was at the Cowell Cancer Center for an appointment to prepare for the start of my radiation treatments. As I was driving out of the parking lot afterward I suddenly heard a loud THUMP and a jerk on the side of the car. Fearing I’d run into something, I stopped to get out and look.
As turned around I saw a young woman getting out of a Jeep that was sticking out in the driving lane. She was apologizing profusely for backing into my car. My car looked like this: the rear bumper on hers had a small skinned place on the corner. I also noticed some other, more important details. She had three young children in the car. She had a pink elastic bandage on her right elbow, the type you get when you’ve had blood drawn. It turns out that she, too, had just completed a visit to the Cancer Center. She later told me she has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
At this point, I had a choice. I could have started screaming about her carelessness over a car that was almost twelve years old, that despite the current appearance still ran and was driveable. In other words, I could have demanded justice and been technically right. Which would have solved nothing. The reality was that other than the bumper dragging the ground I could still drive the thing home.
What she needed at that moment was compassion. Her bad day just got a whole lot worse and she was feeling everything beginning to cave in on her. So after I contacted the police, in order to get a report on file, we just talked and shared experiences about dealing with cancer and I reassured her I wasn’t worried about the car. The officer helped me remove the bumper so I could drive home, explained that since it happened in a private lot there would be no citation issued. I had no intention of filing an insurance claim since the car has no collision coverage and the repairs would cost more than it was worth. I hope I made her day a little bit better; guessing from the big hug she gave me when we parted, I suppose I did. (A little “rest of the story” detail: a friend and I managed to get the bumper back on securely, and it didn’t cost anything but a roll of gold-colored duct tape to cover up the ripped spot where the bumper was removed)
I tell this story, not for self-glorification, but to make a very important point. If you claim to be a Spirit-filled servant of God you will be tested on that claim. Sometimes severely. It will come in a moment you least expect, and it will reveal just who sits on the throne of your heart. Testing moments usually don’t give you any warning and how you respond shows who and what you really are.
When you’re in that moment, what will you do? Get mad and verbally destroy the offender because they broke your stuff or did something to offend you? Or will the Spirit lead you to remember what Scripture says about how we are to treat one another? From the Sermon on the Mount through the letters of Paul the message is the same. People are always more important than stuff. Most of the time you have no idea what someone else is experiencing, good or bad. In this young woman’s case, I understood fairly well. I remember the challenges of raising small children (especially in a group!), and I know only too well the challenges of cancer. Together they can be exponentially overwhelming. At that moment what she needed was to know someone understood and cared about her. That’s the calling of a Spirit-filled servant; it’s what we do.
It’s not something that comes naturally. Like any other discipline in life, it takes preparation. Without complete surrender to Jesus’ lordship, continuous striving to deepen the relationship with Him as Lord, and daily time spent in the study of Scripture (not just a casual perusal every now and then) and meditation on it, we cannot become that kind of servant. Servanthood isn’t something you should have to think about; it’s the default behavior, as automatic as breathing. It’s because servanthood doesn’t originate with you. If Christ truly is the Lord of your life it is His Spirit who acts within you to respond in the moment of crisis and testing. That’s why the glory goes to God alone.