I’m a very old-fashioned girl. My husband comes home from his primary job to turn around and commit his evenings to freelance work, so I try to do the whole June Cleaver thing: make myself look decent, have the house clean, have dinner ready to go on the table, and have his glass of tea poured when he walks in. I want what little time we get together to be as relaxed and pleasant as possible for him.
When my husband tells people he comes home to that every day, they look at him as if he’s speaking an unknown tongue. He apparently revels in arousing covetousness in his male coworkers. But this is just my thing. I love to cook, and I love to serve. I get in my groove, and I do what I do, and it’s all pretty groovy.
If we serve buffet-style, I typically will serve everybody first and then sit down. I don’t think about it; that’s just what I do. So imagine my surprise recently when I came to the table after serving everybody and found my son’s friend standing up beside his chair until I sat down.
Having been raised in the era when men stood as women entered the room, men opened doors for women, and men always pulled out chairs for women, I understood this was proper behavior but certainly not behavior I would ever expect.
But here’s an honest confession: Something inside me suddenly wanted to expect that. I wanted that to become the norm in my testosterone-infused household. Why should I not receive the honor that a woman once was due? Why should I continually subjugate myself?
Then it struck me: I don’t give to get. I give because it brings me joy. But more important than my feelings is the example I have in Jesus: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If I want to be more like Him – and I do – than I must do as He did.
In our modern society, we have an epidemic of self-centeredness. We abandon friendships, churches and even marriages because our needs aren’t being met. We aren’t being served. But before any of us goes sulking into our self-appointed corners because our needs aren’t being met, let’s ask ourselves something: Are we meeting anyone else’s needs? And if we are serving, are we serving up a side of sourness? “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred,” as Proverbs 15:17 puts it.
Though Jesus had fleeting moments of being treated with a fraction of the honor due Him in His time on earth, His day-to-day life was certainly not one of self-indulgence. I’m reminded of a story in Matthew 8 in which a teacher of the law told Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go,” to which Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” In other words, if you want to be a Jesus-follower, be willing to play limbo. If the Son of God can live a lowly existence, so can I. Less of me; more of Christ.
In fact, that should be our daily prayer: “Jesus, let people see less of me and more of You.” And to our inner selves, we should say: “Die, self, die!” That concept of dying to self expressed so beautifully in Galatians 2:20 is a daily struggle, and only in continuing to die to self do we find true fullness in Christ.
James 4:10 admonishes us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” And if that’s not motivation enough to be humble, verse 6 should give us ample motivation: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
I’m not going to lie: I enjoy my moments in the sun – the door that is held open, the chair that is pulled out, the unexpected thank-you, the guest who stands until I sit. But I will refuse to see those moments as my getting my just desserts. (Dark chocolate, please.) I will instead see them as God smiling at me – lifting me up, giving me grace.
Ultimately, it is not my family or my church or my friends or my community that I serve but Christ Himself. And I am called to get over myself and get deeper into Him.