I consider myself so privileged to know Tony Agnesi both as a colleague and friend as well as to be invited to share my thoughts on his latest book A Storyteller’s Guide to Joyful Service. In our conversations with one another, we have truly been given a camaraderie in ministry. A treasured community whereby we not only speak but listen to God at work within one another’s life and in the lives of those whom we serve. Tony’s gift is that he not only recognizes God’s grace daily, but is able to convey this awareness and call to action in an engaging and relatable way.
Towards the beginning of my own call to lay ministry those around me would often ask why. Why would you choose to use your education and talents where there is little to no pay and even less recognition? Aren’t there other ways to give of your time? Where these questions fail, however, is in their inability to assess the immense value in the unseen or to quantify the joy that servant ministry provides in a complete surrender to God.
“Joy is an abiding sense that God is in control..it is a gift that grows out of faith, gratitude, grace and love, the delight in being alive”. Tony Agnesi
The difficulty is that while many of us, as Christians, have no problem understanding the source of our gifts as God, we are still reluctant to hand over the reins to Him to use as He sees fit. We seek happiness but fail to realize that we are not the orchestrators of that happiness. Rather, as Tony so wonderfully articulates,
“God has been using people as instruments since creation and you can participate simply by checking in for duty.”
And though undoubtedly you will still experience challenging times in your life, seeing God’s grace in the lives of others lays the foundation of trust for the work ahead in your own. This can be as simple as the witness of a silent prayerful gesture “of gratitude and humility” raised to heaven that ultimately “restores your faith in humanity”. Or, it can be that graced awareness that God is asking to not only your gifts but your challenges to inspire change in the lives of others.
To serve and not count the cost…
A lofty dream you say? So some might very well think of sainthood. Quite often we place the saints on ornate gilded pedestals ignoring the reality of the lives that they had. It isn’t that their path was easy or that they were created with greater tolerance and fortitude. It is that they ceased to strive to do it on their own. Relying on Christ, they offered both success and failure to put to God’s use. And more often than not, it was in their own challenges and failures that God’s glory was the most beautifully revealed. For, in seeking God’s plan for your life, as Catherine of Siena is often quoted, you can fully “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” with love and holiness. Alternatively, Tony notes, “a lack of action will cause us to be consumed in a fire of indifference” .
This re-gifting is essential in our discipleship for it demands a free will offering. Our choice- to recognize the Creator and giver of all gifts and our conscious decision to give our yes to His will in our lives and in the world. Then even those things we do in the course of our normal day, not typically viewed as ministry, become tools in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Tony remarks,
“We are called by Our Lord to go and make disciples of those we meet, and by example bring them into an understanding of our faith. We are called to live the faith by our words and actions.”
In doing so we may just see the difficulties we experience as the very stuff that God is using to grow us as disciples ourselves and come to know the amazing joy that God has to offer!