Growing up I was driven to find my Christian calling. I tried babysitting, teaching Sunday school, leading a small group, singing in church, helping at youth group, etc. But I always felt like it wasn't my "function;” that there were others better suited to those roles and I was just taking up space.
I was inspired by 1 Corinthians 12:12, about the body of Christ. “Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ” (MSG). To me this meant we are all part of the same club, but everyone has different talents and responsibilities. And some are cooler than others.
Thinking about the body of Christ this way put me into a bit of a Catch 22. With all my trial and error I concluded I didn't have a significant role to play and, therefore, stopped participating in my church and the larger Christian community.
Once I moved away from my hometown and home church I floated through the Christian experience, if that makes sense. Whenever I went to any sort of service or event I didn’t seek to be involved and no one asked me for much. It was a lonely, isolated time. And I fell through the cracks.
Looking back I can see how disengaging from church participation led me to a faith crisis but at the time I was surprised. Why was I feeling so alone? Why wasn’t this easier? Why weren’t people friendlier? Why wasn’t my faith strong anymore? What was I doing wrong?
I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.... If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. (1 Corinthians 12:14, 16 MSG)
Here I was, sitting around expecting the body of Christ to meet my needs, yet offering nothing but distain in return. I was acting like Ear, saying I wasn’t really a part of the body because I wasn’t Eye.
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to a church whose members felt they could do without each other. They were arrogant, argumentative, proud, and jealous of each other. By comparing the church to the human body, he was saying no one member has all the qualities needed to successfully live the Christian life. We need each other.
With Christ as the brain, every body part needs to be in direct contact with Him. Without that connection we don’t have a chance of survival. Think of an arm: if you were to lose it your body would still be able to survive. What about the arm—if it’s disconnected from the body can it keep living? No way.
But what if you’re still connected to the body but you, like me, are inactive? You’re a dangling limb; dead weight. Sure you’re technically still a part of the body, but you’re being dragged along. Not only that, you’re slowing everyone down. It’s when the entire body is working together for the same goals it is most effective.
Being involved in church, volunteering your skills, and helping others however you can aren’t actions specially set aside for the chosen few or the super religious. This is a calling for each of us and if we think we can strike out on our own, or just show up for nourishment but give nothing back to the body, we are missing the point.
Since connecting with my bigger purpose, serving others in obedience to Christ, I’ve let go of the “who am I” questions. From this shift in perspective those questions don’t matter to me anymore. Yes, I struggle with insecurity and shyness and outright selfishness most days. Yes, I have to drag myself to church sometimes. But I do it, and I try. And I fail, and I try again. And I’m going to keep trying and keep serving because it’s my responsibility and calling as a member of the body of Christ.
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t.... You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. (1 Corinthians 12:25, 27)