(Picture above is of Fr. Maximos teaching me something at the choir stand.)
Living in a community has many advantages. One of the advantages of being a part of a community is your access to those in the community who are wiser and more experienced than you. This advantage is present in monasteries and families. In families, there are parents and even grandparents, and in monasteries, there are spiritual fathers and elder monks who are willing to share their wisdom.
God was kind enough to teach me through one of the older monks here recently. There was an obedience (job) that I was doing that kept giving me issues. Things would never quite turn out as I wanted and I was struggling. I went to this particular monk and asked him, “Why do I keep doing this if it never seems to work out?”
I was frustrated!
I’m not sure exactly what kind of answer I was expecting, but the answer he gave me exceeded any expectations I could have had. The answer was one sentence. It was an answer that immediately put me at ease. With just a few words, one of my fellow monks disarmed my frustration and brought me relief and joy.
What was this wise answer?
It was simple.
“You do it for God.”
The answer not only made perfect sense but it was also a rebuke. It was the gentlest rebuke I’ve come across. As a matter of fact, the rebuke was so gentle, that I don’t think it was even intended as a rebuke. It was, however, a rebuke of the best kind.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore (rebuke) him in a spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1
We don’t have to go much further in the book of Galatians to see what my issue was. Galatians 6:3 says.“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” I was acting for myself and not for God.
Since I was acting for myself and not for God, I was in a losing situation. If what I was working on succeeded and went well my benefit would have been here and not, hopefully, in eternity. So when looking at what is important, I was going to fail no matter what.
On the flip side, if I do what I do for God and not for myself, there is no way I can fail. My reward is with God and not with myself.
If I do my work for God, I will also be at peace regardless of how the situation plays itself out in the here and now. Simply knowing this fact gives me great peace.
Once sentence was all it took to remind me that anything I am doing for myself and not for God is something I am doing wrong. It is something that needs to be fixed. The fix will bring peace and joy.
The simple answer solved an immediate problem but has relevance for every single one of my actions. It doesn’t matter what I am doing. It can be singing, cleaning, speaking, teaching, welcoming guests, etc.
The answer to so many of my problems is simple.
“Do it for God!”
Does this resonate at all with you?
Are there things that you are doing for the wrong reasons.
What is just one thing you can switch and do for God instead of for yourself?
The first thing I’m going to work on for myself is singing in church. I do it all the time, and so often I get worried or concerned about doing it well so that I don’t embarrass myself or simply so that it goes smoothly. I’m not going to be remiss in my duty, but I’m going to try to make sure that more often I sing for God and not for myself.
Pray for me that I’m able to have some success in doing everything I can for God and nothing for myself.
Let’s work on this together!
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.
P.S. I was debating on not publishing this post but then at Divine Liturgy on July 5th (feast of St. Athanasios of Athos) the Epistle contained the portion from Galatians that I used here. I decided to post it.