Feeling the most good
by Erin Wikle –
After a particularly rough week of feeling like my work was pointless and I wasn’t doing anyone any good, my husband Chris and I stole away for dinner and had a deep conversation about what it’s really like to serve God. It was an encouraging but difficult conversation, one that made me realize how much my own servant heart had changed over the years.
A few years ago, when a group of us began “doing” street ministry in downtown Seattle, I recall feeling such a great sense of accomplishment for setting out to do what we did. All it took was offering a soggy sandwich and forcing my way into a mediocre conversation with a lost soul on the street and I was certain God was pleased with me. Whether I felt particularly passionate about it or not, I was doing good, and I was feeling good about it. Did anyone get saved? Good question. Did anyone see Jesus in me? Not sure. I assumed the end result (eternity) wasn’t as important as the momentary process that got us there.
Maybe I’m being hard on myself.
Maybe I’m not.
I believe the problem was and remains this: It seems we in the church have grown up under a very theologically unsound mentality. It seems the works we perform for God are more about creating an emotional state of ecstasy (read: temporal self-satisfaction) for ourselves than it is about extending the joy of our salvation into purposeful acts of redemptive service. Even if we truly desire that Old Joe comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the true test of motive comes down to who, in the end, receives the glory for our meager accomplishment.
Fortunately, God’s grace is sufficient… sufficient enough to receive the good works we offer him and do in his name, even if our motives are mixed. His grace is sufficient to save Old Joe, with or without me.
In his article, Under the Bridge, Major Geoff Ryan writes, “I doubt, in my fallen state, if I could ever do anything clothed in purity of intent from start to finish. That would mean that everything leading up to that act, at that moment would have to be utterly devoid of my humanness—every fleeting thought and lust, every self-centered hesitation. It would mean that every consequent ripple that emanated from the act henceforth would have to remain equally untainted. Impossible. Unless, that is, I was perfect. Totally holy, every word, every thought, with every action as pure as the sparkling water of a mountain stream” (Ryan, The Siren Call of a Dangerous God).
Well put, if you ask me.
I don’t want to “feel good” about what I’m doing for the sake of maintaining that sense of pride and accomplishment within myself. I want the joy of my own salvation to be the impetus of my service to others. Don’t you?