June 8, 2012

Serving others with humility

Humility is a rare quality that is like a shadow; as soon as you step into it, it moves. That is, as soon as I think I am humble, I lose it. Unrelated to humility (or so I thought) I used to tell my servant-hearted mother (who had difficulty with allowing others to serve her) that I could hardly wait to be like her and have others do things for me. 
I never connected my loving logic with a need to be humble, but today it crosses my mind. I’m reading where Jesus offered an example of humble action by washing the feet of His disciples. This was a task normally done by servants. When He came to Peter, this man had other ideas.
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)
George Bowen writes, “Whatever hinders us from receiving a blessing that God is willing to bestow upon us is not humility, but the mockery of it. A genuine humility will ever feel the need of the largest measures of grace, and will be perfected just in the degree in which that grace is bestowed. The truly humble man will seek to be filled with all the fullness of God, knowing that when so filled there is not the slightest place for pride or for self.”

I’ve thought of humility not so much as having a low attitude about one’s self, but as never thinking much about myself at all, being more focused on others. Jesus had that attitude when He washed the dirty, perhaps smelly feet of His disciples. Yet Peter’s refusal to let this man who was God wash his feet is a definite lack of humility. Peter was too proud, too independent. He might have thought that refusing service from One who obviously should be served was a more honorable response to the basin and towel than sitting down and accepting Jesus’ actions.

Not so. Jesus made it clear that if anyone refuses to let Him take care of even their smallest need is not accepted as part of His following. He implies that a person who says no to the care of Christ cannot be a Christian. 

Eventually, my mother picked up the idea that it was okay to be served. In her dementia, she had to repeat things over and over, so with her change of heart, she began saying happily, “My son takes care of all my finances” and “The staff where I live do all my laundry.” She started to enjoy being cared for instead of feeling she needed to do all the caring.

While I realize wanting to be waited on could be vanity and pride (most likely my reason for teasing my husband that I need a houseboy), willingness to let anyone take care of me requires humility. I know that I am  spiritually needy and am happy to let God grant me grace in spiritual matters. But I am needy in other ways too, otherwise I would never pray for parking places, or wisdom when I go shopping, or help with a knotty problem.

Lord, feeling helpless is never a welcome feeling for most of us. I don’t like being unable or handicapped in any way, yet this is when You show Yourself most powerful on my behalf. You are willing to do anything for me, from helping me find lost car keys to granting me grace to be kind to difficult people. You serve me, and because of Your blessing on my life, I am able to serve You. Thank You.

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