[You can check out the first three posts in this series here: Love & The Difference We Make, Collecting Strays, and No-Kill Shelter.]
There’s a lot more to the following story, but here’s the quick version. A few months ago, at the end of summer, I received a phone call from the chair of our deacon board at church. He was calling to ask if I’d consider accepting a nomination to be a deacon. A deacon.
My initial response was “Um, I’m sorry, did you not notice how young I am?”
Instead, I said, “Can I think about it and call you back?”
Now, before becoming a member of this church, I’d never even attended a church that had deacons, so you can imagine that I had a lot to think about.
Over the next week or two, the husband and I began to pray about it, realizing that a three-year commitment to anything is a big deal. Our deacons serve three years, and you could say that they do the work of the church. Though it’s primarily a pastoral care role, the deacons also help with some logistical and liturgical things: serving communion, praying the offertory, sending out letters to the church family about special events, etc.
But primarily it’s about people. Caring for people.
The truth is, I’d never spent much time trying to discern a path before. With most of my major life decisions, it’s not that I hadn’t sought advice, but I always mostly just went with my gut. (I’m a fan of the Holy Spirit working through my gut.) But for some reason, this seemed like a serious thing, and I needed help.
I called one of my best friends and told her. Her response was classic: “I think of old men when I think of deacons.” (Me, too, friend. Me, too.) And I kept praying about it.
I e-mailed my former pastor. She enthusiastically responded, “Of course they’ve asked you to be a deacon. That’s who you are.” (Since I had served in myriad roles at our last church, including the “community, care, and crisis” coordinator for the twenty-somethings, I guess it made sense that she’d think this was a good idea.)
Then I asked my mom, who calls me every Saturday morning. She said something I think I’ll always remember: “Ever since you were a little girl,” she said, “that’s who you have been. You have always cared for people.” It kept bouncing around in my head. Ever since you were a little girl.
And the dear husband kept reminding me about my habit of collecting stray people.
It seemed I couldn’t get away from it.
Because that’s what communities offer us, friends. They offer us help in discerning our gifts. Or, you might even say, they make it inevitable that our gifts will be used. They require it of us.
It’s when the church calls to ask if you’ll serve. It’s the friend saying “You’re not an old man, but yes, of course, that’s you.” It’s the mom saying, “Ever since you were a little girl…” It’s the husband saying, “Don’t you see that this makes sense?”
When you can’t ignore that discernment any more, you realize something.
You realize that your gifts aren’t yours at all.
They belong to your community.