In our society, few of us experience being a servant. We have bosses at our jobs and we are subject to their authority, but we can walk away at any time and get another job. Most of us would not put up with being treated like a servant in our relationships – we would get a divorce or just refuse to comply with those expectations. We are taught to avoid “being a doormat.” Yet as Christians we are called not just to be servants, but “slaves of God.” Romans 6:22. A slave has no choice in where he goes, or what he does, he is totally controlled by the commands of his master.
Once in a Bible study a member of our congregation told us she learned to be a servant when she cared for her mother with Alzheimers. That really impressed me. I had never thought about being a “servant” as an opportunity.
I am thankful to this friend for her insight because in a few years God gave me this same “opportunity.” Once a week, I went to my mothers house (a one hour drive). Mom had dementia. I helped her to shower – yes, I washed her feet. If you have never done this, it is a humbling experience. I knelt on the hard bathroom floor and having arthritis myself, it was sometimes hard to get up. It was not easy to see Mom in such a vulnerable position. I had to help her dress and undress. Sometimes she soiled herself. Next I fed Mom lunch, or took her out to lunch. I cleaned her house and checked her refrigerator. Sometimes we went to the bank. We looked through her picture albums or watched TV. Most of the things I imagined doing with her when I retired were not possible—her attention span was too short, and her memories just not there anymore. It was difficult for us to carry on a meaningful conversation. It wasn’t always pleasant.
Now I am not holding myself up as a wonderful Christian example of service. Far from it. For one thing, I love my mother. She took care of me, so in a sense caring for her was no more than payback. The Bible tells us that “even the tax collectors” do good things to those they love. I also am fortunate to have six siblings who shared in her care. Some of them did much more than I. I gave up my time only once or twice a week and I did this only for a year before Moms condition worsened, and she went to a nursing home. Many, many people care for family members constantly and under more challenging conditions. What I want to say is I am thankful that due to my faith, I was able to accept this task as what God wanted me to do, and know that it was not just for Mom’s good, but mine.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
So what did I gain from this experience? I learned patience and humility. I learned adjust my expectations to what Mom was able to do. I learned to slow down and do the best I could each day I was with her. I learned to appreciate her as a child of God, rather than anything she could do for me. I learned gratitude for other family members and for small affirmations, like the time Mom told me, “all my children are good to me.”
So, I ask you again, “whose feet have you washed?” How do you feel about being a servant, and what have you learned?