In the wake of the Tsunami disaster, it is good and right that we consider again how we who take the name of Christ minister the grace of Christ. There is a time and place for diving in with both feet, for taking on whatever task is in front of us, for caring for whatever need. We continue to appropriately laud firefighters who storm headlong into buildings, rescue workers who dive into raging waters, trained military who answer the call. And we think that that may be the only way to genuinely respond to a time of need. Many of us have a voice in our heads screaming at us, "Don't just stand there, do something." Of in the words of the Air-(waves)-god Nike, "Just do it."
But the truth is that most of us need to beware too hasty action, too often. Most of us are not "frontlines" of a need whether with a friend or in the world, but are part of the long unnoticed cadre of those who will offer the long-term care.
But we who care about caring for others can lose more than ourselves in our doing, we can lose the ability to give ourselves away for the necessary long haul, for a world of pain and need beyond the headlines. Because when the rescue workers go home, when the funeral flowers fade, when the get well-visits get missed in the third round of chemo, some of us will still be called to be there.
But without the adrenaline and attention, the grind of a caring marathon takes its toll. Soon, we find ourselves pulling away from the needs of people. We click off the television news, we let the answering machine pick up the phone call from a friend, we retreat from the needs of the world stressed out, burned out, bummed out.
What should be our response to genuine need and the genuine call of Christ?
Let me suggest that the first step should be of stillness, even solitude. "Don't just do something, stand there." Stand in the middle of pain and need and pause. Pause to listen and pause to feel. Pause to pray and take stock of yourself and your resources. Pause to consider what a genuine response and not reflexive reaction should be. Don't "Just do it." Instead, Do what really needs to be done. Do what you really need to do.
The need is not the call. But God's call will meet every need.
Charles Ringma has written a good devotional (see my book bag) based on the thoughts of Henri Nouwen. He offers us these thoughts for our doing (and not doing):
In our much doing, we lose perspective, lose our energy, and more importantly, lose our creativity and sense of humor. We thus begin to carry the world on our shoulders and soon become overwhelmed or disillusioned. But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us. Rather the movement to solitude is to find a renewed self, and from the center of being loved and nourished we can again enter our world with purposeful engagement and joyful detachment.
Purposeful engagement and joyful detachment. That seems to me like "doing it" right.