Jesus says that I am a princess.
Okay, sure. I’ll believe that. I mean, He’s the King, and He’s adopted me as His daughter, so logically that DOES make me a princess. This really isn’t a concept that’s hard for me to embrace. That I am loved, prized, and highly valued, I accept and believe with all — well, most of, anyway –my heart. And I can use the word “princess” when thinking about myself. That I am “royalty” however… That idea has always been one that’s slightly repulsive to me.
Why is that? Princesses are, by very definition, royalty. I am of royal blood, adopted by the creator and ruler of the universe. I have a birthright, an inheritance, the greatest inheritance any living thing can receive. To be royal is something to which I have a right. But to be treated as royalty has always made me feel, well… wrong.
That’s not to say that I have a problem with my younger sister occasionally saying, “Hey, Lauren, it’s fine, you stay here, I’ll do the dishes today”, which does sometimes happen. We keep it fair, though. When she says that, she really isn’t doing me a favour in the long-run because we both know that the next time we have to do the dishes, I’ll volunteer to do them by myself to keep things even. Short-term, though, it’s a very nice thing to do, and I don’t mind at all being given an extra half hour to do nothing while someone else does the work for me.
But like I said, we keep it even. I do a chore for her, she does a chore for me. If she volunteers to do a chore for me, I take another one for her. We’ve been doing that for years, and it’s actually a pretty good system, especially given that we’re prone to fighting with each other when we work in close quarters together. But for some reason, I’ve always had a problem asking other people to do things for me, and it’s even harder for me to accept help when it’s offered.
For example, I went to Joplin last summer with my drama class. We were there on a relief mission to help raise money for a local theatre that had been destroyed in the tornado, and we were also helping out a church that had been giving a LOT of its time to help people who’d lost everything in the storm — we were sort of returning the favour. And it was great fun and it was hard work and it was late nights and early mornings and humid weather and incredible unity with some of the best people I’ve ever met. And we carried a lot of really heavy boxes. A LOT. Of really heavy boxes.
Now, when a box was so heavy that three of us girls put together could hardly stand up underneath its weight, I had no problem letting a couple of guys take it away from us. But there were multiple instances when one of my guy friends (all of whom I love and respect very much) would offer to carry a box for me or help me sort out a storage shed full of heavy boxes, and I would turn them down. As if their offer was somehow implying that I was too weak to do the work for myself, as if I had to be fine and able, no matter how heavy some of the boxes were, or else I’d become some sort of burden.
And, more recently, I was in a production of “Scrooge, The Musical!” with a local theatre, and because I don’t drive I had to ask for a ride to almost every rehearsal — mostly from my director and from my buddy Wil, who happens to be one of my best friends. And every time I had to ask for a ride, I felt so out-of-place and in the way. I felt, again, like I was a burden.
Even my own dad isn’t free from this mindset. He offers to help me with my math work, and I say “No, I think I’ve got it”, even though most of the time, I really haven’t. I find myself craving a trip to the movie theatre or bookstore, and I literally have to work up courage (sometimes even giving myself a pep talk beforehand) to ask him if he’ll take me. Recently, I found myself in a very odd, very unexpected state of unreasonable sadness and exhaustion, and couldn’t bring myself to ask him to make dinner for me. Even when he saw me crying and offered to make me some macaroni, I still felt horrible for saying, “Is that alright with you?” and for even accepting the macaroni once it was done.
In fact, looking back on all this, I realize that almost every time I feel guilty about asking for or accepting help, the help has come from guys. Men (the one exception being my director, Mrs Roberts). For the most part, I don’t have a problem asking for or accepting help from women. When my mom or my sister or my close gal-friends offer to help me, I’m totally fine. I certainly don’t have to work up courage to ask them if they can help me carry something or give me a hand with chores or help me out with my homework. But when the help comes from a guy, I either feel guilty for asking or guilty for accepting.
And this is ridiculous.
For one thing, I am being incredibly unfair to the men in my life. When I ask them for help and feel guilty about it, I am basically just assuming that they don’t want to help me, that they don’t care about me, that they’re so selfish that they’d never want to help me. None of which is true. And when I accept help that is offered and feel guilty about it, I’m actually feeling guilty about giving them what they want. They want to treat me as a lady, they want to help me out, and yes, they want to serve me, and yet when I give that to them I beat myself up about it for “being a burden”.
Which leads me to my second point: I am being unfair to myself. I am allowing myself to believe that I don’t deserve help and that I have to be as independent from their help as possible, or else that makes me weak and burdensome. Every time I ask for or accept help from a guy, I spend hours afterwards beating myself up about it. I mentally and emotionally hurt myself over the fact that I’m letting a guy help me. And that is so wrong in so many ways, it kind of scares me.
The thing is, though, that I didn’t start thinking of it that way until just a few minutes ago. My friend Wil posted a video on facebook of a man reciting a spoken-word poem, a God-given message from guys to girls. I watched it, and I was bobbing my head up and down, agreeing, smiling, saying to myself, “I’m so glad there are guys out there like this. I’m even blessed enough to know a few of them” and “I wish all girls knew this” and then the guy said, slowly and pointedly, “You are worthy to be served”.
My mind froze. Wait, what?
“You are worthy to be served.”
Say it one more time.
“You are worthy to be served.”
I felt like God had grabbed onto my heart and was forcing it to focus on that one line, and I found myself remembering every time I’d refused help from a guy, every time I’d had to give myself a pep talk to be able to go ask my dad for a favour, every time I’d beaten myself up over asking for or accepting help from my dad or one of my guy-friends. And then I heard God whisper something in my ear, slowly and pointedly.
“YOU ARE WORTHY TO BE SERVED.”
And I remembered every time Jesus had given of Himself to help a woman in the Bible, every time He’d said that He came to earth to serve, to help those who were in need. I pictured Him washing His disciples’ feet and saying, “I came to serve, not to be served”. I’d always used those stories and scriptures as motivation for mission trips and charities and helping my friends at church and drama class as much as I could, as reasons for encouraging my friends to the point where my director called me “Lauren the Encourager”, a title that I’m secretly (and, I think, rightly) quite proud of. But now, the more I thought about it the more I realized that those verses were not just meant to be instructions. They were a message. A message from Jesus, to lots of people but right now specifically to me, that He came to serve me. Among others of course, but… me.
And it dawned on me: I am worthy to be served.
Not just loved, not just valued, not just highly prized, but served.
Now, I don’t mean that from now on I’m going to lounge around and eat grapes and ice cream while my guy-friends do all my work for me, or that I’m going to assume that if I ever need a favour one of them has to give it to me. Me choosing to accept help or ask for it without feeling guilty does not mean that I’m now lazy. There is still a limit to how many things I can ask for from my friends. After all, they are my friends, not my personal slaves.
What this is is a declaration. I am choosing to see myself as royalty. I’m still humble, still human, and still a servant, but my Father is the King of Kings, and He chose me. And I am worthy to be served.
And, just in case someone is reading this… so are you. Men and women alike.
You are worthy to be served.
Because God is awesome.
(Note: Sorry if this post is a bit rambling at times. I’m still feeling a little stunned and confused, and more than a little emotional, so the thoughts in my head are pretty jumbled right now and may have gotten twisted and tangled coming out in print.)