I get to
It is the way she says it—all laced with delicious joy—that makes me stop. She sounds the way I might were I to say I get to sleep in or I.can’t.believe I get to lay on the beach and just read—like she’s just realized a thrill, an unexpected and rare gift, and she savors the sweet taste. Except she says, “Oooh, yea! I get to—the teens get to—wipe the tables and clean the kitchen up after dinner on Wednesday night!”
Early, and I am on my way—slipper clad—to pull the blankets off her brother’s shoulders and lay a palm against his warm sleepy cheeks, but her tone makes me stop and turn to look at her. My thankful girl, curled cozy under a blanket, sits sipping coffee on the couch. Riley’s hair still flys around her face in crazy directions, a thick blonde mess that reminds me of the mop of curls that covered her head at three. Occupied with her morning ritual, she looks up at me and smiles, fresh with the scripture she’s been listening to, the “thank you’s” she has carefully noted in her journal. She gives thanks simply, for things I take for granted every day–the bathroom, the porch, her bedroom—three things behind doors, today.
Sometimes I give thanks that there is nothing ordinary about her. She challenges me, this sweet soul God entrusted to me. It still blows my mind that He has placed her in my care.
Her eyes, just now, are bright—all light, and I realize, suddenly, that she feels elated. Giddy, even. Her heart still surprises me, even after all these years.
“You’re excited, aren’t you?”
She blinks as though I have asked something I should already know. The expression is why wouldn’t I be, but this melts into a delighted “mmmhmm,” and a nod, as she returns to her overview of Facebook. She also begins the day with an online birthday wish (because then everything she does that day will be marked by the remembrance of someone’s celebration—“Mom, I have a Social Studies test on so-and-so’s birthday”), a dozen likes, and a little scattered joy.
And so it happens, that as she discovers on Facebook that the teen group will serve by cleaning the kitchen after our Wednesday night supper at the church building this week, she feels elated.
“Mmmhmm, I’m excited that I get to wipe the tables Wednesday night. I get to help clean up after everyone eats.”
I get to. Not I have to or even I will or I’m going to, but I get to. I get to serve someone else.
Admittedly, I most often sound that way when I speak about some self-indulgence, and it occurs to me, catching the light in her face, that service is her delight. The notion that she can serve feels to her like reading a book on the beach or sleeping in late. She counts the opportunity as a gift, and this is a way I am only just beginning to live. More and more I am excited to get to participate in God’s activity, to get to witness His accomplishment. Slowly those words have begun to replace others in my own speech. But I am a work in progress.
The words we use—not the carefully measured ones, but the ones that fly casually out of our mouths—indicate something about the inclinations of our hearts, the light and the shadows, the temperature, the focus, the treasure. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34,35). And when it comes to truly sacrificial service, my benevolent words still usually follow the activity instead of precede it in anticipation. Honestly, most often I count the costs to myself aloud first—I want to do this, I know this is good, but I wish I didn’t have to get up early or go anywhere today or lose the chance to…And I hope it won’t happen this way, or they won’t do that thing, or it won’t take up so much time. Always I ask for re-centering, challenged by the truth that a pure and truly God-centered, Christ-reflecting heart serves unselfishly, without even recognizing the giving as a sacrifice (Matthew 25:37-39). Mine is a King who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many (Matthew 21:28). And a true servant lives to serve, finding nothing extraordinary in her sacrifices. 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).'”
With my whole heart, I long to one day hear my Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21), and even now, I often whisper Mary’s words over my living: I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said (Luke 1:38).” But standing on the stairs, looking at my daughter giggling wide-grinned over the opportunity to serve, God opens my eyes still more, touching them once again that I might see. This is what it looks like—crazy-haired and light-eyed and thankful—the freedom of pure joy in selfless service; the delight that recognizes no special goodness in self, no nobility, no extraordinary reason for pride. She’s simply glad to get to.