When I was a teenager, I knew everything. And if anyone told me differently, they were probably just to old and set in their ways to see things from a fresh point of view. When I turned 20, I still knew a whole lot. At about 23 I realized I still had a lot to learn. Every day I learn more about how much I don’t know.
‘Why have I become so exceedingly stupid?’ you might ask. It’s because I’ve learned to listen to the wisdom of others. As a teenager I considered myself open minded. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I knew what I wanted, what I needed and what was best for me. I knew what was best for everyone else too! I never even considered:
- That I might not be invincible
- That my Theology might be flawed
- That I was rude and ungrateful
- That when I thought I was being funny, I was really just being mean
- That I was a TERRIBLE driver (and always will be)
- That I didn’t know the first thing about raising children (I have since learned a few things, but am by no means a master.)
Ignorance was my knowledge. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, therefore I knew everything! Makes sense, right? It never once crossed my mind that I might not deserve the life that has been so graciously bestowed upon me. What I considered my handicaps were really nothing compared to what others live with every day. I’ve always had poor eyesight, gotten headaches, been unable to sing, been too shy for my own good, and been completely two left footed when it comes to sports. It’s a pretty rough life, I know, right?
I never once stopped to think that I don’t deserve the eyesight I was given, the talents I was given, or even the food I was given each day. I was entitled to what I had, and maybe even more. I still catch myself feeling that way about some things. Honestly, it’s hard not to. When you have always had enough, why bother being grateful?
As we get older, it becomes easier and easier to expect our blessings. Expect our daily bread, our creature comforts and the respect of others – especially those who are younger than us. It’s easy to think: “I knew that person when they were just a baby. There’s no way they could know more than me considering the few short years they have spent on this earth.”
So when it comes to taking advice, the older generation “just doesn’t understand” and the younger generation “is still too wet behind the ears to be of any use”. This is the trap, anyway, that my pride leads me to. I find it difficult to consider the possibility that I could be wrong about something. Which makes it equally hard to believe that someone else could be right.
My whole life, the older generation has served me. There wasn’t any invisible line drawn when I turned 18 that said “This is what your parents will no longer do for you.” They still let me walk in the house without knocking, they still let me raid the cupboards and help myself to whatever I feel like, and they still bail me out of any bad situation I get myself into.
And I expect it. That’s what my parents do for me. That’s what they have always done for me. That’s what they are supposed to do for me!
Likewise, the younger generation serves me. My children are to obey me without question, kids are expected to give up their seat if I need somewhere to sit, and my children are expected to drop whatever they are doing – no matter how important it may be to them at the moment – to assist me with whatever I need.
All in all, I’ve found myself weaved into the tapestry of my beautifully self-centered life, expecting more.
This is certainly not what the Creator had in mind. He wants us to love others as ourselves. Did he really mean for you to give up the last bit of ice cream in the house as a gesture of love for another? Yes, He did. And I will gladly accept that bowl of ice cream, thank you!
But seriously, do you ever make the effort to serve others? I don’t mean like donating to an organization or doing a charity walk. I mean real life, down and dirty serving.
Here is the first definition of “serve” on Dictionary.com:
Is that what we are doing for our loved ones? Is that what we are doing for our enemies? When I think of serving, I am reminded of a mission trip to Mexico.
No, I am not reminded of how I served in Mexico. I am reminded of how I was served.
A group of about 50 people, mostly teenagers and young adults were on a trip(of luxury, I might add) with the purpose of serving those in the community. We sang some songs, and played some games. We enjoyed the fellowship and spread the message of Jesus. But what truly impacted me on that trip was the mealtime.
At night we’d all go back to the house and play games and sit around the fire. All the while the old ladies from the church were preparing our meal. While we were goofing off and lapping up the luxury of being honored guests, these sweet little old ladies (who are older than my grandma) were working their britches off! All to serve a bunch of hooligans that were just goofing around having a good time.
These women were amazing. They worked in a hot kitchen on their feet for a long time making food from scratch just for us. To top it all off, they did it with a smile! They were so nice and inviting to me as a stranger. I’ll never forget how they humbled themselves for me. I’ve always pictured myself as an old lady doing the things I enjoy. I have never seen such a perfect picture of what it is to be a servant in all my life.
I aspire to live like the old ladies I met in Mexico. I aspire to love others as I want to be loved. I want to throw off the notions of age based entitlement. There is so much value in the creativeness of the youthful and in the wisdom of the elderly. I pray that my pride won’t hinder my respect for those who are older or younger than me.
I thank God for revealing to me this picture of selflessness.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)