One coolish evening a couple a few weeks ago, one of my sweet ones plopped down on our front porch rocker and sighed such a sigh, it sounded as though the whole world would end.
As I looked into the face of my adult child, I saw weariness, discouragement, and exhaustion. Amidst projects, financial demands, relationship issues, I knew that life had demanded more than usual and had left this one's soul dry and weary.
I slipped into the kitchen, got a cool drink, crackers and strong English cheese, and brought out a personal tray and set it next to my depleted child.
"How about a shoulder rub for just a few minutes?"
As I put pressure on the knots twisted up from stress, and the drink and snacks were consumed, my child looked at me, breathing out the weariness and said, "I think you have influenced me more to love God by your great snacks and shoulder rubs than anything else you ever did!"
When God created the world, he did not make us just people of intellect and understanding, but people who had senses that made us feel the touch of a hand, the splendor and taste of a well-cooked meal, the soothing sounds of rain pattering down or music wafting through a room, the delight of purple mountains amidst fluffy clouds. We are multi-dimensional beings who are stronger, healthier when all of these differing needs are attended to.
As we seek to influence the thinking, faith, love of our children, it will be as we do the work of serving, over and over again, of exercising thoughtful and kind deeds, thousands of times, one moment at a time. Someone has to do the work of life that results in pleasurable moments--and when there are children involved, it is often the mama who is the tireless servant, worker, leader.
To have a model of this servant leadership, we ponder just how Christ had such an impact on his own followers.
Bending his knee on the hard, dusty floor, Jesus face creased in deep thought as he grabbed a rough towel. Longing to reach the hearts of his beloved friends, He knelt to touch them, to serve them, to feed them, showing the depths of His love for them through his gentle, intentional gestures. And after he had done all of this, he began to teach and encourage them.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end ...Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. ~ John 13:1, 3-5
Jesus' call to His disciples was compelling; a call to lay down their lives, to serve, to experience rejection and even persecution. He was asking them to believe something that would eventually cost each one of their lives--that He, a carpenter from Nazareth, was actually the Messiah.
The darkness of the evening must have matched his heavy heart. And so what did He do ... before breaking bread and pouring wine, before letting Himself be broken?
He washed 120 toes.
What an example for us as we live life with our children! (I have often mentioned this when I have spoken at conferences, because it stops me in my tracks over and over again--he has not asked me to do what he has not already done!)
Jesus was going to transfer to His disciples the responsibility of taking God's message of redemptive love to the world. But instead of just telling them what to do, harshly commanding their allegiance with orders and threats or guilt and manipulative statements, He chose to tie the cords of His heart to theirs with the strong and unbreakable bond of a loving, serving relationship.
Jesus spent His last night on earth with His disciples in service to them. How powerful their memories of that night must have been--the King of the whole universe touching and rubbing their dusty feet and gently drying them with a towel. Their Lord and Master breaking the loaf of bread and serving each of them for the celebrated feast of Passover.
Jesus' example of servant leadership set Him apart from so many historical religious leaders. He was not a God who lorded it over His followers and demanded they follow Him or coerced their obedience through authoritarianism and fear. Instead, He called them to the excellence of holiness and yet lovingly served them in order to win their hearts and show them the means of reaching others' hearts as well.
Contemplating the hearts of my own children and seeking to teach them about the grace of God, I realize my love and service to them must come before any of my great words, my teaching and training. My time, my attention, my "soft-tickling"--even when I am tired or have other "important" things n my mind--is what builds our relationship and prepares them to listen to what I have to say. Only then, once the wells of their need are filled with the grace of being loved, will my words to them about God's grace finally make sense.
Ultimately, the heart of a leader is to love God and out of that love, to serve generously as Jesus himself modeled for us through all the moments of His life.
I hope you will enjoy the podcast today. I have an introduction to this whole issue of the heart of a leader at the first part of the podcast. Kristen is going to take a break for a couple of weeks with her sweet baby. But as an extra treat, I have included an excerpt from the cd of the Lifegiving Home conference cd. I hope you enjoy this special podcast and excerpts from the conference.
A little excerpt from The Lifegiving Home conference series. Hope it encourages.