Strength is for Service, Not Status
By Anne Roe
“There is a dude outside cutting our grass and I have no idea who it is.”
When compared to other things I had heard in the past several weeks, that statement from my bewildered husband didn’t even phase me. I simply pulled up an email notification; it revealed that one of our son’s previous preschool teacher’s husband would be cutting our grass. Those email notifications rolled in for more than three years following the most shocking statement Phil and I had ever heard, “Eli has cancer.”
Our two year old son was diagnosed with cancer, our four year old, Henry, thought leukemia was just like his peanut allergy and Phil and I found ourselves in a cavern of needs we never fathomed could exist. Every ounce of our strength was spent trying to keep one kiddo alive and trying to create a “normal” life for the other one. We were desperate for help, and couldn’t imagine how we would make it from one day to the next.
Then our great and sovereign God does what He does so well. He poured out abundant grace, mercy and peace in ways that were incomprehensible. He rallied an army of people to faithfully care for and serve our family. And we saw God’s word come to life.
Like so many other things, at the time we couldn’t articulate what we were experiencing. We were overwhelmed with gratitude for every meal dropped on our porch, every blade of grass cut, every prescription delivered, and every gift card donated. Friends took off work to entertain Henry. Family drove in from out of state to do whatever needed to be done. College roommates cleaned up chemo vomit like it was their day job. Women circled our house and prayed for healing and rest. That army carried us.
Years later, I drove Henry to a music program that was almost an hour from our home. While Eli was in remission from leukemia, he still had a myriad of health challenges and our life didn’t exactly have the margin for this weekly road trip. That said, we felt affirmed that this was the right call for Henry, so we made it work. After Henry’s time in this worship program, he would bounce out to the car and fill me in on all things music theory and music lingo that I did not understand. One day, he said something about a verse in Romans that talked about strength being for service. My mind started spinning trying to narrow in on. where that was in Romans. By no means did I have that book memorized, but I was familiar enough with it to know that I should have heard that phrase before. When we finally got home, he showed me the verse. It was from Romans, but was from The Message translation, which I did not read regularly.
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:1-2 MSG
In that moment, I realized we had survived that season because of God’s active and life-giving words. We survived that season because we were carried by an army of people who sacrificially served. That army didn’t have an abundance of vacation time. That army didn’t have grown children and hours of free time. That army had their own family. That army had their own jobs. That army had full plates. They served anyway. That army taught us to serve from a place of sacrifice, lending strength to others. That army taught us to say, “How can I help?”
No matter where we are, what our margin does or does not look like, how old our kids are, or how balanced our finances feel, God has called us to serve others. That service not only models what it is like to use our strength for others, it reminds us to live for others instead of ourselves.
Our young men are 13 and 15 now. We’ve come a long way since those early days of strangers miraculously appearing to do our chores. But we still have a sign in our house that reads, “We exist for others.” It is based on the text from Romans 12 that talks about the body of Christ belonging to one another. It is our daily reminder that we need to share our strength. It is our daily reminder to ask, “How can I help?”