Adele & I have some acquaintances who are going through a hard time [honestly that’s a little like saying the Titanic is ‘taking on a little water’].
We’ve known them about 4 years now. They have been pleasant at times but I don’t think they’ve ever been happy and I’m all but sure contentment has evaded their grasp their whole adult lives.
After having a 2nd child (to save the marriage) they separated about a year and a half ago. He will move into an apartment for a couple months then, economic times as they are, he’ll come back home for a couple months. The yelling starts back immediately and, in time, amplifies until he leaves again and the cycle starts all over.
Now I know yelling. I come from a family full of yellers. As Mark Lowry used to say, when we would start yelling “automatic garage doors would fly open/closed all over the neighborhood.” But we whispered compared to these folks.
It’s a tough time for them.
So, last Spring when the grass started to green, I took it on myself to mow their yard whenever I knew the hubby was in the apartment.
That’s when I first noticed it: My servant switch is broken.
I’d mow and they’d come home and… nothing; nada; zippo. No ‘thank you so much.’ No ‘wow, you didn’t have to do that.’ Silence.
And (& here is the problem) it bothered me. A lot.
I determined I would keep mowing until it did not bother me. I mowed all last season.
This season I picked back up with this growth challenge.
- All Spring; nothing.
- All Summer; nada.
- Now it’s Fall and, so far; zippo.
And it still bothers me.
Recently I mowed while they were home. I’d like to say I did so because I had no other choice. I hope that is true. But, I did know they were home.
I mowed the front yard and… they closed the front door and windows so the mower dust didn’t get inside. As I was working around to the back, they came outside (I thought, ‘here it is!’)…and picked up the toys so I didn’t have to mow around them. But, again, not even a text-like ‘thnx’ or a guy-like nod.
And, again, it bothered me.
Why am I like this? Why do I care if anyone, anywhere, ever ‘notices’ something nice I might do? [Really, how nice is it if I care so much?]
One of my favorite books is The Life You’ve Always Wanted, by John Ortberg. Quoting Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame, he sites our human desire to be the “Sun-God, King of America, Idol of Millions, Bringer of Fire, The Great Haji, Thun-Dar the Boy Giant.”
That speaks to me. I am so bothered that I continue to be so bothered by serving without thanks.
I want the shout-out. My servant switch is broken.
Later, Ortberg summarized The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach. That book is a report of a 2-year experiment with 3 institutionalized men who all suffered from a Messiah Complex. Rokeach decided to unite them in a community for those 2 years and see how they adjusted to one another. In one of the funniest exchanges noted:
One guy: “I am the messiah, the Son of God. I am on a mission. I was sent here to save the earth.”
Rokeach: “How do you know this?”
First guy: “God told me.”
One of the other guys: “I never told you any such thing.”
They clearly thought too highly of themselves.
I do too.
My servant switch is broken.
Most of you who read this blog know that I am a follower of the actual Messiah. Sometimes I follow closely (I think) and a lot of time, at a distance (I know).
At one place in my book, To Love And To Cherish From This Day Forward, I mentioned a story from the end of St. John’s account of The Life and Times of Jesus, Who Is the Christ.
In that story, Jesus (whom they all believed to be the Christ) fixed a breakfast for them and served them. You’d think others would be fixing His breakfast and serving Him.
But He served because it was His nature to serve… He described Himself (and demonstrated ceaselessly) that He was actually a servant who influenced others rather than a leader who provided a service.
Here’s how I wrapped up that section of the book:
“I once heard someone say, ‘Servant leadership is not so much about what you do to serve. It is all about how you react when others treat you like a servant.’ Why would they treat you that way? Because it is who you are.”
My servant switch is still broken…but thank God I do have a role model to learn from!
I guess I’ll just keep serving until it is no longer something I do, but it is who I am. Until then, practice, practice, practice.