Tuesday, 27 October 2015

They also serve

"He missed the point entirely," ranted my mom on the way home from church one Sunday near Remembrance Day. "They weren't just sitting around waiting. They were doing things. Milton himself wasn't just sitting around and waiting. He was writing poetry!"

She was arguing-as only my mother could do- against the thesis proposed by our minister Bert Willis in a sermon based on John Milton's poem "On His Blindness." Milton's poem was written after he became blind. A deeply religious man, Milton wondered what God expected him to do once he was blind. How could he use his talent when he couldn't see?  The Reverend Willis pondered about what we could do when we were faced with forces that made us unable to act. As I recall, he talked about faith and service and the fact that there are many ways to serve God. The Reverend Willis talked about people who stayed behind during the wars and how their particular form of service was to wait. At least that's how I remember it.

Mom and Dad making cotton candy. With their own
machine they bought to fundraise with.
My mother was never one to sit and wait. Or even to sit. She was at times frenetically busy, a compulsive volunteer who was constantly thinking of new projects.  I can't remember her sitting through a TV show without also knitting, sewing, marking papers or talking about the show or something else all together. I don't remember her preparing a meal without stopping to read a magazine article. She was a multi-tasker before  the word was even invented.

So for the minister to suggest that people could somehow "serve" by doing nothing? Ridiculous.

Our culture is based on being busy. Ask people how they are doing, and the reply is rarely about how they feel but how they live. "Busy," they say, "Too busy. Run off my feet."  It's a source of pride. I know this because I say it myself. I hear it from my friends and neighbours and my own children. My daughter tells me she can't sit through a TV show. She needs to be doing something.  And I wonder how good that is for all of us.

Would it help us, to be less busy? Could we learn to stand and wait? I'd love to try. If I could just find the time.

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"I fondly ask. 
But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

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