I had so many plans for this Holy Week. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services with my church family; an Easter Egg hunt with my biggest little and her preschool class. I had a full calendar partially because my husband is in an incredibly busy (and what I think is insane) season of work – he leaves every day before dawn and comes home well after the girls are in bed… 7 days a week for the last two weeks and possibly for the next six. (I can’t think about those weeks stretching ahead of me too much or I start prepping for a spectacularly big Pity Party.) So I had my plans – plans to keep us moving and busy and passing the time, plans to dig in deep into all the beauty and ugliness, light and darkness that is Holy Week.
Instead, the week found me holding my biggest girl’s hair back while she rode waves of nausea and kept reassuring me that she’d “feel better tomorrow.” We spent the week visiting the doctor daily as they tried to get strep, an ear infection and bronchitis under control. Two shots and lots of anti-nausea medicine later, and I’m finally starting to see my little girl come back to me.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)
I’ve often wondered, especially as a child, how the cries of “Hosanna” could change so quickly to angry shouts of “Crucify Him.” But the older I get, and the more I find myself in a position of unglamorous service to these little ones God has given me, I think I understand a bit more. It’s easy to shout Hosanna when you think your savior is going to ride into town and turn the world upside down, breaking down unjust political systems and upending unfair social practices. He will be powerful and prevail! You will be a victim no more!! And when he takes his position of power, maybe you’ll get your status in life promoted, too. “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory.”(Mark 10:37) It’s easy for me to shout Hosanna when I see God giving me opportunities for influence and impact. But when he rides into town and whispers words about love and peace and self-sacrifice and service, it seems to be human nature to feel at least a little bitterness and resentment rise up. Or maybe a lot… maybe enough to change our Hosannas to Crucify Him.
Cora kept looking at me like I’d lost my mind because there was nothing funny about it to a 4-year-old. And I kept laughing so hard I cried, because none of us want to be the camel bringing up the rear.
If I look at the work of my days and all I see is piles of laundry and dirty dishes, weeks upon weeks of managing bedtime by myself and grocery-store trips and meal-planning ad nauseam, I begin to feel as irritable as Humphrey. “I’m capable of more than this, God!” I grumble, like Humphrey, as I pull the load of clothes from the washer to the dryer. “I can be of greater service if I could just have the chance!” I gripe, as I change yet another dirty diaper. “I’m sick of watching other people change the world from the sidelines!”I complain, as if the only thing in my field of vision is another camel’s rump.
But His whisper doesn’t change… He breaks bread and pours out cup and washes the feet of those he loves on the last night he walks this earth, showing us that service is at the heart of his way. He demonstrates peace as he tells his friends to put away swords and heals the ear of the enemy who has come to kill him. He walks out self-sacrifice as he puts one step in front of the other and carries his cross to the hill on Good Friday. And love? From the very cross where he is giving his life, he asks the Father to forgive the ones who put him there. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Right now my life doesn’t look extraordinary, but I see his example to follow. I hear him whispering to keep my eyes focused on the children at my feet in this moment, not letting my eyes wander to the world outside my living room when they need me here. I hear him asking me to be fully present with the people who God has given me to pour myself into, washing their feet and breaking their bread and pouring their cup. Serving them with love and whole-heartedness, even if it feels like sometimes it requires sacrificing all that I want to do.
This is the secret to life; the secret to kingdom building and world changing. The secret is quiet and subversive and doesn’t often have the appearance of power… the secret is love. It may look more ordinary than extraordinary, but in this ordinary holiness I will find Him.
This post is dedicated to my friend Lori, who not only took my girls on a fun date this morning giving me some truly child-free time for the first time in over two weeks, but also fixed them lunch so I could finish writing this. She’s a beautiful example of his love and service in action.