Once there was a woman named Lily. She was the hard-working manager of the servants in a fine home, paid well for her work in weekly wages, but subject to the strict rules of the house. Freedom was a word she rarely considered, a privilege she rarely enjoyed. She sought to please the kind master of the house, but only from a sense of duty.
Gradually, Lilly began to cherish a secret love for the owner of the estate. One day, to her surprise, he offered his love and lifted her up from the place of a servant to that of his bride. While now sharing in his fortunes, Lilly continued to manage the household. But the whole spirit of her service had changed. While she continued to do the same things she had done before, she now went about her tasks with an altogether different motive. Her old sense of duty had been replaced by a new sense of love. The cold word “master” was replaced by the loving word “husband.”
Some months later, though, Lilly, still a new bride, began to look back on her humble beginnings. She became so overwhelmed with a sense of unworthiness that she lost the inward sense of union with her husband. The old sense of working for wages somehow drove out the new sense of working for love. The attitude of “he is my master” slowly overtook the loving thought, “he is my husband.” Before long, their marriage had lost its joy.
While this story sounds impossible to us, it is what sometimes happens to us as Christians. We look at God as a stern taskmaster who demands our obedience, instead of as the loving Father who wins it. Our servitude of duty takes the place of a service of love, destroying the sweetness of our relationship with our Lord.
Consider the current idea of “taking up the cross.” We seem to think it means doing something we ought to do but dislike doing. We consider this burdened attitude toward service highly commendable when it is directed toward God, yet how would we respond if it was directed toward us? What husband or wife would want to hear a spouse say, “I am going to work for you today, but I want you to know that it is a very great burden and I hardly know how I will endure it”?
The cross meant death. And it is death we are to take up, the death of our own desires. But we then take on the life of Christ living within us. And we begin to choose his way over our own out of love for him. That union is sweet, and lends an element of joy to even the most difficult times. May our service today be like that of a bride to her husband, and may we remain in that beautiful role until we meet our Lord face to face!
(Inspired by the words of Hannah Whitall Smith)