The other day a friend called me a ‘do-gooder’. She was quite angry with me at the time and it seemed that she meant it in a negative way. I can think of a million words far more hurtful for her to say, and while I am grateful that she didn’t use any of those other words, I have to admit that ‘do-gooder’ hurt quite a bit.
I have to laugh when I admit that, because the idea of being called a do-gooder isn’t something I would normally avoid. Honestly, if a non-Christian said that to me I’d actually feel complimented, even if they didn’t mean it that way.
Doing good is what I aim for, you know?
My friend Teri is dying, and it has been a rough time since November. Every day she is a little closer, and recently her family had to have a hospital bed put in the house, along with her IV pole and pain pump and all the hospital supplies that come with caring for the dying. I have been a small part of that care and have been honored to be allowed to be that close to her family at a time when family is all that matters.
The stress of all of this has had me listening to Christian music; something I don’t normally do on a daily basis. I’m too busy dancing in my car to ‘Despacito’, trying to remember all the choreography I learned in my Zumba class. I try to get to Zumba once a week so I can get some of these urges out of me. It’s better to act them out on the dance floor than in my car, where the drivers around me fear that I have lost my mind or have some sort of severe movement disorder. Anyway, in times I stress I find myself turning to my Christian music to sustain and strengthen my soul, and Teri’s imminent passing has had me soaking in Christian music for a good week now.
Of course, the Christian music on my iPod is almost all from the time of my call. It was what I was listening to when God was breathing down my neck, trying to get me to let go of the safe path He had placed me on when I graduated college in 1986. Since I wouldn’t listen to God back when He originally called me (I was 17 and didn’t think that a female minister was a thing that existed), God graciously gave me an eleven year-long career in computer programming. It was fun and I Ioved it, but God was only willing to let me hang out there for a while until finally He wouldn’t take NO for an answer anymore. It was at that point that I found myself listening to Christian music 24/7.
I have spent the last several days wrestling with term ‘do-gooder’. Yes, I truly do want to do good things, but WHY? What am I hoping for?
Of course, I could easily say that I am following where God leads me and that I do it for Christ alone. Man, that would be good press, but it would also be a lie.
When you ‘do good’, you get lots and lots of accolades. People say nice things about you. People think nice things about you. People are glad to see you because they know that you are here to help. In the end, doing good gets you a reputation, and it’s definitely the kind of reputation that you want. It’s impressive! The problem is that getting a good reputation is a quick way to inflate your ego and start doing the ‘right’ things for all the ‘wrong’ reasons. After all, you can’t let people start thinking you don’t care or that you no longer want to help them, right? Do-gooder to the rescue!! Stand back, I’m about to do some GOOD!
And therein lies the problem, because it is God’s desire that we ‘do good’ to please God and only God, and not to get a good reputation, or feed our own ego, or to get people to praise us. Except it is incredibly hard to do ministry without anyone seeing you doing it. You know, before I became a minister I could be a little more anonymous in my ‘do-gooder’ behaviors. I could do good things for God alone. Now it is expected that I will do good because the congregation calls me Reverend and all that…and it’s kind of hard to hide your good deeds so that God alone is aware. The praise starts rolling in and your ego starts swelling and all of a sudden you don’t know what your motivation is anymore. Do I do this so that others will appreciate me, or am I doing this so that God can be glorified? It’s not an easy question to answer.
So there I am, in my car, headed to Teri’s house and my iPod is blasting songs by Sara Groves and Caedmon’s Call and Chris Rice and Third Day and I am feeling it!! I can’t stop the tears from flowing, and I remember just how I felt when I received my call. I wanted to die to self. I wanted God to absorb me, to obliterate me, so that all that was left of me was my desire to serve Him and please Him and do His will. I was so in love with God at that point in my life, that it was a wonder my husband didn’t accuse me of infidelity. It was an intense experience, and anyone who knew me then would use that exact word to describe me: intense. Let’s just say that Jesus and I talked often, and God and I were on a first name basis, and I was on board with whatever the Father wanted, no matter what the cost.
The funny thing is that here and now, in 2018, I can get in touch with that desire to die to self and be obliterated by His Spirit…but I can’t really say that’s what I want anymore. It’s not that I don’t want that, it’s that I don’t want that in the same way. You see, back in 1996 when God was calling me into ministry, God was calling me away from everything I thought I was going to be, so that I could become exactly what He wanted me to be. I had to let go of my career and my image of myself and my desire to earn the big bucks. I had to lose the arrogance that had grown in me from realizing that God had given me the big brain, which made me a highly desirable employee/consultant. It was good, being in IT and being really smart. People wanted me to work for them, and I worked for the highest bidder. Life was good and I was good at programming and I knew it…but none of that was what God wanted from me anymore. God wanted me to submit to His will, to go to seminary, to lose my arrogance and my bravado. God wanted me to step out into the unknown and let Him lead me to serve His Kingdom. I had to let go of everything. It was terrifying. I begged God not to take my husband and my children from me. I was terrified of what God might ask of me…pretty much on a daily basis. This was why I was so intense in my desire to die to self. I wanted God to obliterate my self so that I could be nothing more than His servant and stop desiring to have anything other than what God wanted me to have.
So…think for a moment. Can you imagine God obliterating you and being glad to do it?
You see, I have two daughters and their individuality and their personalities are truly precious to me. I would never want them to give that up because it is the most delightful part of God’s creation in them.
Why it never occurred to me that my Father, God Almighty, would never want to obliterate me, I just don’t know. After all, He created me to be ME, to be an awful lot like an extremely faithful squirrel on crack! And for some reason that I cannot begin to understand, God appears to think that having a squirrel on crack in ministry is a great thing.
Either God has an epic sense of humor, or…
God has an epic sense of humor.
So I sit in my car, driving to and from Teri’s house, doing my best to be present to her and to her family and to provide God’s love and care to them in the most difficult and painful time. And all the while, God sends me songs from the very beginning of my call into ministry to remind me of my intense desire to serve him, even at the cost of my own self and everything I held dear back then. He comforts me in my grief and then reminds me that I am doing exactly what He called me to do. God called me into ministry to be with the suffering and the lost, to bring His love into the darkest places, to remain with those who think they have no value at all so that they can learn just how deeply He adores them and how highly He values them.
I am…I am a do-gooder. Yes, I am! I am not the best do-gooder, or the most graceful do-gooder. I am not the most knowledgeable do-gooder, either. But I do good in the name of Jesus the Christ, who did the most awesome good that could ever be done for all of us.
And that is enough and it pleases the Lord God Almighty.