March 22, 2012
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #217: A Doorkeeper in the House of the Lord
I listened to a sermon this week that highlighted the men and women in Scripture who were willing to do small things for God—servants’ work, unglamorous and often unnoticed by others. These people understood and put into practice the Bible model of servant leadership, being willing to simply be a “doorkeeper in the house of God,” if that service was needed.
Oh, but this is a difficult thing to do! The under-the-radar, off-the-map, subtle work you get done behind the scenes just seems to be so much more fulfilling if that work is acknowledged by someone … anyone. I’ve battled this dilemma for years: I want to serve God, but I can’t feel His pat on the back like I can with others, so it is tempting to do things for the praise of others instead of only for God.
I’m sure that my confidence in my skills and abilities, in my own character and attitudes, exceeds anyone else’s confidence in me. As a leader, this is bad (or can be), because it can lead to not wanting to delegate or let others express their God-given talents. As a member of a church or other organization, this confidence in self, coupled with a desire to be noticed or needed, can cripple any heart of service: the doorkeeper job isn’t glamorous enough, the cleanup team is not noticed enough, and the chair-stacker role is not important enough.
I remember going with my dad to visit a dear old lady from church who was in failing health. Dementia made conversation difficult and humorous as we heard over and over again how she had been a greeter at the doors of the church for something around twenty years. She recalled fondly how various pastors had thanked her for her services.
She knew that though a small contribution to the whole, her part had been necessary and of importance to God. Her unsinkable spirit was evident as she kept telling my brothers and me, between songs we sang for her, how she couldn’t wait to “get back to my doors.”
Even as we said good-bye, she told us quite convincingly that she was going to “get back to those doors.” What an example of servanthood! To this day, any one of us could do a spot-on impersonation of her squeaky voice saying stuff about those church doors (not that this needs to be proved, but if you happen to be married to one of my brothers, do yourself a favor and ask him to say, “I’ve just gotta get back to my doors!” for you.)
It is a challenge to ask myself if I would be excited at the end of my life to talk about the privilege God gave me to be a doorkeeper. What if the door job was the most I ever did with my life? Would I—could I—be content, knowing I’d done with my life what God had asked of me, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem?
Following my life calling of helping equip others for God’s work has led me to participate in discipleship, training, and teaching. Every week, I sit for hours with guys I barely know and help them bring into focus the big picture—what God has for them, where they’re headed, and what they can do to effect change on the inside.
This past week, I met with Clifford, a young man with eight more years of prison ahead of him; he is currently attending Islamic services here. In the course of answering my Exit Strategies questionnaire, I noticed he had left just one question blank: “Which church or nonprofit organizations do you belong to?” He told me he’d been brought up in a Christian home and had attended a Baptist church, which opened the opportunity for me to encourage him regarding his relationship with God.
I have other meetings scheduled with him, and I pray God continues to grant me favor with him as I gently lead him back to God. And isn’t that exactly what I need to be—simply the doorkeeper for God’s house? If I can just open the door for others, my life will have been well-lived!
Incredibly, this teaching/coaching ministry is now considered my official prison job, which I get paid for, approved by the four levels of our unit management staff. In fact, they just gave me a 37.5% raise in pay, based on the fact that “you actually do your job.”
Additionally, I received the opposite of the disciplinary write-up, the first I’ve ever seen since being incarcerated: an official, filed commendation, a testament of God granting favor. So, every once in a while, the small things get noticed by others, but I do all things as unto the Lord—the One Who gave me these doors and the ability to open them for others.