Luke 17:7-10 (CEV)
7 If your servant comes in from plowing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? 8 No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Fix me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” 9 Servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10 And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.”
The word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek word for servant, but these days it refers to a person (usually a woman) who supports people emotionally through childbirth.
The word ‘doula’ is highly appropriate I think, because doulas are there to serve the families that they work with.
I’ve been a doula now for over nine years, I’ve attended over 50 births, and although I’m not at very many births these days, the experiences I’ve had as a doula often come to mind when Jesus talks about what it means to be a servant. So here are a few thoughts.
- Servants are on-call for their Master day and night.
As a doula, I’m committed to being on-call for my clients for a pre-arranged period of time before and after the due date. That means my phone is on and I’m prepared to drop whatever I’m doing and go to my client if she goes into labour. It also means I’m prepared to stop what I’m doing and listen if she needs to talk through her aches, pains or worries.
Being servants in the Kingdom, then, we shouldn’t expect to be any less available for what the Master wants or needs out of us. We might have had plans to go for coffee, get to work on time or hang out with our kids. And that might be what the Master has for us to do in that moment.
But we have to realize that sometimes, the Master might have something else for us to do instead.
- Servants are prepared to do whatever their Master needs them to do.
As a doula I’ve done many of the less-than-exciting tasks around a birth. I’ve fetched and carried, cleaned and consoled. I’ve been cried on, yelled at and had someone’s water break all over me. I have learned to always pack a spare set of clothes – including shoes! I’ve stayed up all night with them – and the next night too – and used muscles I never knew I had. Why? Simply because that was what they needed me to do at the time.
- Servants might never be asked to do anything ‘exciting’, but that doesn’t make them any less needed.
My scope of practice as a doula is very simple. If I have to put gloves on for it, then it’s above what I’ve been trained to do. I don’t do anything medical. I don’t get to cut the cord, so no, I’ve never caught a baby.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an important role to play.
My memories of the births I’ve been at contain many of those crucial moments when a woman became a mother, when she found the courage she needed to keep going, when a father-to-be overcame his fear or when we simply moved in just the right way to help guide a baby down a little closer to being born.
- Servants might well have the privilege of serving in some remarkable circumstances.
I remember one babe in particular. The dad called me up when babe was just a few days old. He said that babe wasn’t feeding well, and he wondered if I could come over and check on them. I showed up and noticed that babe was a bit lethargic and had an unusual cry. I knew something wasn’t right, but I had no idea what it was. Mom was very hesitant to go to the hospital, but my gut instinct said go, so I said I would take her, and I would stay with her for as long as it took to find out what was going on.
We spent twelve hours in the ER that night. Baby had a spinal tap done, but still no one was sure what was going on. Babe was started on IV antibiotics though, just in case, and because of that he was in the hospital when he started having seizures – and he had two days of antibiotics in him when they finally discovered he had meningitis. All of that meant that he survived, and amazingly is now a happy, completely healthy little boy. Every time I think of that story I feel honoured to have had the privilege to be able to serve that family in that way.
- When all is said and done, servants will rarely receive the thanks that there actions deserve.
When the birth is over, and the babe is safely born. When mom and dad are cocooned in the delight of discovery. When mom is clean and babe is firmly in her arms, and all of the mess has been tidied away, I say my goodbyes quietly and can almost feel myself fade out of the room. That’s normal. In fact, it’s how I know I’ve done my job properly!
Sometimes I get a heart-felt thank you, but more often than not, the new family barely notices that I’ve left.
Which is fine with me, because after all, I am “merely [a] servant … and [I] have simply done [my] duty.”
- What would need to change in the way you went through your day to be ‘on-call’ for the Master?
- In what areas do you feel you are prepared to do whatever the Master asked you to do? In what areas might you be unprepared? What might you need to do to get prepared?
- What ‘exciting’ things have you been wishing you could do for the Master? What ‘needed’ things are you actually being asked to do?
- Have you ever been privileged to serve the Master in some incredible way? Take some time to give thanks again for that opportunity.
- How do you know you’ve been a good servant if you don’t necessarily get a verbal thanks? What can you focus on to help you determine that you’ve done your job properly?