Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Serving Our Families: Having a Ruth-like Attitude

Ruth Gleaning by James Tissot
As I mentioned recently, serving others is often a lot easier than serving my own family. Why is that? Maybe it's because I take those closest to me for granted: I know they have to love me no matter what, right? Or maybe it's because I don't consider the work I do for my family as service. Drudgery, yes, but service?

When I prepare a meal for a sick friend or send a card to someone needing encouragement, I know that I am reaching out and showing love, providing comfort, giving the person a little lift.

But what about when I fix dinner for my own family? Is there joy in my heart while I'm chopping the veggies? Is there a smile on my face as I prepare the roast? Or is there grumbling on my lips and complaining on my tongue as I serve those who matter the most to me?

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."
Proverbs 15:17
What is my attitude when I serve my family? I love this proverb because it reminds me that it isn't what I serve that matters but how I serve. Even if all I have is a bag of dried pintos and some cornmeal, if I have a humble, loving attitude as I prepare the meal, then we will feast with joy.

As I serve my family day-in and day-out, I need to be mindful of my attitude. It's infectious. Grumbling begets more grumbling, but smiling begets more smiling.

Ruth in the Fields by Merle Hugues

I consider Ruth when I think about attitude. Not only did she remain with her mother-in-law after her husband died, not only did she move to a foreign land, not only did she leave behind her father and mother and all things familiar, but Ruth worked hard to take care of her mother-in-law and herself. She performed the menial work of a servant as she gleaned and gathered the wheat in the fields.

Of Ruth's labors, the foreman told Boaz:

"'She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.'"
Ruth 2:7
Can you imagine how much Ruth must have sweated? How her back must have ached from bending down and picking up the fallen wheat? How she must have wondered why she was doing all this hard work so far from her own home?

But Ruth didn't go home. And we don't see that she ever complained. Instead, she served her mother-in-law and her service was rewarded. Her reputation was such that Boaz provided for her and eventually married her.

While I don't have the menial task of gathering wheat to do, I do have toilets to scrub, clothes to wash, dishes to scrub, and meals to prepare. I can choose to have a grumbling, bitter attitude as I do my chores, or I can serve my family with joy, a smiling face, and a positive attitude, finding beauty in the work God has called me to do. Today I will choose to serve with love.
"Be joyful always..."
I Thessalonians 5:16
If serving your family is a challenge at times--as it is for me, what are some things you can do to improve your attitude? How can you find joy as you serve?

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