Looking into the heart of a servant is a wondrous thing. I glimpsed its extraordinary depths this weekend.
More than a dozen men and women descended upon us to work in the yard and around the house that belongs to the son who moved to Tulsa in September, leaving an empty home and a Grammy with empty arms that long to hold the family that used to live next door.
An empty house begins to look unkempt, uncared for. The family that filled it up with love and laughter, with work and play, with yard swings and toys, with flower gardens and tomato plants, with lawn chairs with cups of coffee are long gone.
I’ve walked the boundaries of the lot, looked at that vacant building and a yard that keeps growing taller weeds and wondered how in this wide world I could get it into a shape and ready it for renters.
The word got out that I needed help to accomplish a task I was not able to do alone. Then the word got around. On Friday and Saturday, the servant hearts showed up with lawn tractors, weed eaters, weed sprayers, work gloves and a mind to serve. They brought their joy, fruit matured by the Holy Spirit.
And I was overwhelmed by the sight of them.
From 7:30 until almost noon they mowed and cut and pruned. They gathered tree limbs and salvaged bird feeders and risked poison ivy. They moved boulders and trash and all the while smiled and laughed and shared the fellowship of those who gladly work together.
And I was moved to tears. This house had not been so happy in months.
We ate together, food prepared and sent by daughters of my heart, and it was communion because the Lord Jesus was in our midst.
There were people from our Sunday School class, people from other classes, people I know and people I don’t. Yet we were brothers and sisters all.
Some left quietly without me even getting to say “thank you.” Others stayed to finish the final clean up and sit for one more glass of sweet tea.
For almost two years now, I’ve been on the receiving end of grace upon grace from fellow believers who have offered help to Sweet William and me on a long road of sickness and operations and hospitalizations.
I used to think I could manage on my own, being the independent, stubborn woman I am. But I’ve learned to look at the one who offers a gift and say, “Yes, that would be so nice. Thank you.” It’s been a hard pill to swallow at times because Ive been more comfortable being on the giving side. After all, doesn’t Scripture say it is more blessed to give than receive?
Consider Jesus and His life of giving. Giving the very Words of God, giving bread and fish, giving healing, giving forgiveness, giving His life.
Yet there came a season when a woman brought an expensive alabaster box of precious ointment and poured out her gift on Jesus. Others around Him thought it was quite improper, wasteful even, for Jesus to receive from such as she was. But he said, “Let her alone . . . She has done a good work for me.”
That is what has happened to us. These Image bearers have done a good work for us.
They came to the house to let our dog out for potty breaks while I stayed in the hospital with Bill. They brought fully cooked meals and some extra for the freezer. Children delivered home-made cookies and chocolate covered strawberries. They signed up for daily dinner duty when the family in Tulsa came impromptu for a working-on-the-house visit right after Bill came home from the hospital. They came to change light bulbs that were too high so I would not have to climb on a ladder. They trimmed my hedges. They weeded my gardens. They listened when I needed to talk. They offered to dust and vacuum, fold laundry, scrub toilets. They sent encouraging cards, emails, Facebook messages. They came inside the house and prayed and touched us and hugged us when we needed to feel human flesh.
I am humbled by these gifts of service and the servants who bring them. I realize I am not that independent soul I thought I was. I am part of the Body. The Body that hurts when one of its members hurts. The Body that turns its attention to the pain, trying to ease the suffering in whatever way it can. The Body that laughs together and cries together and works together and worships together.
This is the Body of Christ at its best. Soothing the suffering. Bringing the gift of service. Being present to share the season of joy and sorrow. We fellowship at the Lord’s table with the bread and the cup because we all are needy and we all are forgiven and we all can offer the hand to another.
I look forward to the day when I will be on the giving side again.
It is not that I think I can repay what has been done for us. As a wise old friend said to me, “Friends don’t keep count.”
How can I give back to all who have given? How can I love the way I’ve been loved? How can the life of Jesus the Servant live and move and have His being in me?
Surely, this season of our lives will pass eventually. Sweet William and I will be able to offer sanctuary, a helping hand, a loving touch and an encouraging word to a weary traveler.
Until then, I offer a promise from Holy Writ to all of those precious servants who have a heart like their Savior:
“Give and it shall be given unto 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 back to you.” Luke 6:38
Paybacks are out of this world!