But here's the thing, selfishness is not where I intend to stay! Here's the kicker for those who've only known me a short time and fallen prey to my selfish motives... I've already come a LONG WAY on this journey since I met that amazing man named Jesus!! It's a beautiful encounter, the conviction of the Lord, He teaches, corrects, brings freedom and changes your heart in such an intimate way that it feels like I'm simply stepping out to dance to a song I've never heard before, the rhythm is new and the music is magnetic and I desire it, I deeply desire to learn this dance, this conviction creates a hunger in me for more of whatever that "newness" is! He draws me closer and I learn to lean on His lead and as we dance, I'm transformed. This is how I experience "conviction", no punishment, no shame, no condemnation, simply illumination that brings a desire to be empowered to grow beyond my own limitations and I hold His hand as He walks with me every.single.step of the way. And thus is the journey to greater self-less-ness.
A week ago we had a devotional about "a servants heart" as part of our preparation for one of our team conference calls and since that day, everywhere I look, I keep seeing the picture painted by John 13 in this devotion:
“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. . . . So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.’”
Foot washing was the business of servants. It was the dirty work of the lowly as they cleaned the dusty, and no doubt gnarly, feet of others who had trekked miles in shoes that weren’t quite as well-made or protective as shoes are today. Think of a fairly nasty job you wouldn't stoop down to do. That is essentially what Jesus was doing. But it wasn’t just about foot washing, it was about humbling Himself before others, about denying Himself and disregarding the majesty and glory due to Him and putting others first. Jesus adopted a lowly posture before others to demonstrate His love for them, and to give us an example of how we are to treat other people.
God had already been speaking to me for sometime (years even), highlighting areas in my life where I had selfishly "esteemed" myself higher than I ought to. So this devotional was good medicine for the soul that came in perfect timing. I keep thinking of this passage and envisioning this picture like it's the first time I've ever heard it ~ day in and day out, multiple times a day...I think of a situation that I can barely stomach and see this picture of Jesus. I immediately began to ponder exactly what the devotional asks "think of a nasty job you wouldn't stoop down to do"...and I began to wonder, what would Jesus' radical actions look like if this story played out here & now, in my life in 2014 in big, bad, Buckman, Minnesota. And to top that, now what would the lowliest of disgusting jobs look like in Haiti! Bet it's worse than I could even imagine in my pampered lil American life. And my heart began to swell with desire, desire that I'd have a longing in my heart to do these jobs selflessly, to become that kind of expression of love, that I'd not overlook any single job that is so lowly that I'd take it for granted by not even acknowledging it happens, that my heart would be filled with gratitude to the point of action to honor every single person who serves and fills these jobs that MUST be done...and that I'd become one who does these jobs. That is not a natural desire of the heart, and I'd dare to say it's probably even a more dangerous prayer...to want to be put in the lowliest of jobs! Rationally speaking for a moment, are you sure about this Maria???? Yep, my heart is actually growing with a fire-filled desire to be a servant in the most lowly of places, to really learn love to this degree. Even more that I wouldn't even have a paradigm to measure what is considered "too lowly" and what is considered "acceptable". Am I anywhere near ready to walk this out without faltering, probably not as I am a poster-child germophobe who nearly vomits when I have to uncrinkle dirty, crusty, socks that sat for weeks at the bottom of the hamper from my very own family whom I love the snot-out-of...literally. To put them in the wash as I peel each one of those stinky, hardened, dirt-balls called socks apart my gag-reflex is induced uncontrollably....so yeah, you can find me in the laundry room sounding like a college kid with a hang-over every Monday & Tuesday on "laundry day"...so I may have a long way to go....but there's a fire in my heart to be transformed and I can't contain it!
For months this has been growing with intensity, ever-increasing in the recent weeks...all day long I see these things in a whole new light. I get flashbacks of memories from Africa, too many moments to share, like when our humble bus driver's took our left-over food to eat as their meal because they couldn't afford their own and so they ravenously eat the scraps of a stranger and I feel conviction for how I took them for granted, not honoring them with a real meal and did not serve them the way Jesus would have and I wonder if I were in their shoes would eating a stranger's thrown-away food be too lowly for me?
I'm overwhelmed with conviction to the point of tears of gratitude silently running down my cheeks, when I see the garbage man pull up and jump out without a moment of hesitation and grab our filthy, disgusting, garbage can overflowing with used cat litter, babies used diapers and all the other unmentionable rotten things we've tossed in there to the point of my disgust beyond the ability to even drag my own garbage can to the end of our driveway without wearing gloves...and as he lifts the can, garbage falls to the ground all around him and he picks it right up, cleans up the mess our cat made by ripping the garbage bag open for all the contents to fall out...and suddenly my heart swells and I break down in tears as I watch this scene and I can't even believe how long I've taken these men for granted in my own life, watching them week after week from my kitchen window early in the morning sunrise, no matter what the temperature, they're faithfully here every Thursday to haul my garbage away so that I don't have to smell or look at it and I'm humbled at their hearts of true service. I wonder if I could do their job with the same commitment to such quality service. I literally ponder what my heart's attitude would be if I had to jump out, pick up some stranger's garbage with my two hands and serve them in this manner, every day, all day ~ even when it's -30 degrees.
I feel conviction as I sit in a McDonald's booth (cringing from head to toe in my germophobe nature) watching an employee clean up the filth of half-eaten food scraps from the floor and empty the overflowing garbage that I can't even stand to acknowlege is within a few feet of me as I attempt to eat my meal. And I think to myself, time and again, in these types of situations that are being supernaturally highlighted to me "how incredibly thankful I am for that person's service", I'm overcome in those moments watching these people serve to the fullest degree in jobs that I don't know if I could handle and the Lord humbles my heart to see examples of true servants in the faces of these people who are working to serve me and suddenly my heart swells (to my surprise) at the thought of a chance to be the one that serves in these kinds of ways with a cheerful heart, to be humbled and selfless and to be so filled with the love of God that nothing, literally nothing would be too lowly for "me" and that I would no longer think higher of myself than I ought to.
And I feel conviction when I've been home all week alone holding down the fort with the kiddos, a sickly baby hanging on my legs, with unrelenting whining ringing in my ears, and the MOMENT my husband comes in the front door all I want to do is escape so I can feel the bliss of silence for even just a MOMENT and be freed from this baby that has grown to be my third leg! So I don't even enterain the idea of how my husband may need to be served after a long week away from home. I can't dare to imagine that when we all can't attend a family birthday party we've been looking forward to due to the baby's flu, that I'd be the one to offer to stay home to care for her!! I selfishly want to be the parent that goes to the party because I want to be freed from puking baby duty. I want to have adult conversation. I want to enjoy my sons without the distraction of a sick, crying baby. I want to get out of the house! Then a whisper comes and says "It would be much more self-less to stay home, serve your sick daughter as only you can, she desires you, allow your sons some bonding time with their dad they missed all week, while he enjoys his side of the family"....and my HEART SWELLS at the thought of serving my family in this manner, so I swallow my pride, confess my selfishness to my family and I do it. I stay home and I throw a big-girl sized baby tantrum, right next to my puking daughter as we both sit crying on the floor because I'm still exhausted, I'm still selfish, I still don't fully want to be here and I'd still much prefer to be having fun at the birthday party....but my heart did swell when the Lord spoke and so I know that I know, there is a work of transformation being done here.