Not a servant, but a friend

“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

Roller Coaster Friendships

I thought I just wasn’t into roller coasters.

This summer, though, I discovered I couldn’t even handle, much less enjoy, the whirling tea cups at Busch Gardens.  I rode them visit after visit because my three-year-old finds them great fun and she has to ride with an adult.

But I braced myself each time.  My middle girl always yelled the same thing, “Spin the wheel!  It makes us go faster!”

As I hung on with a white-knuckled grip, I managed to sputter out something like, “Aren’t we spinning enough already?”

It gets worse than that.

Recently, I sat on the swing next to my preschooler as she shouted at me to “swing higher.”  I gave it a try even though it’s been years since I’d swung on a swingset and I’ll tell you what I discovered.

I’m old.  Even a swing made my stomach flip into complicated and tangled knots.

How is this fun?  This little girl next to me in a ponytail and light-up shoes was giggling and squealing that she needed to rise higher and higher.

I suppose I just prefer solid ground.  No need for speed.  No desire to let gravity wreak havoc on my digestive system.  Fun for me is a trip to the library, a hushed walk through a museum, a long stroll on a cool day, a comfy couch with my book, chocolate and cup of tea.

That is fun.  Spinning, screaming, and lifting off the ground = not fun.

This is, perhaps, why first grade friendships have me befuddled lately.  Friendship means loving one another, believing the best about each other, laughing and crying together.  It means loyalty, sharing, encouragement and support.

In first grade, though, the kids are still figuring all that out.  So, instead of the solid ground kind of you-can-count-on-me, dependable r049elationships, they end up with something more like a daytime soap opera, a roller coaster of kindness and backstabbing.

My first grader reports one day that so-and-so said, “she can only be friends with one girl and nobody else” and she stuck out her tongue or wrote a nasty note or stole my daughter’s glue stick and mocked her hair cut.

The next day, my daughter says they are friends now and played together all day.

The day after that, she reports the girl “just left her alone and ignored her.”

Even as adults, we can find this world a dizzying place to live, a roller coaster ride of the unexpected and occasionally the downright scary.

We are blessed, some of us, to have friendships and marriages that keep our feet firmly locked onto the unshakeable ground of trustworthy relationships.

And yet, how often lately I have heard of lovers who swore to “love, honor and cherish ’til death do us part” later end up enemies on the opposite sides of a divorce attorney’s table.

Even truly loyal relationships end eventually, maybe through moving or even death.  The people we count on and love won’t always be with us, not here on this transient planet anyway.

That’s why it’s so precious that Jesus declared,

“I no longer call you servants.  I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

He’s our forever friend!  So faithful, so eternally compassionate, so genuinely understanding.  This is no first-grade cohort, kind today and snippy tomorrow, supportive today and jealously cruel the next.

He’s day-after-day, in-and-out, always-and-forever loyal to those He calls friends.

But am I?

That’s what Joni Eareckson Tada asked in Diamonds in the Dust:

“What a friend I have in Jesus.  But I wonder….what kind of friend does He have in me?
Too often we stay at an arm’s-length distance, pulling back from the full intensity of an intimate friendship with the Lord.  We satisfy ourselves with “less” when it comes to our relationship with Him” (p. 400).

Of course, Jesus is faithful.  That’s His character.  It’s who He is no matter what.

The question really is more about me What kind of friend am I to God?  Do I pull away, afraid to get too close for fear He’ll discover the ugly truth about some of my faults, foibles and (to be honest) sins?

Do I chatter and laugh with Him affectionately some days only to abandon Him the next for busyness and more instant gratification?

Do I deny Him and stray from Him when I’m angry or hurt?  Do I believe the best about His character even when I don’t understand what He’s doing?

To be a better friend with God requires maturing past our first-grade relationship tactics and becoming day-after-day loyal and true regardless of our emotions, circumstances, or the enticements of others.

Today we can choose to be better friends to each other and to our trustworthy God who is so consistently faithful to us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King