What I once learned about (cough) servanthood

(from 2009, written and filed away because I didn’t blog then…)

“Lord, I want to be like you,” I frequently prayed. I wanted to be emotionally available when faced with a deadline but friends called to interrupt and chat. I wanted to be kind when the teenage cashier complained about her job, tossing my carefully chosen produce down the checkout line like a bowling ball on espresso. I wanted to be calm when my youngest daughter spent 30 minutes in the hot shower after a $350 electric bill. I wanted to lovingly correct her instead of screaming over the sound of Niagara Fall$$, “What are you doing in there?? Are you sitting in the shower again?? GET OUT—NOW!!!”

And then my husband got MONO.

Did I mention that I worked full time…from a home office…and that at the time the office was in the bedroom? About four feet from the (ahem) sickbed? And that I had deadlines to meet?

He was feverish, weak, sleepless due to sore throat pain, and could barely eat. I scrambled eggs that he couldn’t swallow, washed sweat-soaked sheets, fixed super-healthy drinks that he couldn’t finish, did his laundry, made his phone calls (his throat was too sore), and I wanted to be done.

Our daughter turned 21 during that time and we had a large family gathering—on the back porch to avoid the germs. My husband waved at everybody through the sliding glass doors, then came out and sat on the fringe while she opened gifts. I baked a cake, shopped, wrapped gifts, served his parents cake and hot tea, and cleaned up the mess. I served.


What would Jesus do? The voice inside my head chided.

Jesus would heal that man instantly and we’d be done with this mess! The other voice inside my head snarled.

Now, now…relax…this is only temporary, said Good Voice calmly.

It’s been a week and it could go on for months! Bad Voice griped. (By the way…it did go on for months.)

The doctor said he might be better in a week. You can do this with a good attitude.

No!! I want to be done! I can’t serve anymore!

There is an old church chorus from the 80’s that incessantly swirled in my brain; the tune was stuck there and I was tired of hearing it. The words went something like this:

If you want to be grea a-a-a t….in God’s kingdom…learn to be the servant of all… 

I think Good Voice was trying to torment me, because Bad Voice wanted to slam that song into oblivion and beyond.

The tune is stupid and the words are so…80’s!

Bad voice! Down, girl!

Stop. Breathe. For a moment I silenced the voices and let rational thought take over. I realized that I hadn’t slept well since he got sick. He tossed and turned so I had headed for the couch—nothing compared to my lovely bed. My schedule was upside down so I had missed my devotions. I loved my time with my Bible and journal; regularly scheduled for the moment my husband left with my daughter for work and school. By that time I had taken over morning mom-taxi, leaving devotions for another day. I’d had no alone time; no silent household to cocoon my home office. No time for God’s word, no time for me, not enough time for deadlines, only time…to serve.

I looked at my husband. His misery was complete, his pain and fatigue so great, and he could not escape it. I tried to put myself in his shoes. They were not pretty shoes. I realized I’d much rather be healthy and overworked than sick, having to rely on someone else’s kindness to get me through the day.

“Lord, help me to be a servant!” I cried, my spirit sending up emergency flares. “My mom was a servant…why can’t I be one?” My husband interrupted with a small request; could I get him some cold water?

“Sure,” I answered. I handed him the water with a quiet smile. He knew nothing of the Voices. Some things are best left unsaid.

“Lord, help me to be a servant!” I cried again. Silence. Then a thought, perhaps it was an answer from the heavens.

“You are one.”

“But I don’t LIKE it!” I whined.

“But you’re doing it,” He whispered.

“Can you help me do it with a better attitude, then?” A little less whine this time.

“I AM,” He said. (Something He’s said before, in fact. In Exodus. To Moses. Who also whined.)

I cut myself some slack, remembering a verse about being a “doer” of the word, not just a “hearer.” I drew fresh strength from Him.

“Honey, can you…?” my husband called at that moment.

“I’ll be right there,” I answered. I went to him, humming quietly, “If you want to be grea-a-a t….in God’s kingdom…”

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