Friday, May 28, 2010

The Fax Machine Professor : a lesson in meekness

The lights were fairly bright, which made up for the fact that the room had no windows.  Only a small number of us interns were stationed there.  And it was big enough.  Big enough for our six cubicles.  And the fax machine.

We got used to sharing the space.  Learning together, even in our separate areas of ministry.  We were all working through a three-year seminary degree while working in the mega-church in which I grew up.  It was an amazingly effective way to learn vocational ministry.  Studying the books while using what we learned.  There was a lot of theology.  And Christian Education.  And there were ethics and practical ministry and surveys of Bible books and Old Testament and New Testament.  But perhaps the most memorable lesson I learned was from that blessed fax machine.

It lived directly next to my cubicle.  Within inches of the back of my chair, in fact.  And it was a very popular machine in that church in the late nineties.  Before e-mail was so prevalent.  It was an apparatus that many of the pastors who worked there did not know how to use.  A simple enough machine, however, that most of them would use it themselves rather than asking their assistants to do it.  And so began my lesson.

Everyday that I worked, at least one person would come looking to use the fax machine and not know how to do it.  So they would ask me for help.  Inevitably.  Because I was right there. 

It got kind of annoying.  Usually, my pride would gurgle up and want to ask, in a rather harsh manner, "Can you see that I'm working?"  Or, "Do I look like a fax machine specialist?"  But I would swallow it down and somewhat resentfully help them figure it out.

Well, apparently God saw that as a teachable moment, and reminded me of something that He'd taught me several years before in a Christian Education undergrad class.  It had to with a servant's heart.  It involved the example of Jesus Christ as the very definition of true meekness.  As the Ultimate Servant, He never let others take advantage of Him.  For that is not meekness at all.  That is actually weakness.  Instead, He chose to serve and to give.  Willingly.  Humbly.  As the very Son of God.  Likewise, if I willingly choose to serve, then it is impossible for them to take advantage of me.  Because it is my choice to give.  In other words,  if I start looking to serve these people who don't know how to use the fax machine then they won't be keeping from my work at all.  Rather, they will be helping me fulfill part of my mission.  To serve just like Jesus. 

So I gave myself a tutorial on the fax machine in anticipation of the inevitable fax-machine illiterate who would continue to emerge.  And I started seeing my desk location an opportunity to be like Jesus.  A shot at living like He did by deliberately lending my service.  When I had something that required intense, uninterrupted attention, I would go to the church library, or take it home to work on.  Because I knew that my time at my desk was a time to serve in a different way.  A time to humbly accept my location and make the most of it.

I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said
"Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5

Because being meek does not mean letting others take advantage of us.  It means making a choice to surrender to whatever God has for us.  Because God Himself is not a doormat.  While Jesus walked this planet, He did not let people walk all over Him.  He did not let others take advantage of Him.  He willingly gave.  He chose to serve.  And when He hung on that horrible, pain-filled cross with all of my sin on His shoulders, those soldiers did not take His life.  He gave it up.  He chose to give it. 
And He chose to put my desk right next to the fax machine. 

The next year, I was moved to an office space outside of my supervising pastor's.  It was much quieter.  Much easier to get things done.  And, although I am certain there is a newer, more modern fax machine in its place today, I have no doubt that it still presents a lesson in servanthood much like its predecessor.  I can only hope that today's intern is a faster learner than I was.

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