For those of you who are new to the Christian language, there is a phrase we use called “Servant’s Heart”. We use it to describe a person who is motivated by love to serve. In other words, a person with a servant’s heart is Christ-like and knows how to put other’s needs above their own. On a few occasions, I have had people come up to me and compliment me on my positive attitude when it comes to serving, which is very kind of them. However, don’t be fooled, I did not come into the world this way.
This is the story of the girl who was born without a servant’s heart.
There was a time when the topic of serving made me cringe. When pastors preached about serving others it always made me feel terrible, because I knew I was not built to serve. “You need to serve people like Christ!” the pastor would say enthusiastically from the podium, to which I would think, “I know, I KNOW, but it’s just so hard.”
I believed people were either born with this humble, energetic , laying-down-my-life-is-awesome kind of attitude, or they weren’t, and I was definitely the latter. Even as a child, serving never came easy to me. I had chores growing up, like many kids, but many times when my mom told me to do them, I would grumble, dramatically say I felt like Cinderella, and if I was frustrated enough, there would be tears.
When I became a teenager, it got worse. My outlook on life was, “I will help if I have to, but if I don’t have to, I won’t.” At home I did the bare-minimum, and in my life, I was more concerned about comfort and my agenda then helping others. For me, taking initiative to do something was like kryptonite to Superman—it was avoided at all costs.
As you can imagine, when my mom asked me if I would be willing to take care of my grandma (for nine months) while she recovered from a serious illness, it was fairly depressing for me. For one, I was worried about my grandma. But mostly, since I was home-schooled at the time, this meant ALL DAY and EVERY DAY I would have to cater to her.
And this is when everything changed.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
The Business of Serving
The first week or two, I was able to do it with a smile on my face. However, as I became more comfortable, it was harder to keep that mask on. I noticed I became more impatient with her, I took longer to get her things she wanted, and honestly, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. It was my job to clean, cook, fetch anything she wanted. I was not able to leave for long periods of time, and with every interruption, I fell further behind on school work. It was like my life was slowly being taken away. At the end of the day, I was a teenager who tried her best, but was ready for this whole “servant business” to be over with.
One day, after taking an hour to get her something, and then barely acknowledging her after, my grandma was fed up. She said, “Hey! Stop being so rude. You keep coming in here with an attitude but you need to learn how to be like Christ and serve me with joy.”
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I was so embarrassed and upset. It wasn’t because I disagreed with her, it was because I knew she was right, but for the first time, I realized my shortcomings had hurt her. She didn’t know when she corrected me, but deep in my heart, I hated how I was when it came to serving. I really wanted to be that awesome Christian girl who loved helping people, who served with joy and was like Jesus. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I always fell short and went right back to my usual habits.
I felt like the worst Christian ever when she said that. I didn’t even want to serve my sick, helpless grandma. I was so ashamed. I went back to my room and cried for a while, apologizing to God and later I apologized to my grandma. That night, I came to the conclusion that I would need God to intervene because I was failing on my own.
From then on, every day I prayed for God to teach me how to serve with a good attitude and help me WANT to serve. I prayed it every time I became frustrated, when I noticed I was being impatient, and every time I was desperate for God to change me.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
God brought me to John 15:13 a few weeks later. After reading it, I knew He was telling me the only way I could fully love, is if I died to my desires, my freedom, my agenda, my comfort, and sacrificed my life for other people. It wasn’t so much the act, as much as the attitude. It was a very terrifying and profound statement. If I did not learn how to freely lay down my life, I would never really know how to love.
A Change of Heart
Over the next few months, I noticed helping my grandma was becoming easier. Serving was starting to feel less like a chore and more like an opportunity to love. As my attitude changed, so did my perspective. I started seeing my grandma as a daughter of God, who was a queen in the eyes of her Father, and less like this lazy grandma who took pleasure in making me a slave. Also, my homework was getting done earlier, I was more joyful, and my grandma and I became really close.
“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
The best surgeon in the world came and gave me a heart transplant. For the parts that were missing or diseased, the Holy Spirit operated on my heart to repair and heal me. He taught me how to serve others as though I was serving Christ Himself and gifted me with a heart that would continue to grow in servant hood and in love.
For this girl who was born without a servant’s heart, I was given the Father’s heart. This was not my doing, the glory belongs to Him.
Now, the story does not end there. God has continued to work in my heart to such a degree that today, I will actually look for opportunities to serve and volunteer. For instance, I teach older people how to use technology and work with computers. I spend hours showing them step-by-step how to send e-mails, print documents, etc. Why do they come to me? They usually say it’s because I am very patient, and then with a solemn face they add, “and because my grandchildren don’t want to take the time to help me.” It makes me sad because I can see how it hurts them but then I remember, I was that same grandchild only a few years ago…
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
-1 John 4:12
God is Here to Help
This isn’t simply a post about the joys of serving. This is a story about God’s grace, about His love, and about His redeeming power in our lives. I want to remind you Princesses that God is not afraid to get His hands dirty in your heart. You may think, “Oh! I’m not patient enough with my parents. I’m not generous enough to people in need. I’m not brave enough to tell people about Jesus. I’m not… enough.”
However, God doesn’t love you because you are enough, a perfect Christian or because you have it all together.
He sacrificed His life for you and loved you before you became a princess, while you were still a sinner, while you were muddy and dressed in rags. He knew you before you were born and said, “I love her. I love her so much I will die for her and make her new. I love her so much I will change her name from Sinner to Righteous, from Outcast to Daughter, from Broken to Whole. She will be my beloved child and I will be her God.”
The same Jesus who died those many years ago lives today, and is here to help you. Okay, so you don’t love people enough? Ask God to teach you how. You tend to have an attitude when you don’t get your way? Ask God to change your thinking and give you patience. You gossip about people in school? Ask God to help you to honor them through your words. You may think it is impossible to change, but believe me, I’m a living testimony of the miracles God can do the moment you utter the words, “Come Holy Spirit. I need you.” This is His grace. This is His love. This is the heart of Jesus.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
Princesses, I hope this post was encouraging. I know originally I was nervous about writing it because it shows a not-so-pretty side of me. But God reminded me that it shows the glorious side of Him, so it was important to share. I don’t think I will ever reach the perfect place of serving with absolute joy, but I am growing and I am learning, and this alone makes me grateful. I know God is excited to continue this journey with me, and with all my heart, I am excited to continue walking with Him.
Have a beautiful day today, and I will write to you again soon.
p.s. Is there anything in your life God has helped you to overcome? If so, I’d love to hear your testimony! Feel free to share your own heart journey in the comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org