June 28, 2011

The other side of service

Last night I had garbage duty in the dining hall. It's a pretty simple set up, really. You stand behind a table, people come up and drop off their plates, napkins, utensils, cups, and extra food. You sort all of that out so it fits into one garbage bag. Feeding 200 World Changers can lead to lots of bags of garbage if you're not careful.

I'm careful. I'm also good at Tetris, so I'm a pretty good at dropping stuff in place as it comes in. And I was a dishwasher a bunch of years ago, so I'm pretty good at arranging food waste and getting covered in filth. I have a system, and I stick to it. It's more refined than I care to admit.

So garbage duty isn't a big deal to me. I actually like doing it, it's a chance to serve other people and bless them. All they have to do is set their stuff down on the table. I handle everything else. And blessing others blesses me. So I get to stand there with a smile on my face and talk to people as they come up, and I make their life just a tiny bit easier.

Sometimes, though, people ignore the system. Even though I am standing there wearing my gloves and handling everyone else's garbage, they still choose to come up and take care of it themselves. Usually, it's the adults.

They mean well. I know what they're thinking:

"I don't want to be a bother."

"I can do this myself."

"Don't worry, I got this."

They'd hate for some poor missionary guy to have to handle their garbage for them. So they come back behind the table and place their stuff in the wrong bins and get in my way and - come to think of it, steal my blessing.

I am there to serve, but they don't want to be served. They take my service away.

Sometimes people would just rather not be served.

Take footwashing, for example. It's far more awkward and uncomfortable for the person allowing their feet to be washed than for the person doing the washing. Your feet stink, and they sweat, and that's terribly inconvenient for anyone getting close to them. But Jesus did it. Imagine Jesus washing your smelly, nasty feet. Now there's an image for you.

It's uncomfortable to let somebody serve you. It can be uncomfortable to need to be served. "I don't want to be a bother" and "I don't want to be served" are not all that different.

Are you good at letting people serve you?

I'm not. Some people - Christians in particular - are very eager to give, but would rather not receive. After all, we're told 'tis better to give than to receive.

But receiving service is different. After all, becoming a Christian has an awful lot to do with recognizing that you need help.

Sometimes, people genuinely want to serve you.

And there's nothing wrong with allowing someone to serve you. So let them do it. Don't take away their service.

So the next time you see me in the garbage line at CDC, with my hand out...

Don't worry, I got this.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

So true. So often we want to return favors. Like if someone invites us for dinner, or buys me a coffee or something, the first thing you think is, "Next one's on meeee!" It's hard to receive service.... and grace. I think mostly because it's humbling.