Riding in the middle of their minivan last weekend, I noticed my granddaughter Sadie– seated beside me– admiring the diamond in my wedding ring.
“Sadie, where’s your wedding ring?” I teased.
“(…Giggle, giggle…) Nama, that’s silly! I’m not married! I don’t have a wedding ring!”
“Is Daddy going to let you get married and get a wedding ring when you grow up?” I asked.
Momentary silence. Then, “Dad?? [A bit louder...] Dad? Are you going to let me get married and get a wedding ring when I grow up?”
My son, driving the van, responded slowly, “Wellllll…. I just don’t know about that, Sadie… I’m still thinking about it…. Can’t you just be my little girl forever? Do you have to grow up…?”
I giggled along with Sadie and said, “That’s silly! You can’t be a little girl forever! You have to grow up so you can be…. What are you going to be when you grow up?”
“A Pirate Princess!” she answered soundly.
“And I’m going to be a real princess when I grow up!” her sister Raeme piped in from the back seat.
“And what do ‘real princesses’ do, Raeme?”
“Uhhhh…. I don’t know…”
“Maybe real princesses spend their time painting their castles and decorating them to look really nice,” I suggested.
But Raeme thought my suggestion was a joke and laughing at it, she corrected me– “Oh, Nama! I’m not going to paint my castle!” [Insert tone here that implies, ‘That’s totally ridiculous!’] “I’m going to have servants!”
Oh-oh… On the one hand, part of me thought this intelligent little lady was off to a really great start. On the other hand, I realized that more likely at some point in her future she’s going to be in for a very disappointing reality check…
As much as I would love to stake claim for contributing to certain wonderful genetic aspects of my grandchildren’s characteristics–especially royalty– this is clearly not one of them. Just recently, I’d commented to my husband that I find myself inexplicably identifying with the servants instead of the elite in BBC series of artistocracy such as “Upstairs Downstairs,” or “Downton Abbey,” or even “The King’s Speech.” I don’t know why that is… but recognizing it has caused me to ponder the idea of servanthood a lot lately.
Perhaps it’s that perspective– my identity with those who serve– that’s colored my opinions about aristocracy and servanthood, but I have no problem at all with the system. I completely disagree with the man I met on the cruise ship we were on last fall who, in standard class as we were, bitterly complained about class-division and the elite in far nicer accommodations. Frankly, I figured that if the elite wanted to pay that much more for the extra luxury, they were welcome to enjoy it with my blessing. I was totally content where I was.
And I am certainly not of the “Occupy Wall Street” mentality that perceives class division as evil, or corporate elitism as a horrible thing. I’ve lived long enough to have found out that those at the top got there largely through very hard work and a lot of sacrifice. They are living out some very wise Biblical principles like, “Whatever you sow, that you shall also reap,” and “If a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat,” and “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil, for this also is from the hand of God.”
Getting right into the servant’s quarters and the cooks’ kitchens through these fascinating BBC portrayals, I’ve been impacted by the advantages of class division. The servants– many of whom were orphaned, alone, and did not have families of their own before they became servants– never owned land or property, yet were brought into the comfortable homes of the elite. They were provided for, and given not only jobs and security, but also “families” they could be a part of as they lived, worked, and became intertwined in the lives of the other servants. Along with these others, they formed their own unique “family”– sharing each other’s joys, and carrying each other’s burdens. Out of aloneness, they became part of something larger than themselves.
More than that, I like the idea of the division between the elite and the servants because it gives me a very clear picture of the Kingdom of God– a very clear picture of who I am, Who God is, and what my relationship to Him is.
Without a doubt, the individuals who have most impacted my life by the strong evidence of Christ that was alive and vibrant in their lives were not the most “anointed,” or those who were royal speakers, writers, or musicians. Unquestionably, it’s been those whose lives were marked by a spirit of humility– by a servant-heart that reflected a clear understanding that they did not deserve to be brought into His Household, yet were brought in through the amazing grace of a loving and forgiving God. We who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We who have no inherited right to share in His Household have been brought in by amazing grace… We have been set free from sin, free to become servants of Almighty God (Romans 6:22)!
“You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9.10.)
The Kingdom of God really is fascinating– to increase, you must decrease; to reign with Him, you must suffer with Him; to receive, you must give; to become part of His royal family, you must serve. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ranson for many,” (Matt. 20:26-28.)
I understand that He has made us royalty–kings and priests, and that we have an inheritance that’s reserved for those in the family. So Raeme is right– we are “real princesses!” But I never want to forget–ever– that the way to enter His royal family is by being His servant. “Serving” is what constantly keeps me properly “Theocentric”–focused on Him, instead of me. That’s just what Jesus Himself showed us.
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