give me the heart of a servant
The edges of the towel she’s folding don’t match, but I don’t care. I rest a hand on the doorjamb and just take it in, the young woman she’s becoming. She sees me standing there and flashes me a grin that erupts into sweet laughter as she leans over the laundry basket, reaching, her brassy hair falling from her shoulders. Beside her, the folded towels sit askew, stacked in leaning towers. The way she’s folded them, I can see the frayed edges, the pulled strings where so much washing has begun to unravel the fabric. I can almost feel the softness of them beneath my fingers, the warmth.
“Thank you for folding the laundry,” I say, in my mind giving thanks well beyond the utterance, for the way she’s grown; for the knowledge that given direction, she can manage the maintenance of things just fine; for the truth that she’s a vessel well-used (I can see the soft indents of God’s fingerprints, His grip, on her); for signs of wear on towels we’ve long wrapped around our bodies.
“Oh, you’re welcome. Any time,” she says easily. “I cleaned the kitchen too.”
“You did? Wow, that’s great.”
She smiles and shrugs slightly, smoothing a towel out on the bed, long, flat. “It was on my list.”
She always does that—gratefully accepts my praise and then lightly sets aside any suggestion of remarkability. Something about it reminds me of a passage I’ve personally always found challenging,
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty (Luke 17:10).'”
Riley remains one of the few people I’ve ever known who does that without any false humility. For her, it’s just a fact, I’ve only done what was willed for me, and she feels neither due extraordinary praise nor burdened by the work. She likes to work; she loves to help; she considers the opportunity a delightful part of living. The completion of her work neither impresses her nor moves her to boast. She embraces my pleasure in her effort, but feels undeserving of my compliments. She is a servant, as content with and natural in the identity as in most others that describe her. How much of this aspect of her character may be credited to her autism and how much comes supremely from the hand of God on her heart I’ll probably never know, as God has, in His faithful, graceful way, masterfully woven the most vulnerable parts of our daughter into something that is both stunning and Mighty. We would no more diminish what goodness He draws forth from autism than we would any of the other nuances that make her so wonderfully unique.
Oh to be a doorkeeper in the house of my God. It could only be like this, standing on the threshold watching what beautiful things He does with souls.
As He has thousands of times before, my Father uses my daughter to teach me. When the lost son returned home, he begged only to be his Father’s servant, saying, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son (Luke 15: 21).” I am no more entitled to be the daughter I am, but such is the love God lavishes on me (1 John 3:1). And so, I want to be the servant I should be—a servant in awe of Grace, feeling neither due extraordinary praise nor burdened by my work; finishing neither impressed with my own effort nor moved to boast.
As I stand beside Riley now, watching her add another roughly square bundle to the top of the teetering pile, I feel only joy over her efforts. I have no desire to refold or straighten the edges; instead, I find unutterable happiness just reaching for another towel, folding it beside her, looking up to find her quietly watching and learning from me.