I’m no behind-the-scenes servant. My love is given to wordy ministries: the nervous plunge when I teach a group of women, the energy that sparkles in a small group, the light in a friend’s eyes when God’s truth sinks in. If I’m honest, I also love the recognition that comes with this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.
The humble roles, the practical roles, the self-effacing roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Setting up for a meeting, cooking for an event, serving food, running crèche, stuffing envelopes: these mundane tasks aren’t on my bucket list. I have to fight my inner whinger as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.
I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to teach the Bible and refuse to stack chairs is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent dinner at our church. My friend who usually organises our meals isn’t there, so my husband and I set out casseroles and collect plates and scrub them clean.
Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I wash the dishes, it’s as if Christ’s hands are mine and mine his. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Hands plunged into soapy water, the grit and grease of food scraps on my fingers, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.
The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2
Washing dishes is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.