“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Early this morning, as I was contemplating climbing out of bed in my Oxford flat, Joy, who is sharing my bedroom while visiting from Scotland, looked over at me and said, "Stay there. I will make you a cup of tea and then all of life will seem plausible."
Eventually I came down the stairs and sat down to candlelight, music and a cup of tea with a tiny plate of fruit and cheese. I felt welcomed into my morning.
"Mama, you are the queen of serving. You take care of everybody in the world's needs. So, today, I want to remind you that you are worth being taken care of. You are of great value to all who know you."
It almost brought tears to my eyes. So often, I am used to caring for others, providing meals, sending encouragement, doing the tasks of friend, spouse and mothering well, that I just assume I need to take care of everyone, without even thinking someone will think of me. Do you ever feel that way?
We must not forget that all of our tasks matter when we serve others. But we must also make room for others to give back. Yet, now as all of my children are adults and spread to the far winds, it is sweet to see they still remember, they have noticed a little of what it takes to mother our tribe. I am learning new ways as a grandmother, here in another culture, where I need to make meals, help with chores, hold a sweet baby, while still getting my own flat ready for Clay to come.
As I look back, I realize I always found that the best way I could teach my children how to serve with a willing and joyous heart was simply to do it myself—to be a model of the kind of attitude I wanted them to learn. And of course this happened before I asked them to serve, trained them and helped them to follow through. And I found that when I took the time to serve them personally, their hearts softened and they were willing to listen to my training.
Joy, my youngest child, has always responded to gifts of service. One year, when we were going to be out of town a lot, I had the idea of helping Joy pack her suitcase, something she usually did on her own. She had seemed particularly moody and unhelpful in the previous few days, but I just sat on the floor in her room, helped her select outfits and shoes, and fit them all into her suitcase with her. The longer we sat, the chattier she got, and I watched her countenance soften. When I stood up at the end, she hugged me and said, “Thanks for serving me, Mama. I know you’re busy, but it means a lot to me.”
Companionship is another important aspect; having my children serve alongside me. Clay and I involved the kids in almost every aspect of our ministry from the start. Sarah and Joel sealed envelopes and stamped newsletters; all of them babysat kids of the parents we counseled; they served at conferences, and carried suitcases for the moms who came to our ministry events. “If it is God’s will for us to be in ministry, it’s God’s will for you to be, too,” we said.
We started every conference with an evening of training for our kids and the volunteers, talking about why we ministered and what kind of heart we wanted them to have for our guests.
Now, they all say that the conferences taught them how to work hard and to have a self-image that they are also called to serve. But we actually had lots of fun and fulfillment hosting our conferences. It shaped our souls and formed our values together.
If your children’s actions and attitudes are at least in part a reflection of you, are you happy with what you see? Ask the Lord to change what He needs to change.