I’ve been thinking about serving.
I’ve been thinking about how that’s another beautiful concept that the world got its grubby little hands on and ruined with all the twisted convolutions we have laid on top of a truly simply, beautiful thing.
Claire Huxtable, whom we all love and adore, (and who will never be anything more than a ‘screen name’ for the truth and majesty that is Phylicia Rashad -who shares my b-day bt-way) said something beautiful. I’ll let her tell you herself:
For those who can’t/won’t watch the clip, she offers coffee to Elvin and Cliff. Elvin pauses and comments, “I didn’t think you did that kind of thing … serve … serve him.” OH NO HE DI’NT! Coz Mz Claire comes back with a true life lesson:
“Serve? As in ‘serve your man’? Let me tell you something, Elvin. You see, I am not “serving” Dr. Huxtable, okay? That’s the kind of thing that goes on in a restaurant. Now I’m going to bring him a cup of coffee, just like he did this morning, and that, young man, is what marriage is made of: give and take, fifty-fifty. And if you don’t get it together, and drop these macho attitudes, you are never going to have anyone bring you anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace ever.”
And it’s true.
Somewhere along the lines, the idea of ‘serving’ has become synonymous with servitude, nay….’slavery’. That for you to EXPECT me to serve you in ANY way is akin to you wishing me right back into ripped, homespun cotton frocks and chains.
Mayhaps there was I time I bought into that distorted view, when I felt I had to assert my title as powerful, phenomenal woman by looking at everything that smacked of ‘service’ as beneath me and a means of subjugating me, wrastling my fierce femme power from my manicured grip.
I viewed women who talked about ironing their man’s clothes and serving up his food as silly people- tragic, even- who had lost sight of themselves; I was saddened that they didn’t see how much more than that they were worth.
In enforcing, even mentally, MY own idea of what freedom looked like, I forgot the unfathomable power of a single concept: choice.
There is beauty in the careful, deliberate choosing of a thing.
When a person DEMANDS that another does something, diminishing or removing entirely the space for choice, the task becomes so much more oppressive.
A friend DEMANDING that you drop everything to listen to her trials
A spouse DEMANDING that you fix this, iron this, repair this, cook this
A parent DEMANDING that you go there
A church DEMANDING that you do this
A job DEMANDING that you give this
These are not things that inspire joyful co-operation.
The minute we perceive that our ability to choose is being compromised, we become much less willing to give of ourselves. We might comply, but we certainly don’t ‘serve’. Now I know that the dictionary, it all her wordical wisdom has defined ‘serve’ thus:
But when I began to think about serving, I was thinking about the dishes. I was looking down at the breakfast table where my husband had just left his plate. And I was thinking how a few years ago, I would have bristled over his assumption that I was going to clean the table like a good little girl, after having cooked the meal. Then what? Wash the dishes? Iron his clothes? Scrub the floors and have his babies? WHEN WOULD IT END???
I stared at his plate, and I smiled softly to myself, realising that it was indeed my joy to do just that. Well… Make his breakfast and serve it to him, then tidy the plates after. Because when the plates were in the sink, then he would wash them. And maybe tomorrow’s breakfast would be made and served by him. And as for all the rest, the washing, ironing and baby having? Well that’s sure been a pleasure too.
Because you see, everything I have learned in my modern day reconciliation to ‘service’ has come from watching my husband. He needs no trumpets, no cards and coupons and special recognition. My husband watches over his family with such a heart of love that where there is a need, he fills it… with no thought for reward but the certainty that his family is well.
That has meant him enduring my tempers, when I was so overcome with my own depression and darknesses that it was the only way I could cope. It meant him soothing me through the hormonal moods that pregnancy and new mom-ness can bring. It has meant him stealing away silently with the children so I can sleep, when these new and strange undiagnosed illnesses sap me entirely of strength. It has meant him learning to cook, to iron, to sort laundry, to wash and to find his own way of ‘dadding’ meaningfully with our children. Not to be some kind of poor, beleaguered house drone…but to be an equal partner in the life we’re building together.
Observing the way he served from his heart spoke to me a few years ago, and challenged me to change my own approach to living in our shared lives. No longer do I keep a mutinous running tab of the times he’s gone out with with guys or gotten a Saturday nap. It is my joy to be able to give back moments of rest and escape to him, because he does the same for me.
Now I cook with joy and serve with joy, choosing in every moment to serve with my heart. I no longer know who did what last. We work together, choosing to forgive even those moments when we KNOW we’re shouldering “more”. Because that’s what it means to CHOOSE to serve.
He doesn’t DEMAND that I serve him.
I don’t DEMAND that he serves me.
In each instance, we choose to serve each other. With joy, with love and each with utter confidence in the other’s good intentions.
So when my husband got up from that breakfast table to go for our crying infant son, I cleared the table smiling, happy that this version of serving is the one we will always aspire for:
Love is hard work, and is actually just the beginning of so many other requirements. But, my lovelies, if you let it transform you, the whole world unfolds in ways that not even your favorite daydream can begin to suggest.
If you need help with that, have this cookie 😉