Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; Phil 2:3-4
I always looked at this verse as the core of my servanthood… one of those key things that governed my choice of careers, my conduct, my service among believers. And it always seemed to work. It served as a constant reminder to put others ahead of myself- to look for the best, to look out for the needs of other people, and to be humble of mind.
And then with the death of my son something broke in that. I figured out through this experience that servanthood takes a great amount of strength and self assurance and above all trust in God. It takes confidence. That the service of others is the right thing to do. And not just good “others”… but even undeserving others, bad others… even your enemies. AND You have to believe that in serving others, that your best interests are going to be looked after, that God will have your back, God would protect you, and that in the end no matter what the sacrifice or outcome on earth, that God will take care of you if not on earth, then at least in heaven.
Losing a child has a way of changing that… of destroying certainties, of challenging conceptual foundations, of making you look at things with different eyes. Now, I doubt I have that strength anymore. I certainly no longer have any self assurance, and trusting God? It is a bit more difficult. What I say, what I try to convince myself of on the outside, masks a great deal of doubt.
So I wonder what good am I?
Should I go out without that feeling of doubt and try to give something… to love someone and regard their interests as more important of my own? Only to again fail when they fail? Should I give my best and see the outcome as disaster… What do I really have to give? Discipleship? I could not even “disciple” my own son… not in any way that saved him from taking his own life. What do I have? What can I give? I wonder if there is anything I have of value as a servant. If there really is any hope in serving.
And now, that part of my character that people recognized as kind and patient- is it even there anymore? Have I become that brittle? So fragile that I need to be constantly defensive? How can I let go of this need to protect myself from further harm… from collapse? Can you serve from such a position of woundedness and of pain. And can I put aside fear, not only of my own inadequacy and failures, but also the fear that I might just lash out like some wounded bear?
I belong to a group of believers, Christians that meet at least party on the basis of developing disciples. And I think it is a wonderful idea. But maybe I’m the wrong person. Maybe it isn’t the task for me.
Maybe there is something though.
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)
Maybe the key is humility of mind. Of admitting brokenness. Of admitting to weakness and defeat before God. Of saying and knowing that I have nothing left to give and giving it anyway. Showing that God can use us all, the broken, the damaged, the wounded. That He can take these things and make them into something stronger and something wonderful. That he can turn this darkness into beauty. It isn’t empty. It isn’t selfish. It certainly isn’t vain conceit.
Maybe true humility of mind is brokenness. The belief that the interests of others really are that important, and that although I have nothing to give, that I will give it all. Perhaps it is the realization in the end that I am not better than those I seek to serve, but really in many ways far worse off. And that to serve these, especially those whom in Matthew have earned the title “the least of these” that I am serving Jesus in purity.
The command in Matthew, if you look into it, isn’t to do what Jesus would do. But rather to serve others, especially those who can neither reciprocate or deserve your love, as if they were Jesus. To look at them as more worthy, more honored, and more deserving. And perhaps being totally broken is the perfect place to begin.