I don’t know about you, but I really like it when other people do things for me. In fact, sometimes I expect it.
Wow, is that honest or what? That’s something most of us wouldn’t say out loud. But it’s something that has been showing up in my heart many times lately, revealed through my reactions to people around me.
Unfortunately, my marriage is where it pops up most frequently. A scenario that occurs over and over again is me “slaving” in the kitchen preparing a hot meal for my husband, while he chills out in the air-conditioned bedroom, reading or catching up on news back home. I feel annoyed when he doesn’t hover over my shoulder, asking how he can help, or doesn’t set the table without asking. We eat together, and I find myself thinking about the ultimate question: “Is he going to do the dishes for me?”
And guess what – once in a while, after spending hours outside driving to and from villages, standing in the heat, talking in another language, he is too tired. He showers and heads to bed.
And how does my heart react? I feel angry. I think about how much work I put into cleaning the house, cooking food, and now, washing dishes by myself (which normally takes all of fifteen minutes). “Doesn’t he know how tired I am, how much I want to go to sleep?” But what I’m really asking is, “Why doesn’t he want to serve me?”
It doesn't matter how many times he's done the dishes before. Or the fact that he works incredibly hard every day helping others and providing for me. All my heart is focused on is that moment.
In writing out that scenario – just one example of how my desire to be served by others is revealed – I see how foolish and selfish it is. And it’s sobering to think of how many times I feel irritated or frustrated by the actions of others, because my heart is saying, “Do it for me! Serve me! Treat me like your queen! Make me comfortable!” Because trust me, it happens. A lot.
In Matthew, Jesus says the leaders of this world expect to be served by others. Actually, I think all humans want to be served by others. When you have authority, it’s just easier to demand it. But Jesus says his followers are to be different. We should look for ways to love others, to lay down what we want, and to become the servant of the people around us. And Jesus gave us the example of his own life – the heavenly Ruler coming to earth, not to demand anything from us, but to give his life for us, and to serve our ultimate need for redemption.
This whole idea of serving others totally goes against what our human nature demands and the world expects. Is this natural to anyone? Even if we do things for other people, we still expect to get something good out of it - a nice word, a slap on the back, improved self esteem, or more respect from other people. But what happens when we don't get any of that? If you're me, you feel angry, annoyed, or less inclined to help out someone who doesn't "appreciate me".
Many times, our emotional reactions reveal who we think the real god is in our lives. Guess what? It's me. It's you. We like to think we are little gods who deserve a certain level of treatment from others. And when we don't get it, we often react badly. It’s easy to brush off our emotions, blaming it on the other person, and carry on in our lives without examining what’s really going on underneath the surface. What are my emotions telling me about my heart in this moment?
I am so thankful we have a Savior who showed us what it means to lay down our lives to serve others – our spouses, families, friends, and coworkers – in a way that will show them what God’s love is like. It’s a reminder that changing how I respond in difficult circumstances starts with letting God change my heart. I can't bluff my way to loving others; it can only come from a heart that's been transformed.
Because only God can give me a desire to serve others like Jesus.