”Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles,” (Matthew 5:41).
Your son comes home from his first day of Early Childhood all excited, “Guess what, Mommy, we get to go on all the field trips together! Every week!”
“Why is that?”
“Because we have a station wagon!” Blam! There goes your writing time.
From a carpool friend comes a plea to take her duty this week with, “You’re the only one I can count on to do this for me.” Blam! Another unwelcome commitment busting your schedule.
Your husband calls you from work worried about Walter, a contract employee. He injured his back, not while on duty on the survey ship, but off duty in a jeep accident. He’s coming home from the hospital, and he needs a place to heal until the insurance approves an apartment. His wife concurs that I can take better care of him her than she can in England. BLAM!
Pressed into service
When pressed into service, it’s not the situation that causes me to struggle but my knee-jerk reaction. You see, eventually I enjoyed the weekly field trips and deepened my friendships through the second-mile commitments.
Walter was different. He needed a special bed and wanted special food. He was so bored that he followed me around to talk about his adventures. I wasn’t listening. My husband came home later and later as he tried to untangle the insurance mess.
I was like the man whose mother-in-law was coming for a visit for a week. He asked the Lord to give him patience for just one week. And he succeeded. Trouble is, she stayed an extra day, and he blew it. I was asking for patience with Walter while fussing with my husband. Yes, I blew it when my husband went out of town for a weekend business trip. Since Walter couldn’t climb stairs, I retreated to my bedroom upstairs, fuming.
God stretches our limits
Even when we know our limitations, God doesn’t seem to. He stretches our limits. Then shows us our need for him. But we don’t listen. We don’t trust that he’s in control. We feel tricked when pressed into service that extra mile. Then we feel guilty about complaining, stuff it and end up resentful. Should we go to confession because of our angry outbursts? After all, it wasn’t fair. We didn’t sign up for this. And on and on we battle with our emotions and our rights. Forced generosity pits our will against God’s will, a battle that puts us on the wrong side of victory.
But what does Jesus say? Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me, (Mt. 25:40) Even though Walter was helpless when he came to us, he was the least likely person that I would volunteer to help.
charity is seldom easy, never an imposition, always merciful and noticed by God, who tells us, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38)
A second chance
More than twenty years after Walter, God gave us a second chance and huge blessings that keep on coming. We knew a priest who was temporarily assigned to our parish, but he would have to sleep on the couch in the rectory. He stayed in our guest room for a month, and we grew fond of him.
A year later, when he had hip surgery, Fr. Bob pressed us into service for outpatient physical therapy at our home instead of entering a rehab center. My husband took care of Fr. Bob’s physical needs and I handled meals and laundry. We weren’t looking for payback, but the Masses Fr. Bob celebrated in our family room as the sun rose over the lake had us singing and dancing well into the morning. I loved listening as he read aloud from his favorite spiritual books. Now, at my sunrise prayer time, I remember those intimate celebrations that God gave us every day for several weeks.
Sometimes I still stew and fuss and rebel against those who press me into service. Then I remember to choose to do it all for the least of Jesus’ brothers. The joy hidden under my efforts transforms forced generosity into authentic charity.
When pressed into service, how do you handle unexpected expectations?
(© 2013, revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)