NOTE: In this entry, I’m using motherhood to show how I’m learning to serve; however, I’m not claiming it’s harder than other kinds of servant hood. Whenever I’m tempted to think that my call to serve is more difficult than others, God sets me straight by letting me encounter someone who’s REALLY learning it! Blessings to all of you who have been given extraordinarily difficult servanthood roles.
Is it possible to embrace a life of servanthood? Really embrace it?
I think I would have said yes before I became a mom. I never knew what a selfish person I was until Em came along—and then three others. Before that I had my areas of service—to students, players, youth group kids—but all of them had end points. The school day was over at 3; track/volleyball/play practices by 5:30; even ferrying youth group kids home didn’t take past 10, and I returned to a quiet, peaceful home with only myself and a very capable husband to care for. And even when the stress really built, I knew summer was coming—eventually.
But motherhood is 24-7, 365-days-a-year, with no sick days.
And I don’t think I’m particularly gifted for it. I still resent (I generally hide it well) getting up in the middle of the night for sickness or fear of the monster under the bed. Some mealtimes come, and I think, “Again? I just fed them! When are they going to start doing this for themselves?” The other day I told Dave, “Next year I will not be a MOP (mother of a preschooler) for the first time in 12 years!” and I said it like I’d earned a badge—till I realized it’s not exactly an accomplishment; it’s pretty normal.
But how do I embrace the nitty-gritty of servanthood, the stuff I do that nobody ever notices or thanks me for?
Thinking of it as service to others doesn’t help me much, even though Romans 13:8 says for us to think of ourselves as being in debt to others, continually paying it out in love.
I pervert that idea way too easily.
I begin to think—“Really, it’s them who owe something to me! Look at all I’m doing for them—and getting nothing in return! The least they could do it act grateful.” I get grumpy and bitter.
I’ve also tried the no-emotion approach. “I’ll just do it and try not to think about it, simply think of it as a job that has to be done, laundry as something to be checked off the list.”
But that doesn’t work either. Because it still turns to a bad attitude, and because I’m called to do everything “heartily!” Like I’m doing it for the Lord. With joy! With a sense of purpose!
The only solution I can think of is the one that Paul and Peter and Mary used. They called themselves “servants of God.” I’ve often thought of that in the context of BIG tasks (like Mary’s: she was about to bear the Son of God, and Paul’s: evangelism to an empire and martyrdom—pretty big deals!) But what if I think of all my “little” tasks as direct acts of service to God? What if I could do them FOR Him and WITH Him, enjoying communion with Him in the simplest acts of washing the dishes or turning socks right side out.
Would that transform my attitude toward them? If I could say, “Yes, I am wiping down my little-boys-have-been-using-it toilet and I am doing this because it pleases God.”
That sounds a little hokey, but it sure beats the alternatives.
There’s still a problem.
I can see this is the best way. I WANT to be a servant of God and see all things, even the small ones, as acts of service for Him. I DESIRE to do it all heartily.
But I can’t.
I can’t force myself into it or cheerlead my emotions into getting excited about housework or another trip to the grocery. All I can dois acknowledge that I can’t and say, “But that’s what I want, God!”
And THAT place of need is where God comes through. He already helped me to see more correctly than I was; He gave me the desire to serve Him; now He will also provide the energy and the joy.
I can do ALL things THROUGH Him who strengthens me.
Even the small things.