For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45.
I have spent the past few summers in Mexico working at a base camp for churches who come down to build homes and run ministries for the local people. I absolutely adore these times, because there is a huge visible transformation in the lives of the people who come down to serve. Most of the time, people come down with the idea that they are coming into Mexico to “serve” and to “give” to others. Many of these wonderful people come down with humble hearts, and hands ready to do some dirty work. And some come into the country with lofty opinions of the “good deeds” they are about to accomplish. The latter are my favorite to watch. Especially when we tell them they have the privilege of assisting camp staff with dishes. But by the end of the week, their mindset has been totally changed. They realize that serving others out of love is a gift, and they have received more through the relationships they have built with the people they’ve worked alongside and served. They discover the beauty in scrubbing dishes with friends and working hard in the sun to provide shelter to a family in need.
Sometimes we get this idea in our heads that being a missionary, or a nurse, is glamorous. You know, the whole starched white uniform with perfectly coiffed hair, painted red lips, and a reassuring smile? Or those adorable little children with hopeful eyes gleaming expectantly up at you, hoping for just one more piggyback ride? Expect serving people isn’t like that at all. Yes, there are perfect hair days and wonderful patients and happy children. But there’s also days when you are spat on and screamed at. There are 100 degree days in the burning sun of East Tijuana with flies that never stop buzzing and you might just cry if the kids don’t stop talking so loudly.
How do we interact with people like this? How can we change our mindset from “I’m here to serve” to “I’m here to serve you”? Because when we go to Mexico or walk into a patient’s room with the idea that we are there to “do” something for them, everything rests on our performance and our desire to feel good about ourselves. We have not come to Mexico, or the hospital, to check off our little “good deed” box. We came to serve people who are desperately in need of love and compassion. Even the Son of Man came not to be served. I really don’t think Jesus washed his disciple’s feet to feel good about doing something nice for someone. I think he did it because when we get on our knees and scrub the dirt off of someones feet, we realize what serving someone is. It’s recognizing the person you are serving as one made in the image of God, and therefore, your brother.
So, I commission you to go serve. Go to the hospitals and the far corners of the world with the knowledge that life is not about you, it’s about following Him into the cancer wards and back alleys, with the expectation to encounter the most incredible individuals, made in the image of your maker. Walk there with the expectation not to be served, but to serve, and watch the beauty unfold around you. Because yes, there can be beauty in dirty feet.