the mothering arts

Cultivating Culture: Service


This particular episode is probably one of my favorites from the new season. I’ve listened to it twice and my husband has listened to it; it’s been food for some very deep conversations in our house lately.

Having a servant’s heart towards others is very important to our family culture, but as James and I both realized listening to this episode, we’ve never sat down and really spelled out why- nor have we been purposeful and pragmatic about what cultivating a culture of service in our family would look like.

For James and I, though, choosing servant leadership in our family and community has been a very conscious choice since early in our marriage. It has been very important to us that we serve wherever we are needed in whatever capacity, to be the sort of help we wish to see in the world. We both have been very mindful that the little jobs are important- the jobs no one sees- and that instead of complaining about things left undone in our community, we need to pick up the tools and go to work ourselves. However, we’ve never really articulated to our children why this is so important to us.

We are definitely fixing that now! ~grin~

This isn’t to say that we don’t already practice a lot of cultivation of servanthood- it’s just that we are going to be far more intentional about it now.

There were a few things in this episode that really stood out to me.

I, myself, am a former military dependent, and I remember myself how the community of strangers always showed up to help in various ways and how we dropped everything to show up for them when things got crazy. How it wasn’t unusual for my dad to mow our next door neighbor’s yard (we lived in military housing his entire career) or fix a sink for the young mom three doors down. I myself watched others’ little ones as a young teen. It was profoundly a culture of service without commendation or notice. It was just woven into the fabric of the community. It was just “something you do”. It certainly has carried out into my civilian life- and it is a big part of why I help people without questioning why they need the help. I, too, am “paying it forward” for all the help my family received when I was young. I join Christina in wishing that aspect of community extended into the civilian world, and to be quite honest, as ‘soldiers of Christ’ it should be a noticeable hallmark of any Christian community. But it isn’t. How can we change that?

At time stamp 14:48, she mentions that her husband appreciates a sort of mantra from Georges HΓ©bert : “Être fort pour Γͺtre utile” (“Being strong to be useful”). She mentions that many in their circle work out and keep fit not from a sense of vanity but so that they can continue to be of service in whatever capacity they are needed. This really struck me, not only in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual and emotional sense. What would our daily rhythms look like if we are keeping this in mind as a family? Are we ready to step into service at a moment’s notice? What would that take? I personally hate working out and I really struggle with it. Putting it in the context of what Christina was saying helps me think differently about it.

Perhaps where I could most relate to Christina’s words was in her discussion of how illness had affected how and why they serve, and how it had affected her “vision” of others. She says in more than a few places how she wouldn’t have the eyes to see how someone is struggling if she hadn’t experienced it herself. It calls to mind the quote I shared last Wednesday in a way. I know for my own self that my vision has been profoundly changed by my own life experiences. I know what it is like to have to move house at 34 weeks pregnant by myself and no one willing to help: it’s why I show up with my big strong boy-men to help others every time. I know what it is like to show up in church with a fussy baby and minutes of sleep, trying to keep from crying as my toddlers head butt a parishioner: it’s why I am always on the lookout to be of service to the young parents in our parish. I know how sudden illness can suddenly wreck everything a family holds dear- I’m still living it myself: it’s why I am always going to show up for other families in crisis. But I especially love how Christina describes these actions of service as “giving refreshment”. Holding a fussy baby for a tired mom for a few minutes takes so little of us but grants such a deep breath to the mom.

In investment terms, the return on our tiny bit of work is huge. If we could keep that in mind, how much quicker would we be to step up and help others?

I could also relate to how she herself has struggled with accepting help, how she has had interactions with others who find it strange that they would be willing to help, and how sometimes they’ve had to just take a step back and not help. It’s quite sad, really, when you think of it, the weed of pride creeping in. We were made for each other. We were made to be in community, and we were made to need each other. Sometimes having a servant’s heart also means that we need to be humble and realize our limitations, and accept offered help gratefully! Goodness I am preaching to myself here, please understand. I kept thinking to myself after I listened through the episode again- if we truly believe that all comes from God’s hand, whether by our own hand or others’, who are we to disdain it? Try to push it away?

There’s a particular situation our family finds ourself in at the moment that is very, very humbling on multiple levels. We would not be surviving our day to day lives without a few key people pouring into us. I know this deep down in my heart. I am unbelievably and profoundly grateful that these people are willing to sacrifice their own resources for us so that we may be able to keep our heads above water. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I struggle with the weed of pride: how it annoys me sometimes that we need so much help, why can’t we just get it together, I should be helping them, not the other way around. But like Jacob/Israel, our hip bone has been broken and we walk with a limp now, to testify to the Glory of God and not our own. I must remember this, and root out the prideful thoughts that threaten my joy and delight in His provision.

What about you? Have you listened to the episode? What stood out to you?

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