The word “serve” can evoke many types of emotions – good and bad.
If I am at a restaurant: I am glad for that waiter who serves. And I expect good service.
But if I am doing the third load of laundry of the day and one of my children walks in with mud from toe to teeth – I then serve my family with clean laundry. Oddly enough, that type of service can sometimes rub the wrong way.
We can often find ourselves struggling with the day to day and trying to find joy in the work of the mundane. We often feel unseen. We know we are needed, because often some things don’t get done until we do them. But we wonder if anyone would miss us if we were gone, or they would just wonder where their clean clothes went to. Often those mundane task are also necessary. We are performing a service that is needed and maybe even appreciated, though never put into words.
In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she touches on a similar feeling:
Whenever man is made the center of things he becomes the storm-center of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause…When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it’s true, I think I am due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy. But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks for Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all…the work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) gives us more:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
This is part of our problem – we are looking for something in return.
Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Our days will be filled with service in one form or another. And we won’t necessarily get something in return for the work that we do.
Sometimes we may even yearn for a simple thank you, but those may be lacking, as well.
But Jesus served. He loved. And he didn’t look for anything in return.
I’m reminded of the story in Luke 17 where he healed 10 lepers.
Ten mean were healed … and only one came back to thank him. It makes one pause to consider how often thank yous were actually said to Jesus.
But as the verse in Ephesians says, love by giving everything. When we envision a life of serving and giving without expectation, then we will be to a point that at the end of the day we will be empty.
Emptied – so that He can fill us back up.
When we give of ourselves completely, everyday, our life may look like this at the end of the day:
- worn out body
- messy living room
- laundry still needing to be folded
- dirty dishes stacked by the sink
Your first thought may be that nothing was actually completed. But look at what was accomplished:
- quality conversations made with the 13-year-old
- snuggle on the couch with the 3-year-old
- meaningful time with the husband
- heart warmed from relationships built just a bit stronger
The world tells us to look out for, and save time for, ourselves. That is a valid point. We can’t serve if we are worn out, empty, and unhealthy.
But to be filled up, our “me time” needs to be more “God time” – time we spend with Him to fill us up when our tank is running on empty. God is the owner of unlimited resources, He has the power to give you the stamina you need to live out the calling He has led you to. When we pull our energy from the true source, instead of what the world tells us we need, we can find the stamina we didn’t think we had.
When we take this perspective on service and how we use our time, it can soften our hearts towards those we are asked to serve. When some one disrupts our plans, throws off our schedule, or makes us have to redo what we just completed, we can remind ourselves that Jesus’s love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. We can love like that.
Because when we serve others we are ultimately serving God and not man – when we are serving without looking for anything in return.
And that kind of service can make all the difference.
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