It is a truly humbling thing to be at the center of people’s love and care. There is this total submission that happens where one ceases to claim control and sufficiency, and instead stops to simply receive. It is never something any of us are inclined to do by choice, and I think it has to do with the way one relinquishes pride in the process.
It is the place I have been with my husband these past days. Doug is like a machine of servanthood right now, and it kills me to not intervene to help, whether it is children or laundry or preparing dinner. Even with the one closest to me in body and spirit, I struggle with my helplessness and I lash out against the humility it projects. How many times has Doug had to say, “Erika, sit down…rest. I will take care of that.”
It is having my sister arrange for childcare for her own two young ones so that she can come over to our apartment and do what we call “a mom clean” of our bathroom (my mom arrived today from Seattle). As I laid on the couch, I listened as my sister scrubbed and mopped our bathroom back to sparkling white. I cringed as I thought of her on her knees, cleaning the toilet that saw far too much action last week with our very sick little ones. It felt humiliating, and this too with my sister, my kindred spirit and dearest friend.
It is receiving the phone call from our good friend who lives up the street, the friend who taught our childbirth classes (which she did not allow us to pay for) and who coached us through Mercy’s birth, offering to pick up anything we might need from Costco while she was there. “Soy Milk!” I requested, as we were on our last carton. “Oh, and those amazing pot stickers they sell,” I pleaded, wishing to bless my dear husband (Doug and I don’t have a Costco membership, but I am pretty sure that if we did decide to invest in one it would primarily be so that we could buy those pot stickers…which is maybe why we have avoided it!). A few hours later, our friend arrives with a box that she can barely carry up our stairs. Tri-tip, salmon, Cornish game hens, ravioli, spaghetti sauce, frozen burritos and a great big bag of these pretty nutritious chicken nugget things for kids that are made in the shape of dinosaurs (let’s just say that Mercy is beside herself when it is time to come to the table for “dinosauras” dinner). Oh, and the soymilk and pot stickers, of course. Now I know that the two times I have ever shopped at Costco, I have always ended up spending over a hundred dollars (maybe the other reason we don’t belong!), so I stood there, looking into my fridge and freezer so full of amazing food, and burned with gratitude and amazement.
It is the phone call from our young friend, Mercy’s “god-sister” who is a teacher in Brooklyn with Teach For America, telling us that she has booked her flight to come out and spend her spring break here instead of traveling to Florida to vacation with friends. The sacrifice involved (and the character displayed) humbled our whole family to the core. I kept hearing this voice saying to me: “You don’t deserve this. It is too great a gift. Look what she is giving up for your sakes.”
As I consider this season of Lent, and try in the midst of all the distractions of life and circumstance to meditate on Jesus’ walk toward death, I am struck by the lesson I am being taught right now. How very much like Peter I am, pulling my feet beneath my skirt so as not to be humiliated by the touch of my Master. Whenever I read the gospel foot-washing story, I always fight the urge to totally judge Peter for acting so foolishly. But today I sit here with new eyes, eyes more capable of seeing my own resistance to receiving sacrificial love.
It is so much easier to be the one doing the serving. I really, honestly believe that. How much we likely refuse from our Lord because of our aversion to humility.