The Cinderella Syndrome
"Well, nobody likes to be used."
A Lesson from a Chef
I sent those words in a text to my cousin, who -as the youngest graduate of her culinary school (at seventeen, set to graduate this fall) is now hard at work in a local externship. The world of interns and externs is a thankless job: this girl works as a sushi chef six to seven hours a day, six (sometimes seven) days a week, without pay. It's a thankless job, and, Lord bless her, she doesn't complain. But the oldest cousin/mama bear/mother hen/bossy side of me reared her ugly head when my cousin admitted that she was tired one seven-day, eight-hour afternoon: "Well, nobody likes to be used! I'd like to have a conversation with your boss!"
My cousin maturely responded, "I am tired, but I'm really grateful to have this externship -I searched for a long time for someone who would hire a chef under eighteen."
Okay, so beyond being a bit molded (I'm supposed to be setting the example here, right?), my cousin's words gave me something to think about: servant-heartedness, in the true sense.
Switching gears here, from the fast-paced world of culinary arts to the spiritually sharpening world of home life, how many of you have ever heard that a woman who wishes to serve her home (especially an unmarried woman, who is usually off doing something else entirely) is just a glorified doormat?
Okay, how many of you have ever felt that way? You know, when your mom asks you to check on the laundry when you're in the middle of a good book -when one of your little siblings needs to tag-along on one of your outings with girlfriends -when the dirty dishes are piling in the sink and you'd rather be in the dining room chatting with company?
"Doormat" is one of the worst insults that can be hurled in our culture: in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have been taught that there is no cause higher than to fight for our individual rights. We have to look out for number one. Service is all fine and good as long as we're collecting a paycheck or following our hearts, but as soon as this servant-heartedness stuff begins to infringe on our whims, it's time to read those requesting our service their rights.
Is that really servant-heartedness, though?
I mean, sure we've been taught to puff out our chests and square our shoulders and refuse to be "doormats," because "nobody likes to be used..." but what is servant-heartedness really?
What is a Servant's Heart?
The best example of servant-heartedness we can find is in the Scripture is (of course) Jesus:So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:1-11
True servant-heartedness is humility -the kind of humility displayed by the King of Kings, who became lowly for the Bride that he loved and the Father he sought to obey him.
True servant-heartedness is displayed for us when the one who flung the stars into the heavens washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-17). It's the height of love.
What does this look like for us?
As we serve our family, our church body, and the community around us, we should strive to serve with the same selfless devotion that our Lord served, ever willing to humble ourselves, realizing that Christ humbled himself more than we could ever fathom. We should be willing to do the things we may not want to do in order to serve others -we should be willing to work even when we're a little tired, because we are able to meet a need -we should be willing to serve in solitude, even though we would want thanks.
True-servant-heartedness is being too busy caring for the needs of others to stamp our foots and declare our own rights.
What a Servant's Heart is Not
Love does not seek its own.
Those words in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 are often quoted to support everything but true servant-heartedness, but looking at them in that light helps us understand what love and service is not:
-It is not done to gain applause. Sometimes, we will serve without thanks or notice, because our aim is to show love and humility, not to gain notice. (Matthew 6:3)
-It is not done to gain righteousness. Somewhat akin to the last point, we serve because we love the Lord and our brethren, not to gain the love of the Lord or the brethren. (John 14:15)
-It is not done to gain respect. Perhaps, in a different time and place, true servant-heartedness would not be seen as something to be cured or scoffed at; perhaps, in different time, it will no longer be so. But despite the fact that some may not understand our desire to serve others, we are seeking to bring glory to God, not to gain respect for ourselves. (Matthew 5:1-13)
A servant's heart is also not easy. Although some of us may be more tuned in to the needs of those around us than others, I think all of us sometimes has the tendency to balk at serving at one time or another. We have to fight against the gut reaction to shirk the tasks that need to be done (whether we have been asked to do them, or we simply see that there is a need we can fill).
True service is also done joyfully, not grudgingly. If I babysit my brothers while my mom runs an errand and bark at them the whole time she's gone, I was a legalist -I obeyed the command, technically, but I missed the humble heart that Jesus Christ exemplified.
Fighting Cinderella Syndrome
It has never been as easy for a young woman to heave a loud sigh about service as it is in the twenty-first century, where Cinderella Syndrome runs rampant. It is easy to cast our family members as the harsh step-mother and the evil step-sisters when we simply don't feel like serving. It is so easy to imagine ourselves victims when we don't receive the thanks we feel that we deserve.
It can be so easy to forget that our acts of service aren't for our families -not really -or our bosses -not truly -but for the Lord, who has made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
This is not to say that there are not truly abused Cinderellas out there: there are.
But I would wager that most of us can trace our aversion to true servant-heartedness back to selfishness, which, though it is glorified in our culture, runs counter to the meekness that the Christian has been called to. (James 3:15-17)
Embracing True Servant-Heartedness
My dad has worked in many capacities over the years, and has always been willing to serve others as much as he can; more than once, Trey and I have felt that Daddy was perhaps being used by someone who wasn't grateful enough for his time and energy.
Daddy's response to our concerns has always been a smiling, "What good are you if you can't be used?"
The kind of service that Christ was known for runs counter to our sensibilities: the quest for our own rights and interests has been so deeply ingrained in us. But I have this revolutionary dream of becoming the type of woman who serves, not for any sort of payment or gratitude, but simply for the glory of God and the joy of serving him. I have this dream of onlookers not understanding my devotion: as a sister who is always willing to aid her brothers; as a daughter who is always willing to help her parents; as a friend who is always there for brothers or sisters in Christ, sacrificing her own concerns to serve others and doing so joyfully.
I want to be a servant -a girl who lays down her rights and whims and puts the interest of others before her own (Philippians 2:3), the one who serves the Body of Christ boldly and unconditionally -
Starting within the context of her home.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Cinderella Syndrome
Jasmine Baucham posted a great article on her Joyfully At Home blog about "servant-heartedness, in the true sense." We believe it fits perfectly the spirit and message of the Rebelution; and therefore would like to pass it on to our readers.