Fistfuls of silverware clatter to the floor with a clamor of youthful surprise. Eager to help, but underestimating the capacity of their little hands, my children have joined in the ritual of emptying the dishwasher. Some days it goes without incident. More often, the task is marked by a childish zeal that lands the forks and spoons near our feet before they end up returning to the silverware drawer.
It’s in considering the unfolding of such mundane acts, like children putting away dishes, that Paul came to mind. Paul served as a spiritual father to so many: guiding, correcting, and encouraging. He was a vibrant conduit for the message of God’s kingdom, God’s unrelenting grace, and the ultimate Lordship of Jesus. How many moments of youthful zeal did he witness yield unintended outcomes? How many opportunities did he have to offer guidance and reassurance to those young in their faith as they grew in maturity? What was it like to see that generation of God’s children grow up?
Often after children have grown, there comes a time when they are ready for greater independence. In Acts 20, there is such a time in Paul’s missionary journey. He summons the church elders from Ephesus to come and see him in Miletus. He reminds them of his mission to testify about the good news of God’s grace; to declare to Jews and Greeks alike, their need to turn to God and have faith in Christ alone. At this time, the Holy Spirit is compelling Paul on toward Jerusalem. Regardless of the cost, he refuses to resist the direction of the Spirit and the calling to testify of Christ.
He calls them to seek God and His Spirit to work in them and through them. He calls them to remember what Jesus has done…
Though he loves them dearly, Paul knows he will not see the Ephesian elders again and shares this reality with them. In the last face-to-face exhortation Paul extends to these church leaders, he calls them to cling to the truth of the gospel of God’s grace and to be carefully attentive to themselves and the church in which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. Paul calls the church elders of Ephesus to a task they cannot complete in their own power. He calls them to seek God and His Spirit to work in them and through them. He calls them to remember what Jesus has done, what His death has accomplished, what His blood has redeemed.
So often I try to pick up as much as I think I can carry only to find that I am unable to do what I thought I could. Writing, mothering, homemaking, teaching; the list goes on and on of things I grab by the fistful to tuck into the rows of hours, days, and weeks that line my calendar. Like my children, I underestimate my own capacity. Though my body feels grown, I have much growing yet to do. My good intentions clatter to the floor, like silverware, as I have picked up too much with the excitement that accompanies possibility. In the face of that possibility, I am inclined to forget my greatest need: guidance from the Holy Spirit.
It is in the space of falling short, that I better understand the good news of grace and the redemption of Christ. I am not called to perfection or performance, but to reliance on the Spirit of grace. What I have been given to oversee and care for are not tasks, but people and hearts and souls. The reach of my words and attitudes carries farther than I realize. My mission is not one of accomplishing or cleaning or cooking, but of caring for, listening to, and mothering the people that intersect my days. My calling is love. In the midst of the day-to-day, my prayer has become:
“God, help me to dwell on the reality of Your grace. Jesus, keep me mindful of what Your incarnation and death has meant for the world. Spirit, teach me how to love and speak and act out of Your abundance.”
Lord, may we be women who love well, who seek to fill our hands with Your good news of grace, that we may share it readily. May we be women who listen, who incline our hearts to your Holy Spirit and His promptings, that we may walk in obedience to You and the hope of Your truth. Amen.
Robin Zastrow wants to live in a world where coffee never gets cold and kindness abounds. When she's not discovering the wonders of construction paper and cardboard tubes with her two little ones, you can find her sneaking in another few pages of a book or jotting down bits of writing on scraps of paper.
One of her favorite Scriptures is:“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22 ESV