Healing Through Service

For me, weekends are an oasis from the regular grind of the week. One particular weekend, I really needed a break. Instead, I found myself sitting behind the steering wheel of Mount Ellis Academy’s school bus, mentally preparing myself for a six-hour drive north to Kalispell, Montana.

The MEA handbell choir and touring choir were performing for the next day's church service at the Kalispell Church. The driving duties had fallen to me. I felt grumpy, and I guess I didn’t do a very good job of concealing it.

A student pointed out to me that driving for the music tour presented me with an opportunity to live out the “Serve” part of our school’s motto: Discover, Develop and Serve. But for me, the mental effort required to dig in to serve felt more like digging into bedrock.

In the news lately, we’re learning about Americans leaving their jobs for new ones. Apparently, the continual weight of responsibility without appropriate recognition or compensation has sapped people of motivation. There is an understandable hunger to step away from the busyness and take time to reflect. I can relate.

After the stressful drive, through darkness and sometimes heavy rain, we finally arrived at the church parking lot. Standing beneath the glare of a fluorescent light, not knowing where I was to spend the night, I felt the unrelenting pace of boarding school life settling into my bones.

Out of the darkness, I heard a voice. “Are you Matthew? I believe you are staying with us tonight.” 

After the warm handshake, something inside me started to perk up. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to spend the night on a gym floor. 

Before I went to bed, I chatted with my host family. I discovered that we had grown up in the same part of the country and even knew some of the same people. 

The next morning, outside the church, I spent several minutes visiting with a man about driving the school's bus. Then I talked with some young men I had gone waterskiing with a couple of summers ago. Once inside the sanctuary, I noticed parents of former students sitting in pews across from me. 

Perhaps I wasn’t a stranger in a strange land after all. 

As I watched our students perform, I noticed the smiles on the surrounding faces and I began to appreciate the joy the students were bringing. The tiredness in my bones from the night before began to dissipate. It was replaced by a sense of belonging. 

As I reflected on the experience, something struck me. The pristine river of life that once flowed out of Eden, contrasts with what we find in our world today. Our river is more like Naaman’s muddy Jordan.  

In the muddiness of life, it is often the smaller acts of drudgery that take us out of ourselves. Once we move into the mud and dip into it with our faith, just like Naaman, we can be healed.

Featured in: January/February 2022