As December 2005 drew to a close and transitioned into the new year, I found myself spending more and more time alone with God, seeking Him for clear direction for the coming year. When that direction came in the form of a seven-word admonition, it was not at all what I had expected, or hoped, to hear: Somebody has to set up the chairs.

The first time I heard it, I shook my head, scratched it, and shook it again. Why would God make such a statement, and what did it have to do with me? Surely I had misunderstood. My heart’s desire was to write and publish the words He had given me, to speak and teach about His great love and calling for our lives. But the more I tried to convince myself that I had imagined those words—“somebody has to set up the chairs”—the more I knew they had been given to me by the God who says what He means and means what He says.

So I went into the new year believing God wanted me to be content simply helping others with their books and...well, setting up chairs at meetings so others could speak and teach. Without too much resistance, I accepted that and moved ahead—until something happened that caught my attention and clarified my focus.

My almost eighty-eight-year-old mother lives with us. She is a strong Christian and is mentally alert, but her mobility is limited. She’s unable to do things most of us do with ease: driving to a doctor’s appointment, going to the grocery store, changing the sheets on her bed, standing at the stove to cook a meal. Being her primary caregiver can become stressful and time-consuming, particularly when I’m trying to work all that into an already busy schedule. One day as I rushed around the house, trying to get as much done as possible before running an errand for my mom—all the time wishing I could just sit down at my computer and get some much-needed work done—I caught myself grumbling. Actually I was feeling sorry for myself. And I didn’t like the sound of it one bit.

“I’m sorry, Lord,” I whispered. “Forgive me for being so selfish and impatient. It’s just that I want so much to be working right now.”

Somebody has to set up the chairs.

I was stunned. Is that what God had been trying to tell me a few months earlier—that I was in a season of service for my mother, someone who had spent many years of her own life taking care of me?

I felt myself relax as I began to understand God’s call to servanthood in my life—my personal call to live a you-first life in a me-first world. It wasn’t just about living selflessly in a visible, overt manner so unbelievers would be drawn to Jesus. It was also about daily laying down my life, giving up the right to plan my days and order my steps, so that I could help others fulfill the needs of their day—even if no one seemed to notice or appreciate it.

God was calling me to a you-first season of “setting up chairs” for others, especially my dear mother, much as she once did for me. In a similar but much more profound way Jesus did the same for all of us when He walked the lonely road to Calvary and willingly hung on that cross in payment for our sins, giving up His own earthly life so we might gain eternal life. As I pondered the situation with my mother, the question before me was: would I humbly and graciously choose His way...or mine?

Somebody has to set up the chairs.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that many of us prefer to be the one “on stage,” the one in the limelight, receiving the accolades and praise and attention, rather than the silent one in the background, setting up chairs so others can come and rest as they listen to God’s message. But if we truly believe we are all one Body, here to serve God and others, then setting up chairs at the women’s Bible study is just as vital as giving the keynote address at a national gathering. And caring for those who cannot care for themselves is a great privilege, bestowed upon us by the Creator of the Universe, the Author of Life.