Serving when at your weakest

This Advent season, we have the opportunity to reflect on this deep and incredible commitment God has made – becoming human. We’ll consider four areas where Christ’s coming creates a new paradigm for the way we live.

Our theme in week three is Mindset. Christ’s example of humility (by lowering himself to human form) compels us to put others before ourselves. Out of love and service, our mindset shifts from ourselves to a focus on the interests of others.

Serving when at your weakest

Two hours ‘til dark and no lean-to in sight… That didn’t leave much time to set up camp and cook. It was our fourth night on the trail and, honestly, my patience was wearing thin. From the crack of dawn until the stars came out, Joel and I were making sure that other people felt comfortable or knew how to take care of themselves.

It was my first summer working for La Vida’s Adirondack program as a backpacking guide. I didn’t know much when I applied for the position, but my main goal was this: get back to the Adirondacks as fast as possible, hike as many mountains as my legs could bear.

“I see the lean-to over here, Ro!” Sigh. Finally. I slid my heavy backpack off my shoulders. I looked down at my toes and thought about how far they had taken me that day, that week. They were working so hard! Finally, I could take off my boots and stretch them. I sat down and began untying my laces.

Just then, splish. Right on the lens of my glasses. The rain had let up around noon, but evidently, it hadn’t had enough of us. As I sat in the wet dirt, tending to myself, Joel sat down beside me.

“Hey, I was thinking. Our group has worked so hard today. Despite the rain, they kept such a positive attitude. What if, instead of asking them to get started on camp chores—setting up the tent, cooking dinner—we let them cozy up in the lean-to and read their Bibles. We can surprise them by cooking dinner for them!”

I gave a sharp inhale and suppressed my eye roll. You know who had worked hard that day? Me! I tied my boots back up and began to set up the camp stove, preparing the pasta packets for boiling.

I didn’t know it then, but this small gesture was somehow bringing me one step closer to understanding Christ. Empty belly, toes still jammed in water-logged boots, cooking a hot meal for those who had done nothing for me. It felt so contrary to what life had taught me prior to this moment.

My whole day had been about me. My toes, my belly, my hard work. But as I cooked with Joel, watching our campers snuggled up, reading scripture together, I saw a hint of Joel’s motivation. Christ’s humility and servitude was at the heart of his actions. To serve when you are at your weakest is a challenge, but with Christ at the center, this self-forgetfulness can become liberating.

In this Advent season, we are invited to set our gaze again on the greatest act of self-forgetfulness that earth has ever seen. Christ humbling himself to mere humanity, being persecuted, dying for those who had done nothing for him.

Allow this to fill your heart. How can it spill over into your actions this season?

Story by Ro Denman-Joseph

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