That is just not my comfort zone, my area of expertise, or—if I wanna sound über-holy—it’s just not my gifting.
These were my words. Whenever I didn't want to do something scary or new. I would sometimes put on a brave face and do something I didn’t like. But after consistently not liking it, I would declare in my most assuring voice that it simply wasn’t for me. I was made for other ministry.
In theory there is nothing wrong with this. I am a big fan of saying no to even good things to hold out for the best. And I believe firmly that the Church has many people with many different gifts; no one person was meant to do it all. But this rationale only goes so far. I can’t use personal discomfort as an excuse to disobey.
Jesus tells us with His own voice in the Gospels and with many voices throughout the rest of Scripture to serve, to love, to care, to heal, to give. To whom shall we do these things? Even if it weren’t explicitly spelled out (Luke 14:12-14 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” ), one can deduce that we are to serve those who don’t already have people doing stuff for them, love those who aren’t getting enough love, care for those who can’t care for themselves, heal those who are sick, and give to those who need something. Anything else is rather nonsensical.
That means we have to go and be in the company of servant-less, loveless, helpless, sick, needy people. Generally speaking, it is safe to assume it won’t be a comfortable visit.
My older sister is in a nursing home. It sucks. She is all of the things I listed and more. She is high maintenance as she battles brain cancer that is attacking her motor skills, drugs that rob her memory and reasoning skills, lonliness that renders her needy and chemo that ravages all that is left. The facility is understaffed and her family is busy with work and school. Life goes on as she lies in a hospital bed hoping someone will visit. Forget uncomfortable; it is a loathesome situation.
Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a teenager I used to visit people in nursing homes with my mom. Boy, it was uncomfortable! I had real intellectual and ethical tangles with how to care for needy people while maintaining their dignity and respect. Ultimately I decided it just wasn’t for me. Not my gifting. Others did it better. I wouldn’t want to screw up.
Now my sister is in a nursing home. 2,000 miles away. I can’t do anything for her when she calls and asks me to come sit with her. I chuckle and keep things light so she won’t get discouraged. I send her verses and studies. I record myself telling her I love her. It isn’t enough.
Surely my Diane isn’t the only one in a nursing home who doesn’t want to be there. And there’s the rub. WHO on Earth WANTS to be in a nursing home??!? WHO would sign up for THAT? Bed sores and having to ask to use the rest room, hospital food and the mind-numbing monotony of the same four walls for…how long?
That is when I could no longer deny it. Obeying Jesus isn’t about comfort, or natural gifts or skillsets. Jesus said do it. What we can’t pull off on our own, He is going to cover, right? Or do we not actually believe Him to be God?
Think about His list: the widows, the orphans, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned… What do all these people have in common? Their choice has been taken away. None chose to lose a loved one, to be hungry or disabled. Even the worst criminal who deserves to be locked up for life has undeniably lost his choice to be where he wants to be. And our amazing, patient and merciful God just adores choice. It is central to the entire design of this universe and the life of every human being. Without choice, there is no meaning to life. God loves choice so much that He preserves it at an exorbitant price; many a man (and woman and child) has questioned if all the suffering in this fallen world is frankly too high a price for this gift.
When God sees people lose this gift of choice, He calls His people to go be, to stand in the gap, even if only to witness the loss.
I guarantee my sister never chose to be in a nursing home. I can no longer say that I won’t go comfort those who locally are in her situation simply because it is outside my comfort zone. What about their comfort zones? I may not have the gift for caring expertly for people who are disabled, but I bring with me the Gifter of all Gifts wherever I go. He’s got it covered.