This past February, I had the beautiful opportunity to visit my grandpa in the hospital prior to his passing and share a last conversation with him. It was a precious time spent recounting all my favorite memories with him and telling him just how much his life meant to me, his youngest grandchild. One of my fondest memories I shared that afternoon was our early morning breakfasts at his kitchen table where I would always ask him if he would make me toast because “no one makes toast as good as my Poppy.”
I’ve often laughed at myself for remembering this simple act of my grandpa so vividly, until recently when I discovered it’s true significance in my life. My grandpa, being the great teacher he was, wasn’t just making his granddaughter toast, he was teaching me how to serve.
We serve with our TIME
Even though my grandpa was retired from a formal job, he was in no way lazy or in need of something to do. He was devoted to his church, his farming land, and his family, yet he didn’t see the request of his spunky and stringy-haired granddaughter as an interruption, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to show me he cared about me-even in the little things. When we hear the word “serve” we often associate it with big acts of sacrifice that require a huge commitment to give of time. And how in this crazy-busy world can we find enough margin in our lives to dedicate that much time to serve others?
While some acts of service we’re called to do can require us to clear space in our lives so we can dedicate a large portion of our time, we often overlook opportunities to serve because they are disguised in the simple things. Serving is not something we do, but rather is a lifestyle and our service can take place in the small bits of time we have in our day. We just have to be willing to see them.
We serve with HUMILITY
My Poppy’s hands were highly skilled. Being a farmer, my grandpa had some of the strongest hands I’ve ever seen. They wrangled cattle, tossed thousands of hay bails, and firmly held the reins to his massive Belgium horses. Making toast was by no means my grandpa’s highest calling. He accomplished many great things in his life and was very wise, yet he still chose to serve me toast with those skilled hands. I can often get caught up in the lie that if I am not constantly achieving more, doing more, and using my talents, I am not truly serving God. Yet, in the life of Jesus, we see a very different image of service:
“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.”
God showed His greatest act of love, not by using power and might, but rather by choosing to take on human form. He showed love through humility. Don’t get me wrong, using our gifts and talents to serve God is a great thing, but we should not overlook the power of service done with humility when we lay our egos and our logos aside.
We serve with LOVE
My grandpa carried a lot on his shoulders as the patriarch of our family. Yet, he still maintained a spirit full of love when I would interrupt his conversation with my requests. What might have seemed like an inconvenience to break away from what he was doing, he saw as an opportunity to extend love to his youngest grandchild.
It wasn’t an obligation or sense of guilt that drove my grandpa to serve me. If his spirit was unhappy each time he made me toast, those memories would not be pleasant; quite the opposite, actually. When we serve others without a loving heart, even if our acts meet their exact needs, our efforts are meaningless. As 1 Corinthians 13:3 puts it, “ . . . I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message)
No act of service is too short, too small, or too insignificant for God. While there are times where service does mean a radical charge from God to go out and do something which seems impossible, that’s not always the case. God gives us all opportunities to serve each and every day, which often parade around as seemingly insignificant moments; monotonous even.
I’m forever grateful for the powerful lesson my grandpa taught me each morning he made me toast: to serve, all you need is a little bit of time, a humble heart, and a loving spirit.