Monday, May 10, 2010

A Servant's Heart

For those of you who are interested, this is the devotional I gave at our church's mother/daughter tea:

A Servant’s Heart

One of the best words to describe a mom is “Busy!” Meeting our husband’s needs, taking care of our children, homeschooling, cooking, laundry, cleaning, running errands, trying make a dollar stretch, making necessary phone calls…all of these things can seem overwhelming at times.

While preparing for this devotional, I read through Proverbs 31. I don’t know about you, but the Proverbs 31 woman has always seemed like an ideal of wife and motherhood that I can not possibly ever attain. Yet, if I set aside my insecurities and truly study this passage, I always learn from it. The verse that spoke to me the most this time was Proverbs 31:31. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. This just shows me, yet again, that the Proverbs 31 woman was not lazy. Her time was spent caring for and meeting the needs of her family.

At times life can seem overwhelming to us moms. At least that is how I feel sometimes. I have learned that when I try to do everything on my own strength, I fail miserably.

Everything we do should be for the purpose of glorifying the Lord. As mundane as these tasks may seem, this includes washing dishes, teaching fourth grade grammar and wiping runny little noses. When I have the attitude of doing these things as unto the Lord, these tasks become a joy instead of drudgery. When I think of all that the Lord has done for me, sending His only Son to die on the cross for my sins, how can I not do these household tasks with a joyful spirit?

This does not always mean that I am happy and chipper. Sometimes I am but not always. Often I am tired and often I don’t “feel” like doing these tasks. But when I remember that I am doing them “unto the Lord” I still have the joy of the Lord deep inside.

It is important that we go about our tasks with a joyful spirit instead of acting like a martyr. I think sometimes we moms relish the role of a martyr. “Oh, I am so overworked and underappreciated.” Again, if we remember why we are doing our wifely and motherly jobs, it greatly helps us to do them with joy.

Our husbands would much rather come home to a cheerful wife than a grumpy one. I have noticed that my mood often sets the tone for the whole family. And a joyful spirit goes a long way with our children, too. Simple gestures like a friendly, “Good morning!” or an “I love you” or a pat on the arm as they walk by or a “How is your day going?” mean the world to a child. And, as with our husbands, it is much more pleasant for a child to spend the day with a cheerful, content mom than it is to spend the day with a grumpy or distracted mom.

Another thing that took me awhile to learn is that my plans for the day may not be the Lord’s plans for me that day. I may want to clean out the hall closet that day but I may need to deal with a child who is having an attitude problem instead. One good way to tell whether the Lord wants us to change our plans is to ask ourselves, “What will truly matter in light of eternity?” A cluttered hall closet will not matter, but a child who goes into adulthood with a rebellious heart certainly will matter.

When one of my children come to me with a problem, however large or small, I need to take the time to truly listen, to make eye contact with them and to respond in a loving manner. When two of the children are having a disagreement, I need to take the time to help them work through it in a Christ honoring manner. As a parent, I need to make sure I am teaching and edifying my children in the things of the Lord. This is part of having a servant’s heart.

I feel that I would be remiss if I did not mention that, as precious as it is to spend time with our children, the Lord and our husband need to be the two priorities over our children.

We will be much better wives and moms if we spend time in God’s Word and prayer. I know this is very difficult to fit into our busy schedules but I can sure tell a difference when I am not spending time in the Word. I think of the story of busy Martha, who wanted a perfect meal for her guests, and Mary, who listened at Jesus’ feet. Luke 10:40-42 tells us which of these sisters pleased Jesus the most:  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I don’t know about you but I tend to err on the side of being a Martha instead of a Mary in this area.

We moms do not have hours and hours to sit and study God’s Word and pray. I have found a tool that really works for me is to listen to the Bible on CD. As I am doing different tasks around the house, I will put a CD in and listen to it. I really like this because often my children will listen, too. I have also found that a really good time to pray is when I go for my walks. There are no distractions and I can just spend time talking to the Lord. A side benefit is that it distracts me from what ever pain I may be having as I try to increase my walking time.

We will also be doing our children a great disservice if we do not make our marriage a top priority. Children who grow up in a home with constant tension between Mom and Dad will have a much harder time in life. They will feel more insecure and they will have a difficult time having a Godly marriage if it was not demonstrated for them while they were growing up.

I want to add something else here, which is a side note, but has been important for me in my marriage. I think sometimes we, as wives, can get bitter when it seems that our work is never ending and our husbands have set hours to work and then they are done. I really used to struggle because it seemed that my work was never done and Jeff seems to have more time to spend in the Word, exercise and pursue other passions. However, the Lord has really spoken to me about this over the years. I came to realize that I am Jeff’s helpmate and not the other way around. I have learned not to nag or give Jeff the silent treatment into doing jobs around the house. Basically, I expect nothing from him in the area that are traditionally the wife’s job. This goes against what the world and many believers teach. Jeff does help me around the house, quite a bit actually. But I am now grateful when he does this instead of upset when he does not. And a huge side benefit to this is that, if I expect nothing from Jeff when it comes to helping with the household jobs, when he does help, which is actually fairly often, I am very thankful instead of feeling bitter when he does not help.

At first this next point may not seem to go along with the theme of the servant’s heart but another thing that has been important to my marriage is to really, truly get to know Jeff and his preferences. In the ideal world, when the husband comes home from work, the house is neat, supper is nearly ready, the children are clean and quiet, the wife looks her best and greets her husband at the door fully prepared to devote the next twenty minutes to just him. This might have happened once at our house. I have learned that the most important things to Jeff is that I am available to him for a little while when he gets home. He really doesn’t care if we don’t eat for awhile or if the house is spotless. However, he loves it when I am there to greet him and spend a few minutes with just him when he gets home. I have come to really look forward to that time of the day as well. In other ways areas, as well, it is important to know what is important to our husband. As wives, we need to make his priorities, our priorities. We are having a servant’s heart by putting his desires above our wishes. From a human perspective, this does not seem fair but I have learned that the rewards are great. It makes our relationship with our husbands closer and, most importantly, it is pleasing to the Lord. And, not that we should do it for this reason, but I have also found that when I desire to please Jeff, it goes a long way towards his desiring to please me in every way he can.

If we do all these wifely and motherly duties to look good to others or out of obligation, it is going to go for naught. Our hearts need to be right with the Lord when we do it. We need to do it for the right reasons which is our love for Christ and our desire to glorify Him.

Having a servant’s heart is not always easy. When I was talking to Jeff about this devotional and asking him for ideas, he suggested the story of the women who ministered to Jesus while He was here on earth. Mark 15:40-42 says, There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem. And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath. The phrase “Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;” really stood out to me when I read this passage. These were women who chose to be servants to Jesus. In the same way, we as moms are choosing to be servants to Jesus when we care for our families. One interesting thing to note is that these women were the ones who were with Jesus when He was crucified. Unlike the disciples, who with the exception of John, had run away when Jesus was arrested, these women, who had basically been “just” servants to Jesus and His disciples, had more courage and a greater trust in Jesus than the men who had been taught by Jesus for three years. In my opinion, the reason the women were at the cross was because they had a servants heart. The reason most of the disciples fled was because they did not have a servant’s heart yet. Remember, they were the ones who argued about who would sit at Jesus’ Right Hand in Heaven.

Being a servant does not mean that you have lesser value to the Lord. If you are a servant as unto man than it is going to appear that you have lesser value because mankind sees servants as having lesser value. But when you do it unto the Lord, you are serving the King of Kings of Lord and Lords and it can’t get any better than that. And it has eternal values rather than earthly values.

If we are going to do anything of eternal value it has to be of service to the Lord. If we do it for ourselves or to impress others, it is not going to last. So what ever you do here on earth, do it for the Lord. However big or however seemingly small. However important or however seemingly unimportant. Significant or seemingly insignificant. Whether you are praised or not praised. Do it all unto the Lord and the rewards will be great.


Christine said...

Thank you for sharing this, my sweet friend. You are such a Titus 2 woman to me and I get encouragement on this journey everytime I have contact with you. Thanks for being such a servant, a transparent and real servant with great wisdom.

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Lisa @ HappyinDoleValley said...

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my recent post this morning. That Calvin quote has been one I've taken great comfort in over the years. :) Clicking over I discovered this post written by you some time ago and was infinitely encouraged as I'm currently working through my own personal Martha/Mary tension. As one who wants to be like Mary but is Martha through and through, I've put this before the Lord asking Him to change me, my heart in this area. The spirit is willing but the flesh is oh-so-weak! In addition, I've been discussing Proverbs 31 with a dear friend and mentor and the tension there between domestic pursuits and being a strong woman, and so truly appreciated reading your thoughts. I'm working on a blog post on the topic and would invite you to take a look once I post it which I'm hoping to do in the next week or so. So nice to have made your acquaintance here in blog land, :)