It was a blessing to grow up in Vermont. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I had the gift of knowing everyone in my small town, attending a school with only 25 students in my grade, and seeing some of the best fall foliage in the world right out my back door.
But mostly, it was the maple syrup. Pure Vermont goodness on my pancakes, drizzled on a bowl of freshly fallen snow, or molded into candy form – what a treat!
And a treat it was – because real maple syrup is not any cheaper just because you live where it’s made. Most of the time, our waffles were coated with good old Aunt Jemima maple-flavored syrup. You know, corn syrup mixed with some high-fructose corn syrup, water, caramel color, and “artificial and natural” (notice the artificial is listed first) flavors. Oh and don’t forget the sodium hexametaphosphate 😉
100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup doesn’t even have a list of ingredients. Because it is the ingredient! There’s no corn syrup, colors, flavors, water, or sodium hexametaphosphate. There is nothing but the syrup itself. Because 100% is 100%.
Serving others is a 100% necessary part of life with Jesus. We follow His example by giving our time, energy, and resources to enrich the lives of others. We use our God-given abilities to spread the good news of His love. We make our contribution, no matter how small, to keeping the body of Christ functioning and growing.
We tend to think of “serving” as something that goes against our self-centered human nature. But for many of us, it only serves to boost our pride.
It feels good to do good (and that’s a good thing!) But under the surface, there’s some high-fructose corn syrup getting mixed in – because one of the reasons helping feels good is because we’re doing it. Being on the helping side feels good. Being on the receiving side can feel embarrassing and even humiliating.
Our friend Peter knew this well.
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5)
What Jesus did in this passage was a common thing. Feet traveling in sandals on the non-paved streets of that day were dirty. And dining at a low table without chairs meant eating your meal up close and personal with someone else’s feet. It was customary for feet to be washed before the meal and this task was usually performed by a servant, or a wife might wash her husband’s feet, children might wash their parents’ feet, or a disciple might wash their teacher’s feet.*
So when Jesus, the teacher, got down and started washing His disciples’ feet, this became a very uncommon thing and Peter decided it was not right. If anything, he should be the one washing Jesus’ feet – not vice versa!
When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Serving in our human eyes looks a lot like Aunt Jemima. We put in the effort and then God sprinkles in some of His “natural flavor” and makes it awesome. But that’s not the case! We may think we’re the ones doing the washing, but we’re actually the ones having our feet washed.
“But I did the work,” I protest, “I used my hands and my arms and my feet!”
And God says, “Did you give yourself those hands? Did you give yourself working, healthy legs and arms that allow you to move around and do things?”
“But I mustered up the energy to do the work!”
“Did you give yourself that energy? Did you give those plants and animals the air, light, earth, and water they needed to grow to become the food you ate to gain that energy?”
“But I made the choice to serve!”
“Did you arrange it so you could be born in the place where you were born at the time when you were born so that you could have the opportunity to serve in that way? Did you give yourself a brain that enables you to make choices like that?”
It’s all received. 100%. We can’t lay claim to any act of service and there is no place for even a drop of pride. Every act of service I perform is something I’m receiving. I am only the receiver, never the giver. Every time I’m helping someone, it’s not because I did anything to earn that position – it’s only because God allowed me to do it and because He gave me the ability and strength to do it. 100% is 100%.
As a long-distance runner, I carry these things called “gel packs” with me – because when you’ve been burning up energy for over an hour, your body needs a boost. After trying a few kinds and not liking the strange flavors or the complicated lists of ingredients, I decided there must be a better way!
Then my mom introduced me to “Untapped All-Natural Athletic Fuel” made with – you guessed it – 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. I did some research to figure out what else they added to the syrup to make it “athletic fuel” but I found nothing – and that’s because they added nothing! It turns out maple syrup naturally contains all the “minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins” needed to give you that “strong kick when you need it” along with “sustained fuel” for the miles ahead.**
I gave it a try on my next long run and it worked! I finished the last three miles of an 11-mile race in what might be my record 5K time. Goodbye raspberry-mint-chocolate-salted-caramel goo 😝 Running is now my excuse to down a full ounce of 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup in one swallow!
Using your time, body, and abilities to serve can be life-sucking and the chances of burnout are high if you’re leveraging any of it on your own contribution. But seeing every ounce of your service as something you’re receiving is exactly the energy you need to keep on keeping on. It’s a beautiful thing to have your feet washed by Jesus and every time you serve, you get to experience just that!