Philippians 2:7 …he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…
Would you serve on the building committee? Would you serve at the funeral luncheon? How many times have you been asked to serve? But have you ever thought about what it means to be a servant?
I’m a well educated woman. I do have three masters degrees and thousands of hours of training beyond them. I have many years of experience in my fields, and even some pretty significant recognition. But as the Apostle Paul describes his own pedigree, it’s all pretty much dung compared to knowing Christ. And I would add, and serving Him.
Currently I spend most of my days tending to the needs of an eighty-eight year old woman with dementia. I also care for her cats, her dog, her house, and I feed the birds. Then I come home and pretend to take care of my own house before my six year old grandson comes over and destroys it again. I color, draw, play games inside and out, feed, supervise bathing, and feed some more. I take my own dogs out to potty and for an occasional walk. I sing in the choir at church and I teach whenever I’m able. I give friends rides. I pray and I pray and I pray. And to the complete surprise of many of my friends, I absolutely love my life.
As I took the dogs out this morning for their after breakfast potty break, I was soaking in the crispness of the air and the beauty of the sun peeking though the clouds. It felt so good to be right there in that moment. And as I closed my eyes to imprint the beauty in my mind, I felt that niggle that comes from the Spirit. Reminding me how many years ago I had knelt at an altar and prayed that God would give me a servant’s heart. At the time I was living a very arrogant Christian life: pious on the outside and self-reliant and self-serving on the inside. Oddly, I don’t think I wanted things to change as much as I wanted God to keep blessing the productive and successful way life was going. Perhaps that’s true on the surface, but something much deeper was working in me.
Through a series of very poor choices and a boat-load of self-reliance, I found my life looking a bit like Humpty Dumpty after the fall: broken into irreparable pieces. I could no longer rely on my pedigree. I had no experience of how to “be” or “do” life as it was coming at me. I was at the end of my rope and the knot was coming loose and the strands were raveling. Yet even there I found God’s grace.
Many people have commented that I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. Most of their comments come because I’m less the extroverted cheerleader and more comfortable with taking the introverted sideline role. The role of a servant.
I believe that God’s answer to my request for a servant’s heart involved the remaking of my heart and the reshaping of my mind. One of my favorite stories is that of a man who wants to be a monk, so he joins a monastery At this monastery there is no talking except once a year when the monks can say two words. The first year the new monk chose to say, “Bed hard.” The second year after tolerating a year of slop and gruel at mealtime chose to say, “Food bad.” The third year after suffering with a rash from his burlapesque robe he shared, “Clothes itch.” After that he was called into the head monk’s office where he was asked to leave. He asked why and was told that it was because of his attitude: all he did was complain.
Things have been getting progressively worse for my lady and I know that in the not too distant future I will need to secure new employment. That’s not easy for me, or anyone in this economy. I look in the paper and online for jobs, and I find myself praying and weeping. I want another job where I can serve. The old Tina would have been looking for some position in management or leadership. God would have to be very clear in His leadership back into that arena. My heart has been so tenderized, I’m not sure I could survive in that world any more. I’m not sure I want to.
I don’t know where this transformation will take me. What I do know is that I have an excellent model to follow; I won’t be complaining about serving; and the God who has brought me to this place will go with me wherever He leads.
How about you? How will you serve along this journey to the cross?