Service: How God uses broken people for beautiful purposes

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the serving of others.” - Gandhi Monday, August 24, had a miserable beginning. I had stayed out with friends until 4 in the morning, and had gotten a grand total of 2 ½ hours of sleep. The heat was already being foreshadowed by the golden sun, even at 8am. Everyone gathered in the DC rather quietly.

This was the day of the New Student Orientation service project trip to East St. Louis. Service is always a great idea and something we all preach about, but how many of us actually want to do the hard work that it requires? I can't speak for others, but I was grumpy and reluctant to do anything but sleep.

Beautiful things come out of the broken.

After a long bus ride we went to eat packed lunches in a gym. Let me tell you, I hate wasting time – and this already felt like it. The entire day I was consumed in myself and my sleep deprivation. I hardly spoke to anyone who didn't speak to me, and never had a smile on my face. The goal of the day was to plant trees with some of the underprivileged high school students, symbolizing our partnership with them and the beginning of something greater to come. We could also develop relationships with these students who we could later choose to tutor or mentor. When we arrived, we realized there had been a mix-up about who was providing the trees. Tree-less and still exhausted, I rolled my eyes as we went on a long tour of the high school, killing time until recently ordered trees arrived. Soon we were outside planting those flimsy trees in an uneven row beside the school. Only two or three students came out to watch, and I never got to meet any of them. Each group had about five people, but planting a tree is a one person job; so the rest of the group stood uselessly sweating out in the awful heat. Back at the gym, after a lot more wasting time(frisbee, basketball, volleyball, group dancing – all of which I slept through), we were sent outside again to do odd jobs around the school. Our group of 30 was assigned to zip-tie broken parts of fences surrounding the baseball fields. We were only given one wrench and a handful of zip-ties, so once again, the majority of us felt useless watching the task be done by others. The jobs honestly all felt pointless to me. If the high school had really wanted trees planted, they could have called a tree company. The fence we were “repairing” really had nothing wrong with it and just seemed like busy work to me.

Beautiful things come out of the broken.

I had learned a lesson about people's brokenness early on in life. My parents have never been perfect. I don't think any parents ever have been or ever will be. They've yelled at me, snapped at me, not given me the benefit of the doubt, accused me, berated me, pushed me too hard, and eventually, unintentionally pushed me away; all the things I did right back to them. For a couple of years I had a horrible relationship with them – I was the normal rebellious teenager who wanted nothing to do with her "moody and unstable mother" and her "workaholic, always-tired father". I resented them for the way they'd treated me at certain times – I resented their brokenness shining through their masks of perfect parents. However, out of that brokenness came beautiful forgiveness and redemption. My parents have apologized to me so many times for not being good enough parents and for being the broken sinners that they are, and through that has come a beautiful relationship! I realized they didn't just act negatively towards me; that was just the part I had chosen to focus on. My parents also supported me, provided for me, lifted me up, guided me, and loved me. God brought through these unpleasant times renewal and redemption between me and my parents, and I realized that I could never blame them for their brokenness, because that is just who they are: broken. Everyone is broken.

Beautiful things come out of the broken.

The last event of the night was the St. Louis city museum – and this was(ashamedly) my favorite part of the night. Finally free from the heat and the uncomfortable situations one always faces when they're catapulted out of their comfort zone, I actually enjoyed myself. Now that I was doing something for myself, something fun, I had no problem smiling and speaking to others. After a couple of hours, I fell and hurt my ribs/abdomen muscles pretty badly and had to sit in first aid the rest of the night.

Beautiful things come out of the broken.

On the bus ride home, Jesus came and miraculously changed my heart. I thought about how selfish and unpleasant I had been all day, and how suddenly when I could have fun for myself I had changed my mood instantly. So intent on how I was wasting a day, I really had wasted my entire day sulking and giving 50% to whatever I was doing. I had gone against the very essence of service: selflessness. I had, in my sin and my brokenness, turned what was supposed to have been a growing and learning experience into a pity-party. I know that I don't naturally have a servant's heart, but I felt God telling me in that moment that He can do all things, and change my broken heart into something beautiful for His glory. Maybe the schools didn't need trees planted, or for us to see their entire school program, or all the odd jobs around the gym, but the jobs weren't necessarily the point, I realized. Service is the essence of the gospel. God gave His son to us with no expectation of anything in return, in fact, knowing that we could give Him nothing in return. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This greatest act of love, selflessness, and service turned a broken world into something capable of such beauty! If we view service as a gift we are freely giving with no expectation of being repaid, we are giving a tiny bit of the gift God gave us back to the rest of the world.

Essentially, service is not planting a tree or babysitting a whiny child for free or walking a neighbor's dog – it is giving unbelievers a glimpse of the love God has for them and for us. Doing this is hard! We are human and sometimes we don't feel like doing things for others, but God can change our sinners' hearts and make our brokenness into His beauty. He will use broken sinners like us to spread His beautiful glory throughout the world. Though I didn't do much heartfelt service that day, I went to bed that night changed. I believe now that though I am broken and sinful, God sees me as beautiful, and that makes me want nothing more than to serve Him. He can shine His beauty through me to others, if I am willing to step out of the center of my own universe and give my life for others as He gave His for me. How can you step out of the center of your own universe and truly give your life to serving Jesus' people?

“You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust.

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us.”

-Beautiful Things, Gungor