I wrote this paper for my English class... it's a definition paper.
I set out of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, thankful to leave the humid climate, with a clear plan for the following two months. I planned on attending Bible School nestled in the Alps of Austria in the small ski town of Schladming. After that, I assumed that my mom and sister would come travel with me, as we had discussed. Little did I know that I would be extremely challenged by the German-speaking culture and even my perception of my spiritual gifting would be tested.
Long story short, the plans to travel with my family fell through. A volcanic explosion in Iceland reeked havoc on the flights in Europe, and, in turn, made it far too expensive for my mom and sister to fly over and travel with me. God had another adventure in store for me; one that I could not even imagine. The day after I received the disappointing news that I would not be able to travel with my family, God opened another door for me. The principal of the Bible School in Austria announced that his family was looking for a native-English speaking girl to live with them for the summer. I volunteered, having two previous summers of nannying as well as almost eighteen years of experience as a big sister under my belt. It was an all-expenses-paid position, and included my own room. I imagined it would be like living out the movie, “The Sound of Music,” a true adventure. It was certainly an adventure, but not at all the one that I had envisioned.
My primary task was to help the girls’ English improve. The girls were four and seven years old, but the four year old did not take English in school. I had very little authority when it came to the children. They would choose not to obey me, pretend not to understand what I said, or run to their mother, who was home all the time, to get their way. Gradually, my tasks started shifting from entertaining the children to unloading the dishwasher or mopping the floors. Eventually, I felt like I was only needed to keep the house in order. I became embittered. I grumbled as I scraped scraps of wasted food off of the children’s plates. I prayed it would rain so that I would not have to water the multitude of flowers that they kept buying. I felt secluded, alone, and depressed as I spent more time with cleaning products than human beings. When I did have the chance for human interaction, I found it frustrating. “Why didn’t I ever learn German,” I often groaned. “This isn’t what I signed up for, God!” I muttered under my breath.
The German-speaking culture is very orderly and perfectionist. I found it hard to do any task well enough to receive affirmation. The things I did well were scarcely acknowledged; but the things I did wrong were pointed out immediately. One day, it was as if a light-bulb went off right over my head. It was as if everything became clear. I finally understood; my attitude was all wrong. I was thinking about my spiritual gifts, and the fact that I’ve always considered “having a servant’s heart” one of mine. I stopped in my tracks with a mop in my hand and realized that I was acting not like a servant, but a slave. Doing the work begrudgingly did not make me a servant. Grumbling and complaining did not make me a servant. In no way, could my behavior be classified as servant-like. Was it the fun-filled summer I thought that I was committing to? In truth, no, it was not. My attitude, however, changed immediately. I began to recite Colossians 3:23 over and over again. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.”
Almost instantaneously, my attitude changed. Because I had a new motivation, I could find joy in taking out the trash, scrubbing dead bugs from windows, clipping off dead flowers, cleaning the litter box and vacuuming the stairs. I imagined that Jesus was going to have supper with us whenever I cleaned. The thought of him seeing dead bugs on the windowsill or a streak I missed on the window, or getting crumbs on his feet made me almost obsessive about my cleaning tasks. I did not need recognition; even when I spent the afternoon vacuuming the minivan in the 100 degree heat. I discovered that I enjoyed washing all the dishes by hand, when the dishwasher broke. I took the time to focus on the beauty of the flowers I watered every day. Essentially, I began to enjoy God’s creation and even fellowship with him more than I did when I was focused on how boring my daily tasks were. Granted, washing windows is in no way a riveting afternoon activity; but God molded my heart as I started seeking him for approval, approaching my tasks with joy and excitement.
A servant’s heart is not selfish, easily annoyed, or offended. It took me far too long to realize that my heart was in the wrong place. A servant-like attitude is not seeking glory or recognition, but I felt unnecessary and unappreciated because I did not receive any. Often times, you learn the true essence of something only when it is seriously lacking. That was so in my case. The Lord showed me how to be a servant by convicting me when I failed to be one.