Until now I had always intended to keep my blog language focussed and academic side of my work focussed. But as a teacher in a Lutheran school, there is so much more to my work and the professional development and learning that I do and I need to reflect on those ‘other’ parts besides language teaching.
Last Friday I joined with teachers from all over at a day for educators in Lutheran schools. I always enjoy the day, reconnecting with colleagues. But my head has been churning since lunch time that day on one word in particular – service. It’s something we try to inspire in our students as we play our part in helping them discover the best in themselves and growing that so they can be all they can in this world. Two aspects of the service session on Friday have left me with more questions than answers.
Firstly, we were asked to consider what service is and when it becomes ‘deep’ service. There seemed general consensus that service is the filling of a need without the expectation of recognition or reward. But the accompanying Twitter chat eventually led to a Tweet about ‘soft’ service vs ‘hard’ service. The tweeter later explained that hard service is ‘getting our hands dirty’ and takes us out of our comfort zone. Somehow the responses seemed to become about measuring service, what sort of service is better… None of this sits well with me, for two reasons. What is one person’s comfort zone, may be the complete opposite for another. Some may find it easier to do physical work, like building a toilet in a third world country, than sitting with someone deep in grief from loss of a loved one. How can we say one is deeper than the other or harder than the other? Secondly, why are we trying to measure it at all? It seems that in using the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives to discuss service, we start to build a hierarchy, which removes service from the realm of ‘gospel’ and a response to God’s grace to us and moves it back towards pre-reformation thinking and earning favour, be it God’s or people’s. So is there a difference in service? Does it matter? What is at the heart of it? When we work with young people and their families and with colleagues also on a faith journey, do we paint a service picture with the law brush or the gospel brush?
My second pondering is to do with whether service actually has to take us out of our comfort zones at all – straight up this will probably result in a ‘yes’ from some quarters, but hear me out…
If we believe that God gives us gifts, strengths, talents, and calls us to be something in a place our life has brought us to, then does he not also call us to serve there using those gifts? Otherwise why does he give them to us? Why does he say we are to be stewards? If he’s built within us strengths and capacities, surely the use of them will enable us to serve within our comfort zones because he puts us there too. Again doesn’t it come back to the heart and why we do what we do? My family is a comfort zone – don’t I serve Him there? My work is something I enjoy and not necessarily completely out of my comfort zone depending on the class and day – don’t I serve Him there? He brings people into my life in ways that are familiar and ordinary – don’t I serve through my time with them in the ways they need?
So three days on I still have questions. In a world and profession where everything is measured, documented and measured again always looking for improvement, is there room to not measure and compare some of the ‘God stuff’?