emarkthomas

Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.

A servant who’s not serving…

Yesterday I read a blog post by Professor Richard Beck in which he talks about a Bible study he leads at a prison. Beck writes that is occured to him recently how sufficient he was finding scripture to be in the prison. That is, he could just read large portions of the Bible without needing to doctor it or expound upon it.  The idea, which I much agree with, is that in our churches we doubt that the congregation would sit still throughout such a long reading of scripture, and so we doctor it up with stories, anecdotes, definitions of words in the original Greek, etc. Beck was surprised to find that the scripture itself was sufficient when reading to prisoners. There was no need for anything else, just reading the words achieved all that Sunday morning programs, so carefully planned and tweaked, hope to achieve and more.

Beck’s says that his “initial hypothesis” is that perhaps the books of the Bible, because of their nature and messages, really only make sense out on the margins, where life is desperate. Now I know at least for me, this idea makes a lot of sense. Because it sounds an awful lot like a theme found in some books I know. The books of the Bible, specifically.

As I pondered Beck’s post and the idea of scripture’s power coming alive and being released “out on the margins,” I realized that there’s a distinct trend in my life, and it follows this pattern. I summed it up in the comment I left in response to Beck’s post. I haven’t altered it at all, so the style, spelling, and grammar may be off, but here it is:

I’m having trouble forming the words to express how I feel about this and what it woke inside of me. I lived the first two decades of my life nowhere near the margins, where life wasn’t really desperate, and I struggled to care about the books of the bible and the faith that my parents raised me in. It was only after, when I found myself flung outside the margins, as you put it, that the words seared themselves into the very fabric of my soul. The Spirit woke me heart and I came alive for the first time. In the handful of years since, I have had seasons where my bible remained untouched and dusty, and I have had seasons where I was pouring over the texts and gasping for breath as the Spirit steamrolled me. Reading your post this morning, I realized that when I ignore the marginalized, the dispossessed, the poor, the hurting, the oppressed in favor of living the life of a quiet, comfortable guy with his stuff and his loved ones, safely packed away far from any situation in which life is desperate… I’m dry. I’m unsettled. I’m empty. I’m a hollow, shallow shell of who I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be an agent of renewal, a bringer of the Kingdom. I’m meant to be a servant, serving where my King and Father directs. And when I do, my life may be chaotic, but it’s bursting with joy and, well, life!
 
This may seem absurd, but what was really going through my head as I wrote this yesterday was the song, “Be Our Guest” from  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. In it, the servants sing about the hollowness of their lives when they were not fulfilling their functions. The emptiness that comes from not living their lives for the purposes of the kingdom.
 
Like these servants,  I find life hollow and empty when I am not fulfilling my Kingdom function. But oh! when I do…
 
Life, and that more abundantly. Hey… that sort of sounds familiar…
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