“I am not a servant.”
My youngest daughter says it first in a matter-of-fact tone.
I can’t hear the other side of the conversation so I don’t know what request prompted this response.
I do know she gets her answer from me.
I say it sometimes to my kids when they ask me to hop up from the dinner table (before I’ve even taken a bite of my own food) to get them something they could easily get themselves.
I say it when they call out “Mom!” while they are watching TV and ask me to stop working to get them a drink of water.
I say it to remind them that, while I love them and I love to do nice things for them, sometimes they treat me like unpaid kitchen help.
And that’s not right.
So I listen in as my daughter repeats her response broken-record-style.
“I am not a servant.”
“I am not a servant.”
Then she sings it in a high opera voice, “I am not a servant…..”
Finally after what seems like the twentieth repetition of this phrase, her older sister bends over and picks something up off the floor.
The little ones around here have grown wise to this new trend, how older sisters think because you’re smaller, you must perform all tasks menial and low-to-the-ground so they can continue with whatever far-more-important thing they’re doing.
My Catherine is standing up for herself.
After all, what she has always wanted, what she truly desires in her little sister heart-of-hearts, is for these bigger girls to play with her.
She doesn’t want to fetch dropped Legos off of the floor.
She doesn’t want to get them a paper towel or find them a sharpened pencil.
She wants to be friends with them.
Shortly before His death, Jesus said something profoundly moving to His disciples:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15 NIV).
Not servants, but friends.
He offered them so much more than the menial tasks of mindless obedience, the fetching and finding and picking up of hired help.
He called them friends.
For the disciples, friendship with Jesus didn’t change what they did. Jesus loved by serving sacrificially and humbly, and He told them to do the same.
But He invited them into His heart and His plans.
OF COURSE, IT DOESN’T MEAN WE AREN’T SERVING GOD DAY IN AND DAY OUT, LOVING OTHERS IN HUMBLE OF WAYS, EMPTYING OURSELVES SO WE CAN DRENCH ANOTHER IN THE COMPASSION AND MERCY OF CHRIST.
There is, after all, beauty in late night sessions with a sleepless baby and days spent tending to sick children.
There’s beauty in the ugly, the mess, the pain, and the exhaustion of caregiving.
There’s beauty–God-glorifying beauty— in heading out the door each morning to a job that demands everything you’ve got and more so that you can provide for your family.
The beauty isn’t in the act itself. It’s not in the changing diapers or the washing away filth. It’s not in taking out trash or sitting through mind-numbing meetings where supervisors pile on work.
It’s that you’re doing all of that for someone else.
Your labor on behalf of others may not earn you any earthly regard.
You may trudge through another day of work without a nod in your direction and a genuine ‘thanks.’
Your child may overlook the fifty lunches you’ve made for her and complain the one day you forgot that she likes Oreos, not chocolate chip cookies.
And you can feel absolutely invisible.
But right in that moment, Christ chats with you.
He tells you everything the Father taught Him.
He asks if you’ll take part in His agenda, in His passion and plan for loving others with grace, mercy, compassion, generosity, and humility.
Not because He only values what we do for Him.
Not because we earn His favor by going, going, going all the time.
Not because He wants us constantly to be doing at all.
It’s because He’s offered us His presence—in the moments when we’re sitting at His feet and the moments we’re stooping to wash the feet of another.
He desires friendship, and friends aren’t acting out of duty or serving out of compulsion.
WE’RE LIVING AND BREATHING AND SERVING AND LOVING BECAUSE HE’S GIVEN US ACCESS TO HIS VERY HEART.
OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD MEANS WE DO AND WE CEASE DOING AT THE IMPULSE OF HIS LOVE: OUR LIVES, OUR HEARTS, OUR ACTIONS GUIDED AND MOTIVATED BY HIS VERY OWN LOVE AT WORK IN US.
Originally published 10/29/2016