“The best way to find out whether or not you really have a servant’s heart is to see what your reaction is when somebody treats you like one.”

The Humility of the Given Self

I pushed the damp mop across the kitchen floor, knowing full well that I would be finding sticky spots on cupboard doors and drawer handles for days to come. The transformation of a bushel and a half of apples into smooth, pink applesauce is the work of a couple hours on my own. However, with my grandson’s “help,” the task expanded to fill an afternoon, for while I am well-acquainted with the five-sided miracle of a star hiding in the apple’s cross-cut core, the discovery was stunning to five-year-old eyes.

How many apples sliced in two will verify that the star is there every single time? How many tiny cups of applesauce need to cool for snack breaks? How many salty pretzels are required for dipping and crunching? Apparently quite a few, and so this goal-oriented grandmother presses into the curriculum of self-giving. Productivity can become an idol, and a demanding one at that, requiring regular offerings of to-do lists and check marks, all evidence of accomplishment and shortcuts to self-worth.

Slaying the Giant of Selfishness has been a perpetual battle throughout the years of mothering my four sons. Pausing on the way to the laundry room to really look at the Lego structure and to listen attentively to the explanation of all its features or calling a halt to my weeding in the middle of a row of green beans to push a swing required a conscious act of the will. Saying “my life for yours” was an act of service that came hard to this task-oriented and driven mother.

When writer Elisabeth Elliot sensed a rising up of pride or a preoccupation with self in her own walk with God, she resorted to this sifting statement:

The best way to find out whether or not you really have a servant’s heart is to see what your reaction is when somebody treats you like one.”

So, what does it look like to be a servant to my family, to say “My life for yours”? I’d been reading content and listening to the podcast produced by Kindred Mom for quite some time when they announced a call for articles discussing the role of humility in motherhood. “Maybe I’ve aged out of their demographic,” I thought, but the Elisabeth Elliot quote and the perpetual struggle with my goal-oriented and prideful self sent my fingers to the keyboard, and I’m grateful to be sharing my collected thoughts on this topic today at Kindred Mom.

Will you join me there?


Grace to you,

Michele Morin

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65 thoughts on “The Humility of the Given Self”

  1. It is amazing how motherhood changed me. As we grew our children up, God was constantly at work in my life and growing me up in Him. Michele, this was a beautiful post and so very true.

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  2. First, “productivity can become an idol”. How I needed to read that! I tend to be a goal-oriented grandmother too!

    Second, pretzels in applesauce? What a wonderful snacking idea!

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  3. I say being a grandmother is God’s path for us to do motherhood all over again but this time we can do all
    the fun things and enjoy every moment and love unconditional and see these little”s for who they really are
    what a wonderful gift from God !!! and could you please let me know how many cinnnamon buns you make
    in your recipe?

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    1. What a great way of thinking about grandparenting! Yes, we do get a second round of all the things we loved about parenting!
      And the number of cinnamon buns will vary depending on how thick or thin you slice them, but I always get enough to fill my huge cookie sheet which is (I’m terrible at estimating) at least 14x18in.
      Hope this helps!

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  4. This so resonated with me, “Productivity can become an idol, and a demanding one at that, requiring regular offerings of to-do lists and check marks, all evidence of accomplishment and shortcuts to self-worth.” I want to be known for listening to the description of the lego castle and joking with the checkout person. But it does require a lifting of our head from the task and crossing from being a “doer” to a “being.” My sister says, “I am a human being, not a human doer. Yes, let’s cultivate that servant heart and be in the present with those around us.

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    1. Yes, lifting our heads from the tasks–so important, and I didn’t think about this post running during the Christmas season, but we’re so busy in December, and the need for connection and staying in the moment is even greater, I think.

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  5. I too love that wisdom from Elizabeth Elliot–copied it into my quote journal. Years ago when my children were young I remember replying huffily to one of them: “I am NOT your servant!” And God immediately whispered, “Oh, yes you are.” I knew what he meant. Providing maid service was not his intent, giving of my time and effort to encourage, support, teach, and love were the acts of service he had in mind. You are so right, Michele: the prideful self DOES get in the way–still–though perhaps not as often!

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  6. I think when we begin mothering there is so much to “do” that we become goal oriented by default. Only as we grow into the role do we start to slow down and listen…and just be. Thank you for this today. Very meaningful for me.

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  7. Michele, oh how I identify with your struggle. For how many times have I rushed past the important to conquer my list. My son stopped me one night when I grabbed a broom to sweep away a spider who was making a web on my porch. “Stop,” he said. “Sit down and watch it with me.” I did. And we marveled together at her work. Today at Bible study we discussed Mary’s lavish gift of anointing Jesus’ feet with a pint of nard, perhaps worth a year’s wages and a lifetime of savings. Then we moved on to discuss the much more extravagant gift of Jesus becoming sin for us. Unthinkable extravagance. I couldn’t help but think of both as I read you beautiful article. His gift to me motivates me to give of myself.

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  8. I try so hard to stop and really see/ actively listen when my boys want to show me something or talk to me and I’m in the middle of yet another chore (or working on my blog!). I know I don’t always stop what I’m doing but I hope they’ll look back on their childhood and remember that I did stop most of the time. Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

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    1. That is my hope as well. It’s a real challenge to stop and give someone my full attention (including my eyes on them), but it’s the story I want to be living and that I want to be able to remember someday.

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  9. I don’t think we ever stop being mothers Michele – and the servant heart we have to cultivate to do motherhood well becomes embedded into us and lingers long after the kids have left home. Sometimes we kick against it, but I think our generation still has a deep understanding of the self-sacrifice motherhood requires (it seems to have been lost on some of the current generation!)

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    1. That is so incredibly true, and I hear what you are saying about the current generation, but at the same time I am so encouraged by the warm mothering I am bearing witness among sweet young families in my real life context. It’s a true gift to have daughters-in-love and young friends.

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  10. Reading this was like receiving a hug from a friend, Michele.
    I didn’t realize how selfish I am until I became a mom. Laying down my life for another (now for three others) showed me this. It’s an honor and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it is definitely a refining process. This encouragement will help me today as I pick up those stones once again.

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  11. I left a comment, there, but it isn’t showing up. I tend to be task-oriented, too, and have battled that giant of selfishness often. I don’t supposed we can stop til we get to heaven. But these stones are good reminders.

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    1. I’ve been wondering about the comments function at KM. Thanks for persevering and coming here to chat. And I’m finding a bit of comfort in the fact that I struggle–if I ever stop struggling against the selfishness, I’ll have lost sight of my true self.

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  12. I love the Elisabeth Elliott quote! It’s amazing how insidious pride is. Any time we think we’re too ‘good’ for a task, it’s a sign that pride is sneaking in. There’s a difference between not wanting to do something because we don’t like the task and thinking we shouldn’t have to do it.

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  13. You always bring me to the heart of the matter, my friend! Oh, how kindred we are in our raising of people and the feelings that go along with. Our journeys may look different, but I appreciate your reminders, lessons, and insights as they shine a light into my own heart.

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  14. Wow, Michele, your gentle reminder to practice humility in motherhood came more like a punch in the face! Haha. I am joking. But really, with my husband spending much time traveling this holiday season for work, I have felt very distant from my children, not engaging much with them all, probably too absorbed in my own selfishness of wanting my husband home and wanting the freedom to do my own things. This message is very timely for me as I do need to focus on being much more present with my kids right now. Hopefully, that will help to pull me out of my holiday funk while giving them what they need and want as well. Thank you!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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    1. Ha! Yes, that’s how that initial quote hits me every time as well. I really don’t like to admit how offensive I find the menial tasks FAR AWAY from the limelight. And yet, there it is, staring me in the face and challenging me to offer up the selfishness for healing and forgiveness. This is why Christmas is such good news to me.
      Always SO good to hear from you, Shelbee.

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  15. Michele, I find myself slaying that giant over and over again! LOVE the Betty Elliot quote. So much wisdom in this post. Thanks for the needed reminders!

    Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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  16. I am trying hard (but sometimes not enough) to find the time to actually stop and just be with my daughters. The irony I find sometimes is that being at home every day doesn’t make much of a difference. I often wonder do mothers who work outside of the home think that if they were to stay at home they would have far more time with their children. The truth is not necessarily so. I am there everyday but there are a million and one ‘tasks’ to do that result in me not spending enough quality time with my children. It’s something we all have to work hard at, regardless of our living situations. Thank you for linking this thought-provoking post up to #globalblogging x

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  17. I don’t think we truly appreciate our parents until we have children ourselves and become overwhelmed by the necessary selflessness that comes with bringing life into the world. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteam

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