I leave in a few hours for New Orleans with a team of 14 people from Cedarbrook. I'm excited and a bit nervous at the same time. I've never gone on a trip with so many unknowns. And if anything goes wrong, I don't know how much help there will be around us (stores, gas stations, hospitals, etc.).
But beyond a desire to help others in crisis, I'm going to help Cedarbrook and I'm going to help myself. I'm convinced that the essence of the human condition is selfishness and the only way to address that is to go at it head on - by serving others. (Sorry if that sounds a bit negative but I really think it's true. Self love blocks a lot of good things from happening in our relationships and in the world in general).
Our selfishness is so pervasive - so much a part of who we are - that it's hard to escape. We even serve others to benefit ourselves!
Serving others is something that everyone talks about doing but rarely gets to. I know that's true for me. At best we fund others to serve, which IS a good thing, but we have trouble finding the time to actually do it ourselves. It's so much easy to pay someone else!
I don't have time to go to New Orleans. I'm just doing it and letting everything else suffer because I felt I had to make it a priority - for my own good and the good of the church.
Serving strikes at the heart of our condition because it reveals our selfishness. Our team might leave today full of good will toward men, but I know that it won't take long before we are inconvenienced. It will be hard work. We won't all get along. The living conditions will be substandard. The food may be poor. And that's only the first day!
Add seven more days to that and you start to see how spoiled you really are. You aren't the all loving, all compassionate person you thought you were. Serving shines a spotlight on your heart and then it shines a spotlight on where you need to turn to find a well of love, compassion and strength. That well is God. And that's why people who serve regularly are different. They are in touch with their own weaknesses and they are usually in touch with God's grace.
I hope that happens with us this week. And I hope it begins a pattern in both my life, the lives of our team and the life of Cedarbrook.
Stay tuned. If I can get internet access I hope to post a journal of our trip here.