Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some Thoughts about the Spirit With Which We Serve Others

By Rev. David C. McCallum, S.J.

How can we stay “out of the way” and allow God to be the agent of grace and healing through us? Jesus provides the example.

➢ Ego driven service relies exclusively on my human effort, whereas Jesus’ service flows out of a relationship with God. I need to listen to the promptings of God and lean on God’s strength to accomplish the task. Can I appreciate the difference? What happens when I try to do everything myself? Or, on the other hand, when I have no confidence in my abilities? What is different about my experience of service when I am depending on God, when I act as a channel, allowing God to be the source of my love, my patience?

➢ Ego driven service is impressed with the “show” whereas Jesus’ service is contented in hiddenness, in the intrinsic worth of what he does for others. Here I might recall all the times when Jesus tells people to keep quiet about what he has done for them. I might try to avoid doing things for others as a means of getting applause or reward, relying instead on God’s affirmation. Am I free enough from my own interior needs that I can serve others without expectations of reward, or even gratitude? What sorts of feelings and thoughts come up for me as I ponder this? At the same time, if I am afraid of being in the spotlight at all, how might I learn to be gracious in receiving recognition, or expressions of gratitude?

➢ Ego driven service is calculated, and concerned with results, whereas Jesus’ service surrenders the outcomes in a disposition of faith. I need to let go of my expectations and not be disappointed when my service seems ineffective. In every so-called failure there is instruction and even grace. Am I overly goal oriented, so much so that I am frustrated when I do not achieve what I set out to do and unable to appreciate what actually happens? What might I need to let go of here? I might consider the events of the passion, and how this seemed to be a total defeat for Jesus. What advantage is there in working hard and at the same time, surrendering the outcomes? At the same time, if I find it hard to believe in myself and my own plans or designs, how can I grow in a realistic belief in my ability to follow through with my goals?

➢ Ego driven service picks and chooses whom to serve, whereas Jesus modeled a radical availability to any persons who present their needs. It is so easy to favor those who are rich and powerful, those who can repay me with advantages and benefits. It is so hard to make a preferential option for those who are poor and weak. How do I feel about giving of myself to people who might not be able to benefit me in a way that the world would judge valuable? On the other hand, what blessings have I received from my interactions with those who are weak, poor, and seemingly unable to help themselves? Sometimes our solidarity with the poor comes with the price of feeling animosity toward those of means. Is it possible to pray for a compassionate heart for both the weak and the wealthy?

➢ Ego driven service is subject to the vicissitudes of my feelings and moods. Jesus seems to be profoundly sensitive to others and aware of his own feelings, manifesting every emotion we might expect. At the same time, his loving service does not seem to depend on his like or dislike for people, nor on his own mood. In fact, he is able to keep his focus on others even when he is suffering himself. What would allow me to find joy even when there is no cause for happiness? Can I be in touch with my feelings without my attitude, choices, and actions being entirely dictated by them? What resources or practices provide me objectivity about my own experience? Or perhaps I have never been able to trust in my own instincts and feelings, and it is time to believe in the authority of my own experience?

➢ Ego driven service is inconstant and a matter of our convenience. Service inspired by Jesus’ example is an ongoing commitment, a way of life. What is my attitude toward time, and my willingness to put others before my schedule, my plans, my timeline? Are there ways that I need to become more flexible and generous? At the same time, If I am always over extended, are there ways I need to be more careful about respecting my limits? Personal balance is very important to my capacity to serve others over the long-term, as much as I want to be generous on any given day. Do I struggle with a compulsive need to be needed? Where does this stem from?

➢ Ego driven service is driven by what I think is best for others. True service involves such sensitivity that I allow others to tell me what they need. Can I allow others to take the lead without sacrificing important boundaries? To what extent do I need to trust God and others? Do I have a strong need for control? Where does this come from? At the same time, there are times when I must trust my instincts, and intervene on behalf of those who cannot help themselves. Do I trust too much or too little in my own inner voice?

➢ Ego driven service enforces a separation between me and the people I serve. Jesus’ example of service builds community and helps us discover that in relation to others, there are more similarities between us than differences. Am I open to being in relationship with the people I serve, or do I use my role as a means of maintaining “safe distance” from others? Is there a way of being with people that also allows me to do my job? Is there a way of maintaining my integrity while at the same time being appropriately vulnerable with others? Or perhaps I find that I do not have very good boundaries, and am easily exploited by other people’s needs, or that I get overly caught up in other people’s problems in ways that are not healthy. How might I work on drawing more healthy boundaries and set appropriate limits in other people’s expectations of me?

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