When the commuter bus from our affluent New Jersey suburb reached the city, I followed my friend out the main exit of the Port Authority Terminal and down a side street to the place where they gathered. She introduced me to her friends; she knew each one by name. I forced a smile and acted as if their worn-out, mismatched hand-me-downs and rag-wrapped feet did not disturb me. Before leaving, my friend passed a dollar or two to a few, but they appeared to most enjoy her companionship.
I continued the walk across midtown Manhattan, clad in a Saks Fifth Avenue skirt suit and stiletto heels (Yes, I could walk a couple of miles in those back in the day!), to the upscale editorial office of the publishing firm where I worked. The haughty attitude I carried, along with my designer messenger bag, cried out for comfort. My friend and I both traveled to the city each weekday. Why did she think to seek out these folks? Why did I not? I serve in pre-marriage ministry at my church, but do I possess the heart of a true servant?
CHOOSING TO SERVE VERSUS BECOMING A SERVANT
If I choose to serve, I maintain control. I decide when I will serve and in what capacity. I might serve on a whim when I feel led to do so, but it depends upon my mood at the moment. If I wait for the right feelings, too often I don’t feel up to it—perhaps, I feel tired or I don’t feel well enough. My feelings hinder my serving if I haven’t made serving my lifestyle.
If I become a servant, however, I make myself available for frequent engagement with people and I make myself vulnerable to them. I spontaneously and sacrificially spring to meet needs as they become present to me. I don’t feel manipulated because I voluntarily surrender my right to control. In fact, it’s OK if others take advantage of me. I refuse to allow my feelings to control my serving. Rather, my commitment to serving disciplines my feelings.
THE PRIDE OF VISIBLE SERVICE
Pride grumbles quietly about service, but it complains loudly about unnoticed service. It desires to call attention to efforts so that proper recognition and honor will follow. Pride rises with the praise and esteem that accompany the applause of good works. One who chooses to serve rests easy, feels satisfied having served.
THE HUMILITY OF HIDDEN SERVICE
If I seek to gain humility, the best route to take is through the discipline of service. Grace falls on me when I consciously choose to bear with the weaknesses of others, identify with those passed over and offer compassion to those in distress. This is especially true if my service is a hidden work. Secretly serving and receiving the friendship of those in need presses down my pride and causes my humility to rise. A true servant loves concealment and doesn’t feel slighted or undervalued when unexposed.
All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
I’m spending an increasing amount of time blogging and social networking to build buzz for my message. In a day when so many of us employ efforts to draw attention to ourselves, can we counterbalance that activity with some anonymous service? We don’t have to enter the back alleys of New York City to secretly serve those who need a companion. We can offer the sacrifice of listening compassionately to the sacred stories of those God places along our way. And, we can do it without making a lot of noise.