Do you remember the last time you complained about waking up because it’s too early? Do you remember the last time you complained about walking to a specific destination because it’s too far? Or complaining about the neighbour’s dog because the barking is too loud and you just want to sleep? How many times do we complain about everyday activities or tasks that we must carry out simply because we are lazy or just tired?
I never truly understood what all that meant until I began my nursing placement at the hospital. To be able to sleep whenever you choose to, to take one breath in and out with ease, to have two functioning arms and legs that assist with movement, to walk, chew and swallow. To be able to get out of bed and take your own shower, to freely go to the toilet, to turn your head in the direction you want it to, to stand, to hear or to use the gift of words to speak and express your needs and opinions. I never really thought about these blessings until I witnessed that they could be unattainable and a constant struggle for people to perform.
Some ask, “How can you shower someone, how can you change and clean a person after they have just been to the toilet?” Others ask, “How do you have the patience to slowly walk someone around the hospital, to feed them food and wait until they chew and swallow before giving them more?”
To be quite honest with you, some of these questions I asked myself and often wondered if I was capable of fulfilling this duty. Almost instantly, I recalled the verse in Matthew 25:40 that says, “In as much as you did it to one of the least of My brethren, you did it to Me.” And so, whenever I would shower, feed, clean, or walk with a patient, I knew that it was not just the patient who I was doing this to, but my Saviour. Performing these tasks did not only just become achievable, I felt unworthy to partake in serving these vulnerable people who are essentially Christ.
Take a moment to think about this. It does not have to be a hospital setting with sick people that we can practice these Christian attributes. Nevertheless, any encounter with an individual that requires you to do just that little bit more, is a perfect opportunity to serve your Master. We tend to create a separation between God and His children when ultimately the Bible tells us otherwise. John 14:20 highlights the unity between the Creator and His creation saying, “I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you.” So, what does this all mean to us? Well, let’s look at some practical pointers we can remember:
1) It is Christ you are serving: Yes! As crazy as it sounds, it’s true! When you’re giving your jacket to someone who is cold, you are making Christ feel warm. When you buy lunch for a homeless person on the street, you really are feeding Christ. When you talk to someone that is lonely, you are making Christ feel welcome.
2) Realising that you are unworthy: Once you understand the first step, that it is Christ you are serving, you begin to feel unworthy and that you should be doing more. You do not just want to give that jacket, you want them to keep it. You do not want to just buy lunch for that homeless person, you want to make sure they will be okay for dinner too. You do not just want to talk to that lonely person, but invite them to accompany you every day.
3) Relating some of your encounters with Jesus’ encounters: For me, this was a powerful realisation during my placement. As I was showering someone and finally reached to scrub their feet, I remembered when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. Rather than it being a service, I felt honoured to share something so common with Him.
By remembering these things, service does not even begin to feel like service anymore! Alternatively, it is using some of the gifts and blessings that we usually complain about, to satisfy the needs of our brothers and sisters and ultimately God. Consider what great things He has done for you. Let’s also take into account the words of the Gospel: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life” (Mark 10:45) and therefore we are called to do likewise for our brethren.
After all, if we respond to that calling, we’ll find that we are the ones truly being served and loved. As Pope Shenouda has once contemplated, it is there in the “field,” “vineyards” or “villages” – that is, the places where we work and serve – that God has gently reminded us that “… There I will give you my love.” (Song of Solomon 7:11-12).
SAYG ~ Mariaa Fozi.