In our house, I’m the yard person. I cut the grass, trim the hedges, spruce and primp, and I’m unstoppable with a leaf blower. My childhood Saturdays were spent on the lawn in some way and in spite of how arduous it seemed then, tending the outside is my favorite household chore now. I’m no green thumb, but I like it to look sharp and well-kept and I’d spend all day every day out there if I could.
Some Friday night just a few weeks ago, I made big plans with my mower and confirmed them with Andrew, who agreed to keep the kids the next morning. What we didn’t anticipate was our sweet 8 month old waking up multiple times in the night teething and hungry. Andrew and I were up taking turns into the small hours of the morning and I was sure that my yard plans were dashed considering our family’s collective fatigue. Once the sun broke though, Andrew was still fine with going solo so I could go enjoy myself. Seven o’clock came and, even though the baby had woken up wailing, I was shooed out of the house.
I filled the tank and jerked the cord. My motor hummed and I entered landscaping paradise.
I can’t count the number of times I thought about going inside. I could hear the baby screaming from the yard. I knew that his incessant wails had driven us both to the asylum in the past and that Andrew must have been losing his mind at that point. I thought, maybe the poor thing just wants his mama or to be honest, I wondered repeatedly if I could soothe him more effectively than Andrew; but, peeking into the house I got a smile and a thumbs-up from my hero, telling me not to worry so I pressed on with my work.
More screaming and wailing, more hesitation from me, more reassurance from Andrew. The nagging feeling to throw my hands up and just go inside was almost irresistible now. I felt discouraged, on the brink of stopping in the middle of my pet project, as I had done a million times before, to go help with what to me was clearly a two-parent task.
But I let it go.
I stood up straight, turned those hedge-trimmers on and got back to work. I realized that the whole situation was an opportunity for humility.
Spouses are supposed to serve each other and when I married Andrew, I vowed to make service to his soul my life’s work. The easiest and happiest parts of our life together have always been when we give of ourselves freely and happily in sacrificial service. What I failed to consider until this point – amid the humming motors and the baby crying and the nag to go inside – was how important it is to let your spouse serve you. Had I gone inside to “fix” the chaos, I would have usurped Andrew’s sacrifice and sabotaged his service. I want so much to grow in humility and I felt stretched learning how to accept his sweet favor; I had to trust him when he indicated that everything was under control and that he wasn’t losing his patience.
Of course, accepting selfless gestures from others isn’t humble by default. Depending on my attitude, it could be prideful if I regard the giver as subordinate or myself as deserving of the deed. If I were to dismiss the craziness inside my house, sloughing it off on Andrew thinking that I deserve my time, putting myself on a pedestal for him to make himself a slave, then pride would have eaten its way into my soul.
I’m realizing more and more these days why it’s paramount to thank the humble servants in my life with graciousness: When we die to ourselves to serve others, we do it because we want to and because it is a profoundly selfless expression of Christian love for another. Truly, there is a gift of self every time I sacrifice for another person, especially my husband, and there’s an irreplaceable joy that follows (that is if I’m being a cheerful giver). In accepting service from Andrew, I allow him the opportunity to experience that gift of self and joy; and not only that, but he who serves humbly and happily imitates Christ’s own selflessness. I wouldn’t deny Christ if he desired to serve me and so I shouldn’t turn away the deeds of those imitating him.
You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I 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 also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:13-15)