Updated: Jun 4, 2020
In his book, ”Where Love Is, God Is,” Leo Tolstoy writes a short story on the relation between service and God. The story is about a shoemaker named Martin Avdeitch who is a fine cobbler considered to be a man with a good character and reputation. Throughout his career, he stayed faithful to his work in his basement which had only one window toward the outside. There he could see only the feet of people and recognize them by their shoes as he had repaired most of them himself. He had a wife, but she died, and all their children had died in their infancy except a three-year-old son— who just few years later got a high fever and passed away as well. In grief, Avdeitch denied God, wondering how He could allow such a thing happen to him.
One day a passenger visited Avdeitch and Martin told him of his hardships. The passenger told Martin that he should live his life for God and instead of looking for reasons why things happen, go to the One who knew all the secrets about him. Martin began to spend time with God by reading the Bible and praying, at first only on holidays. As he made it a practice, seeing it more as a love letter rather than just a plain text, he was eager to have a deep relationship with God. As a result, Martin's life became filled with peace and joy.
One night Martin read a passage about a religious leader who had invited Jesus into his house, and there a woman anointed and washed Jesus' feet with her tears. Martin thought of himself as the religious leader in that story as he was only living for himself. As Martin slept that night he thought he heard the voice of God telling him that He would visit him the very next day. This made Martin very excited and fully alert.
The next morning Martin eagerly watched out his window for God. While he was searching for God, he saw Stepanitch shoveling away snow. Martin invited him in for a warm drink and they talked for a while; most of the time he was listening to what the man had to say. Martin told Stepanitch about Jesus' and the religious leader and Stepanitch was moved to tears. Stepanitch later left and thanked Martin for the food, both for his soul and body. Later on that day, Martin saw a young woman outside with a baby not properly dressed for the cold. He invited her in for some food and gave her warmer clothes and money. Martin also told her about the love of Christ and how “ He provided answers to peoples needs and pains”. With grateful tears, she thanked him and left. Then he saw a young boy stealing from an older lady. He went outside and settled their argument as he extended love and compassion towards both of them; bringing peace to their situation.
That night while Martin wondered why God had not visited him, the three figures whom he had showed hospitality to that day, appeared in his vision. They said when he helped them, he was in fact meeting God. Martin then realized that God had indeed visited him, and from then on he looked at his windows daily for opportunities to meet God again and again.
Important points in the story:
Each of us has been called to live a life of service. We can understand our purpose to the degree of our service to the world. There is a great quote that says, “ He who serves God is a good man, but he who serves his fellow humans is certainly a great man”. Our devotion to God means nothing if we don’t show it by serving others. There are three important principles to remember when we think of our part in giving service:
1-Life is designed for service:When we look at nature, we see everything works in the service of one another and everything in the universe is inter-connected. In fact, according to science, creation exists because of its inter-connected nature. If for example, the sun decides to not to show up for a day, the whole planet goes into chaos. The sun serves and supports flowers in their growth as well as sustaining all life and order on earth. Being leaders of our planet, we also are called to serve each other with our gifts and talents.
2- Service is about taking the focus off ourselves; it is not about us, but others: Our world is as wide as our thinking. When we only focus on ourselves, we live in such a small world with a lot of problems. Most of the problems of the world exist because of the way we are only focused on ourselves. In an interview with one of the inmates at the Twin Tower Jail I asked “ What do you think is the answer for suffering in our world today?” Jonathan P. answered, "If we fully stop focusing on ourselves; to give instead of receiving”. When we serve, we make it not about us; but other people. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the difference between a real giver and someone who does it just to show off, “ So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so your giving will be in secret” ( Matthew 6:2-4) Our intention in life is always much more important than our action. If we give to be praised by others, we have already received our rewards; but when we give with a good intention and in the spirit of generosity, we receive even more of what we have given from the hand of our Creator.
3- Service makes our life better in every way: As the scripture mentions, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive”. In the book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People ,Dr.Post who is a psychiatrist, shows how the people who are givers live happier, healthier and longer lives. Whenever we give, we feel that goodness first within our own heart and spirit. In his book, Dr.Post mentions how even offering a short prayer is able to bring a joy to us and others. Service, in its truest sense, is a way we feel good about ourselves and to help others feel good about themselves too.
When we think of service as an attitude and a way of life, instead of an act, we will live our best lives. We no longer care so much about ourselves as we know those who serve will live forever in the hearts of others. What is a better legacy than to be alive in people's hearts when you are gone? Starting today we can choose to live a life of service and fulfill so many needs around us. A good question to ask ourselves is, “How can I serve my spouse, community, world, etc. in my own way?” When we find that answer, we shall forever live.
Copyrighted by Parsa Peykar