I was a loquacious young lady and he was a typically taciturn Chinese father. I sought his affection by asking lots of questions. He gave simple answers, if any. This particular time, I found myself asking a question that had gone unanswered. Unacknowledged, in fact. He simply ignored whatever it was that I had been talking to him about. Discouraged, I blurted out,
“Why don’t you answer me when I talk to you?”
He had an answer. It was deafeningly poignant as he retorted simply:
“I didn’t answer you because you haven’t finished the dishes.”
I remember finishing the dishes after that, and thinking on what it was that made me worthy of a response.
My father was not in Christ at the time; and as such, he thought himself his own master. I know it was not his intention to be hurtful or to manipulate with his words or lack thereof. (He would later become a Christian, and come under the transforming work of the Gospel, Praise God!)
This memory from my childhood may not be something you have experienced personally, but I think you can agree with me that we all, as moms, can see nuances of this attitude in our own parenting.
Do you find yourself putting conditions on your attitude in service? Do you see yourself reacting in these ways:
Speaking with a kind tone when the house is clean; short and snappy when it isn’t.
Eager to cook a meal when the family gives praise and seems excited about your cooking.
Willingness to clean and pick up when others are doing their part; complaining spirit when they aren’t.
Inattentive to their questions when the kids are whiny.
Patient with our kids when they’ve done a good job with schoolwork.
Quick to give hugs when they’ve played nicely with one another.
Joy-less demeanor when they embarrass you in front of others with their behavior.
I know I have been guilty with each of these responses, looking to the actions of my kids to dictate the attitude of my heart. It should be the other way around. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in John 13, he did not get down on the ground for such a menial task with water and a towel because the disciples DESERVED it. He did not think them WORTHY for such service. He did not show sacrifice, love, and graciousness to them in response to anything THEY HAD DONE.
Jesus simply washed their feet to be the example of servanthood for his Beloved. His love was based only on one thing--His own character.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15
Jesus served in spite of the disciples’ worthiness so that we could have the example to wash one another’s feet as well.
We are not our own, friends; we have been bought with a price! We can serve and speak kindly and graciously to our families because of the character of the One we serve. We are no longer mastered by sin! Let us take a hard look at how we may be serving our families with conditions...with a love that is based on our own abilities and not His.
Our kids are not always worthy, our husbands don’t always deserve it...but Christ--He is the one who is worthy, and the one for whom we ultimately serve.
How are you responding to your kids conditionally? How can you follow Christ’s example of servanthood in your own life today?