So, I have this friend. She wishes she were someone else. Always has. Uncomfortable in her own skin, dissatisfied with the ways of her inner make up, her inner mind. Looking to new things, new places, new people, new trends, new hobbies; something to fill, something full of something. She doesn’t find it really anywhere, and her disappointed heart grows jaded, faded. She is onto the next thing before this one thing is over because, truly, what’s the point in waiting for the soul to catch up with the mind when one already knows the darkness lurking deep?
My friend is difficult to serve.
So, I have this sister, one who is a bull. She works, and works, and works more when the work is done. She takes responsibility in heaping tablespoons, gulps it down with a swing of independence and then claps, “chop chop,” for the next item on the agenda. She is capable, resourceful; a leader. Yet her eye winks weary, blinks long — and there is a catch of tiredness tied up for a moment. Her plate is full — so full — and just as she’s about to take a bite, to be enjoyed and received with thanksgiving, it is offered up to the birds swooping round, cawing in hunger, greed.
My sister is difficult to serve.
So, I have this wife. She is tempermental, with an emphasis on the mental. Most days, she doesn’t know if she’s coming or going — she might as well stop keeping track because, Lord knows, I’ve had to. A mood here, a mood there; something’s great, another thing devastates. There is drama wrapped tight, like a Chinese finger trap — the more we pull, the tighter it grips. Unpredictable, she is, and her anger, her sadness, her joy, it is all just as much a surprise to her as it is to the rest of us. She laughs cynically, but with underlying trepidation, that she might actually be crazy. None of us try to argue.
My wife is difficult to serve.
And this co-worker of mine? The one who has her life all together? The one with the smattering of kids, well-behaved and bathed and dressed with both shoes; the one with the tidy house, tidy lawn; the one with a comfortable income and trained dog and the prettiest shoes and the whole package? Yeah, her, with the smiles and immaculate taste in clothes and eye make up on and who actually remembered to put the dinner in the crock pot that morning and how in the world does she do it?
My co-worker is difficult to serve.
And I have a daughter. She is selfish, a self-centered teenager. She isn’t helpful; she is lazy. She makes messes that she doesn’t clean up, and she blames others when she’s actually being convicted herself. Her world ends tomorrow, when she’s grounded, prohibited, but begins the day after with the first kiss, the first love, freedom defined. It seems as though she’s caught somewhere between immaturity and completion, somewhere between innocence and adulthood — somewhere where there is angst and discomfort, but no clear explanation as to how she ought to move. It’s too late to go back, and it’s not yet time to step out. So where does she go, but into her self?
My daughter is difficult to serve.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10
And I’m struck by that word, “abundantly” because it means “overflowing, surplus, over and above, more than sufficient.” What I see when I look around is not abundance, but lack. What I see is not peace, but shifting plates, grinding and building tension beneath the surfaces of these lives. What I see is not rest, but worry. It seems we’re all concerned here about getting a good grip.
The problem lies not in the lack of able and willing servants, but in the humility it takes to be served.
And yes, the harvest is plentiful and the laborers few — but what if this harvest isn’t only the saving of souls, but also the Promised Land of rest for those of us already in Jesus? What if the labor of love we are called to here is to lay down our pride and receive grace, receive hospitality from another, that we might be led, carried, held in an embrace on the way into peace?
When I am a servant who refuses to be served, I am thorn, a theif of joy. When I refuse charity, mercy, kindness from others, I am a closed door into the kingdom of God. When I think I know better, when I think I don’t need help, when I think I’ve got a handle on things, when I think it’s better to keep that to myself, when I think, well screw that I’m just going to do whatever I want … I am difficult to serve and I will cut off the flow of a work that God might be doing for me, and for others. And the travesty of it all, God will let me be like that.
Let me just wash the dishes my way, I don’t want to think about that right now, let me just go be in a bad mood, I can’t help but be envious of those things she has that I don’t have, it’s just easier to put on a good front than tell everyone everything about my life … It’s easy to look at others around me and play the victim because, you know what, I’ve had it hard too and I’m just doing the best I can.
Is that the abundant life? You tell me.
Sometimes, maybe all the time, the sweetest sacrifice we can offer is the one where we actually let ourselves be blessed.
The place we go for peace is to the cross; the place we go to rest is with our dirty feet in the hands of a God willing to get on His knees to wash them. Sometimes, He’ll send his laborers to do the washing for Him. Let yourself be served.