The Path of Service

It was a couple of months into the pandemic. Other than grocery shopping and going outside for fresh air and exercise, we were asked to stay home to contain the spread. My son and I were c1b761d7-8ef1-4631-b36d-42aaf5f259e2walking on the dirt path in the river valley near our home. We were approaching a section carved midway up the hill where one had to walk single file to reach a couple of flights of stairs that would take us up out of the ravine. We immediately noticed an unusual sight. An old man stood on the trail wielding a shovel. It was a warm day and there was sweat dripping from his brow. He was gouging out the side of the hill with this shovel and tossing his take down into the river. He was widening the path, so that two could walk together side by side. Every time I walk on that path now, which is often, I think about that man. While many of us were holed up in our homes, worried about ourselves and our loved ones, complaining about masks and restrictions, he was doing something positive. He was making the world a better place.

I’m reminded of Jesus at the last supper. In that day, their primary mode of transportation was their own two feet and there were no clean, orderly sidewalks, but a whole lotta dirt. People wore sandals and they arrived at their destinations with filthy, dirt-caked, barking dogs. The very idea that Jesus, their beloved rabbi, got up from the Passover meal, knelt down, wrapped a towel aroundf4dd986b-6b11-4b91-b924-d295088ef299 his waist, and proceeded to wash his disciples’ feet, floors me. By profession, I’m a health care aide who takes care of the elderly in a hospital setting. I’ve washed scads of feet and unpleasant is the politest way to describe it, though I don’t consider myself to be that polite, so gross, yucky, and vomitous would better suffice. 😉 People’s feet can be sweaty, oily, swiss-cheesy stinky, scaly, full of open sores, mangled to the point where their toes fold in on each other and can no longer be separated, and so desert dry that removing socks too quickly can leave one choking on a cloud of someone else’s white, flaky, dead skin. Yes. A big ewwwww. 😀 Jesus really did enter in. Matthew 20:28 says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Bad enough that He was on his way to the cross, but He took it on himself to wash a bunch of smelly men’s feet on His way out. He was a different kind of king and He really does love us.

The old man on the hill was serving, serving me and my son and countless others who walk that path every day. He was expending himself for the common good. He was washing my feet and doing it without being asked to or paid for it or even recognized or thanked, just doing it, quietly on the side of a hill, in the heat of the day, with the bugs swarming him. Whether he intended to or not, he was following the example of Jesus, something we, as Christians, are called to do. In John 15:12, Jesus said, My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

How did Jesus love us? He served us by making sacrifices to save us. He left heaven, glory, and the perfect love, fellowship, 597cad4f-aaf1-477e-83d6-aa4e15f6bffaand comfort of the Father and Holy Spirit. He gave up His privilege and power. Philippians 2:7 says Jesus emptied Himself, some translations say He made himself nothing. The one and only who fills the heavens and the earth became a zero. The God of the universe became a fetus, something, in this day, people liken to a pesky wart that needs to be excised. Philippians 2:6 tells us even though He was God, He didn’t need to cling to it. He was willing to let it go for us. HE WAS WILLING TO STOP BEING GOD WITH ALL THAT BEING GOD MEANS TO SERVE US. He considered us worth the sacrifice.

The kingdom life, as modeled by Jesus, is life given in service, wholly other focused. In Matthew 20:20-28, when James and John had the cheek to approach Jesus with their mother and she asked Him if her sons could have seats of honor in the new regime, it’s evident that these two disciples still hadn’t grasped who Jesus was or why he came. (As an aside, this story makes me laugh just thinking about it. Did they put her up to it? Who asks their mom to help them get a promotion? 😀 How long did it take for the other disciples to cool down after hearing about the Zebedee boys’ brash behaviour?) Jesus response is eye-opening. He’s humble. He tells them it’s not His place to decide who sits at His right or left, but God’s alone. In the aftermath, amidst the annoyed grumbles of the other disciples, he says, “You wanna be great? You wanna be first? Serve.” The last shall be first in the kingdom of God. Mind blowing and completely topsy-turvy. 

Jesus is the antithesis of what we’re brought up to be in this culture. We’re encouraged to be the winner, not the loser, the boss, not the employee, to become bigger, not smaller, to take as much as we can get, not give ourselves away, to pursue our happiness, to make our dreams come true, to push our agendas, to watch that our0b733697-6783-4a77-a54f-6a2ba188eb6e rights aren’t being trampled and to fight those who’re mistreating or taking advantage of us. The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Ohhhhhh. Look to the interest of others. Hmmmm. Is that going to cut into my “me” time? Yes. Most likely. Service requires sacrifice, doing something to assist someone else where there’s no benefit to oneself, a use of one’s physicality, giftedness, time and/or resources, an intentional going out of one’s way. Toward the end of my dad’s life, my mom took up watching sports with him. She didn’t assert her preferences and demand he watch what she wanted. She learned the rules of various games and the names of the teams and players. She spent time with him, doing something that he enjoyed doing.

For me, this would be a true sacrifice. 😉 I’d rather play sports than watch them. In fact, I’m a player and I’m not talking about a member of a sports team or someone who misleads others romantically, but someone who really likes to play. I wish all of life could be about play and I’ve lived to that end. I’m a big kid, a Peter Pan or 4cc71f4b-970a-46b7-b341-902a0d474baePeter Polly, if you will, never wanting to grow up. Responsibilities, chores, service, it all sounds so adult-ish and boring to me. When I think of service, I equate it with work and work is, as far as I’m concerned, annoyingly necessary, but something I’d ditch if I could. I admit to being selfish with my time, especially as I’ve gotten older. When I was young, I daydreamed about being older and growing up seemed to be dawdling, but somewhere, somebody hit the fast forward button and, now, I look at what time I might have left, before I become a cold, rank, disgusting bag of meat and I say, “Hold on here. There’s still so much I want to do. No. I don’t have time for what you want to do.” As a Christian, who believes that eternity is now, this is wrong thinking. If I have more than all the time in the world, if I really am on Heaven time, as opposed to Mountain Standard Time, “time and all eternity” time, then there’s plenty of time for what I and others want to do. 

My mom went much further than watching sports. At the end of my dad’s life, when his dementia had altered his personality and he had become aggressive, even violent, we could hardly separate img_1759her from him. We begged her to move into her own place, but she would have none of it. We finally convinced her to live in the room across the hall only a few months before he died. She stayed with him, held on to him, because she made a promise some 66 years ago that she would be there for him no matter what. She helped him, loved him, put up with his bizarre, sometimes scary behaviour, even though the man she married was largely no longer there. She stayed with him even to her detriment, this once spry woman deteriorating rapidly, as she cared for him through the stress of his suffering and death.

As a health care aide, I was trained to assist people with their mobility, to steady them, but if they’re on their way down, actually falling, I’m not to get in their way. Sure, I might be lucky enough to lower them to the ground, but that’s about it. I’m to do what I can to protect my patients, but protecting my own mobility is paramount. I’m useless to them and others, if I put myself in harms way and become incapacitated along with them.ff70b6aa-0f09-45dc-9896-fcd530e58760

I heard a story once about a friend of a friend. Two families were hiking up a mountain together, when one of the teenage girls in the group lost her footing on the scree and began to tumble down toward a cliff and certain death. My friend’s friend jumped in front of her to stop her, but he was unsuccessful. Both lost their lives. Jesus not only got in the way, but He took the fall. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He sought us out when we were still on the outs with God and restored that relationship. e55ae901-6cfb-4ddd-ac2d-4bdf93fdf7b7He sacrificed to come to earth, He willingly died, a sacrifice, to make atonement for our sins, and as our risen Saviour, He still serves us today, living to intercede on our behalf (Rom. 8:34). In Jesus’ case, his sacrifice didn’t render him useless. On the contrary, Jesus’ sacrifice resulted in the restoration of what he willingly left behind; majesty, glory, and power, on top of the redemption of many souls. Jesus’ sacrifice multiplied blessing.

This is how God’s economy works and it’s baffling. We on earth are always on the take, but God invites us to sacrifice, to give, to lose. Lose to win. Give to gain. Sacrifice and reap the rewards. (Matt. 16:24-27) The key to abundant life is in giving ourselves to God, as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), as our Lord Jesus did, to be used and used up for His purposes, in the service of others. I think of police officers and firefighters who put their lives on the line daily in our communities and the men and women in the military, those we remember on this Remembrance Day here in Canada, who so selflessly risk their lives to fight for our freedom and I’m humbled, grateful, and convicted. If we want life, raw, wild, and huge, with meaning, adventure, and joy, we must give, give, and give again. Let’s be bold enough to give until it hurts and see what happens. When we do this, we’ll find the narrow gate, the buried treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the way to heaven and heaven on earth. There’s no doubt in my mind, we’ll get back more than we give. This is a promise. Jesus says in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I ask you, my friends, for prayer, that God will move in my selfish heart and pivot me from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness and Other-centeredness, spurring me on to the path of service. May it be so for us all.

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The feature photo was taken by me in Lethbridge, Alberta of the path. The rest of the photos are from Pixabay. All photos are edited and most are my combinations of two or more photos. Posts come out when I feel like it. 😀 Scroll down to the bottom of the page to follow me or sign up to receive my posts via email. Listen to my posts on Spotify. Follow me on Instagram. Take a peek at my Redbubble store: Pollyeloquent.redbubble.com. See samples of my products below most posts. Thank you for giving me some of your precious time!

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