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Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.Mark 9:35
In my 33 years of marriage, I’ve made a multitude of mistakes and racked up a hefty mound of regret. Who among us wouldn’t want endless do-overs? I cringe at times to think of what a self-centered brat I was in the early years of our marriage.
But here and there are a few nuggets that I can genuinely say I’m proud of. One of those things is that I make a point to praise Dave as often as possible to other people, preferably within his earshot. And the second thing is that I make a point to never get myself something if I’m not also willing to bring some of that something to him.
For 20 years, our church life centered a great deal around food: agape feasts one Sunday every month, barbecues in the summer with plenty of neighbors in attendance, Wednesday night spaghetti feeds before the mid-week service, and potlucks for every imaginable reason in between all of that. And out of habit, for all of those 20 years, I picked up two paper plates when I got in line. I knew that Dave was off somewhere talking with someone and would be the last person to stand in line, and I knew he’d been up with the sun preparing for his teachings and had probably not eaten all morning (or afternoon). I’d fill a plate with all his favorites, walk it over to him, and then go sit with a group of people while I waited for him to finish his conversation or his counseling session and join me.
I remember one Sunday afternoon after church when one of our newer women–a young, barely married girl, actually–got in line behind me. When she saw me with two plates, she said, “Hungry?” I laughed and said that no, I was getting one plate for Dave. Her response startled me. She said, “Really? Well, that will be the day when I serve my husband. He can get his own food.”
I have no recollection of how we ended that conversation, but I never forgot her comment. I would have chalked it up to youth and selfishness, but I heard a very similar comment from an older woman in church when Dave and I went to their house for dinner. We didn’t know them very well, and this was kind of a “let’s fix that” dinner. After all the plates had been cleared away, Dave and the husband went into the living room, and the wife and I cleared the dishes. In the middle of a sentence, the husband said, “Honey, would you bring us some coffee?”
The wife looked at him, lifted her two arms like she was a puppy, and said, “My arms are broken. Get your own coffee.”
I’m not sure who was more embarrassed–her husband, or me. But I know she caught my discomfort, and it made her uncomfortable too. She kind of blushed and said, “I’ll bet you never say anything like that to Dave.”
I couldn’t pretend I did. I said, “Actually, Dave so seldom asks me for anything that I’m glad when he speaks up.” I didn’t know what else to tell her.
Like I said in the beginning, I have not always been the wife I wished I could be. It has taken me years and years to get over myself and to learn to embrace every opportunity God gave me to serve my sweet husband, who almost never thinks of himself. But in this one area, I’m happy that God spoke to me and I heard.
Women of all ages in this time and this culture are bombarded with daily messages urging them to put themself first. “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,” they hear. “You need a little ‘me’ time–take it!”
Those make for nice memes, but they don’t make for grateful husbands or children. They don’t reflect kingdom life, which is not a “tit for tat; you do your 50% and I’ll do mine” existence. And they do not impress our Savior, who put the entire world ahead of Himself when He made the ultimate sacrifice, and proved for all time that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”