Monday, May 4, 2009


In serving others, I surrender control of the situation. Jesus' own example of washing the smelly and dung encrusted feet of his disciples in John 13 embodies this particular kind service.

One of the most difficult things for most, not all, is to be on the receiving end of someone else's service. When I was very young, I remember getting up early and trying to prepare breakfast for the whole family. I only remember pouring juice, milk, and getting cereal out. To jazz it up a little, I rifled through the buffet and set some party favors out. When the family came down, they showed a mixture of dismay, laughter, and maybe one or two thanks. "Don't do that again" was the message. I didn't shake the juice and it came out in various shades, which I thought was fine.

But receiving service is awkward, especially for people who've been out there giving and in control all their life. The change in roles can be difficult, even devastating. When I worked among retirees and the infirm, one of the most asked questions was just "Why am I still here?" And part of the answer is that in receiving most of the time, we give others an opportunity to share their gifts. We are created for both giving and receiving love; sad we do one often at the expense of the other: either burnout or isolation.

It's appropriate that this week's practice is to spend some time with the Covenant Prayer. In it, we surrender our agendas, power, and control. Remember that Jesus' disciples often tried to manipulate the situation for their own advantage. True service, however, sets us free and usually has the same result on the recipient.

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