One of my favorite things is giving someone a gift that I've put effort and time into. I love Christmas morning for that reason. I love even more when I can surprise someone with an unexpected gift.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer back in May, we radically changed our diets. My parents became avid juicers and smoothie drinkers, going for a very all-natural, vegan, mostly raw diet. My mom would make smoothies for my dad in her little blender that she got as a wedding gift nearly twenty-eight years ago. She mentioned wanting to save up some money and invest in a Vitamix blender, but kept saying things like "my little blender is fine!"
Knowing that she was trying to be a good steward of finances in a time of uncertainty, I decided to ask a few friends and family if they'd be willing to pitch in to surprise my parents with that Vitamix. A few text messages later, I had more money than I even needed, and we were able to bless my mom and dad with something they now use on a daily basis. Seeing the looks on their faces when I pulled that box out of the trunk was one of the best moments of my summer.
We're starting a new series at GT called "Others First in a Me-First World". It's all about serving and all about putting others first. As I've been interning with the Creative Planning team, I've been steeped in thoughts about service to others, how to encourage our church body to serve, and how I, personally, can serve others better.
Jesus provided us with the greatest example of service. In John 13, he gets down on his knees, towel wrapped around his waste, basin in hand, and washes the feet of his dirty, travel-worn disciples.
My friend Courtney wrote this in her new book:
Do you know what I hear Jesus saying to the disciples in this scene's last words? "Tag. You're it." They sit down to dinner, Jesus performs an outlandish act of love, and then he says, "Tag. It's your turn now." Jesus knew that He was not going to be around much longer with skin on, so He made sure that they understood His vision and then said, "...you also should..." Serving is the legacy that Jesus chooses to leave with His disciples.When I was young, I hated playing tag. I always felt foolish chasing aimlessly after others, trying with all my might to catch them just enough to tag them and pass the baton of being "it" onto someone else.
And in today's "me-first" world, it can often feel as if trying to appreciate and serve others is just like that game of tag. We need to hurry up and get it over with and then we can sit back and relax; the pressure is off, we've paid our dues.
But what if we flipped that thinking upside down? What if we found complete joy in serving others? What if we were constantly looking for ways to serve another, to anticipate a need, to appreciate someone who needs to know they're loved?
Serving isn't always a fruitful task. It can be dirty, thankless, and even downright unpleasant. Those we serve may never even know us to be the servant. There is a woman at our church who cleans our nursery on a weekly basis. For years, she's come in during the week and wiped down everything, sanitizing toys and changing tables, cribs and rocking chairs, prepping it for the next round of babies who will be cuddled and cared for while their parents attend service. No one ever sees her do this, there's never a fanfare of applause for this great act of love, but she's done it faithfully for years.
Sometimes, serving silently brings more joy than if we were to do it in front of thousands. Living a life of service means a shift in worldview. It means taking putting down the mirror and picking up binoculars; it means looking away from your own needs and focusing in on the needs of others.
My challenge to you is this:
Look for the people in your life who serve you. Appreciate them. And then live as if they've said "tag, you're it!", for Jesus already said it two thousand years ago, and if we ignore that commission, then we're missing the heart of the gospel.
Tag, you're it.