Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Gospel of Servant-hood

Sunday's readings are still resonating with me:  If you want to be great in God's kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.  It sounds so straightforward and so simple.  Yet it's challenging to fully live out the gospel of servant-hood.

I heard a brief radio snippet of a Catholic speaker -- I believe it was Matthew Kelly -- and he was talking about our journeys.  We are all on a journey that begins in infancy and ends (at least the earthly part) when we die.  Each person we meet is somewhere on that journey; we don't know where when we encounter them; it's not for us to know.  So we need to have patience with them.  Isn't that just golden?

There isn't a lot of patience in the world today.  There's a lot of arrogance. We are swift to judge another as callus, ignorant, uncaring, selfish, stuck-up, petty . . . you name it! It is so hard to remember that we're on a journey; I'm on a journey, you're on a journey, our politicians are, our employers, our noisy neighbors, our homeless, our drug addicted, our children, our enemies, our "frienemies."

The choir did a communion anthem of a beautiful but not well-known hymn, "The Servant Song."  It begins thus,
Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are travelers on a road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I was convicted by how I unconsciously held that the "pilgrims" were people on the same journey as my own. That's not it, folks, not at all!  In fact, we are all "travelers on a road" and "we are here to help each other."  And that takes love.  It takes self sacrificing, non-judgmental, agape love.  Not the kind of mutual love where you are sweet to me and so then I am sweet to you, but the kind of love it takes to touch a leper; love that is born of sacrifice and respect.

In my daily life, I do not encounter lepers, but I have my own "untouchables."  Just yesterday, I called someone a "jackass," and worse, not to his face!  He's a pilgrim.  He's on a journey.  I might try a little patience and compassion.  I got sucked into the politics of it all.  I forgot I was a servant.  I was grabbing for some power.  There was a little "how dare he?" in my words.  Who's the jackass, by the way?

Home is where the Gospel of Servant-hood really comes into play, though.  Being a servant means loving each of my teens the best I can right where she is in their journey and not thinking she should be farther along. Serving my husband means listening to him and really caring what kind of day he had. It means seeing the cute in the 3-year-old's tears, the 4-year-old's sass and the 5-year-old's temper. It means supporting them, not ruling them. It means intimacy and that takes respect. It means taking time for each and every one of my people. Being a servant means remembering that relationships have seasons -- and being willing to stay on the boat when the sea is stormy.  As C. S. Lewis said in The Four Loves, "There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable."

Judging is easy. And by the way, I've noticed that when I judge someone, I'm usually wrong. If I get to know them better -- that intimacy again -- I see them differently. I can't see their journey when I'm judging them.  It takes compassionate eyes to see it. Only when I truly see them can I truly support them.

I'm not suggesting that we just say "she's perfect in God's eyes" and let it go; quite the opposite. Serving is active. If I see you have dog-doo on your shoe, I'm not letting you track it all over town. Agape love -- self sacrificing, non-judgmental, intimate love -- is active. Once we're in an intimate relationship, we can help each other. You can help me reach my goals and I can help you. I can ask you what would support you and then hold up my end of the deal. "I see you are fixing a ham sandwich and I remember you said you weren't eating meat today."  "I am committed to two hours of exercise each day. Will you ask me about my exercise if you see me sitting in front of the TV?" That sort of thing.

It's a lot to take in, but I know I can improve on my serving. I received an impetus from the prayers and petitions on Sunday when when we prayed for the strength to "acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel."  Lord, hear our prayer.

No comments:

Post a Comment