Turns out, you can’t change a baby’s diaper from ten feet away.
I was a new dad, had never changed a diaper in my life, and had a serious gag reflex. I loved our little boy, but… that’s disgusting. I didn’t want to see the dirty diaper or smell it or touch it. Gross.
It would have been easy to steer clear of the whole process, save for one thing: I loved my little boy. And so I had to get down on his level, refuse to be repulsed, and deal with the problem.
Not because I loved the mess, but because I loved him.
I hated doing diapers, but I knew what it “said” to my boy: You’re soiled. Sure. That happens.
But your daddy still loves you.
Turns out, that’s what it means to be a servant. In a culture based on upward mobility, it means deliberately moving downward.
And in a culture based on taking offense, it means deliberately refusing to be offended. It means entering into the mess of life, and saying, “It’s worth it, because I love you.”
2,000 years ago, we Christians believe, our Creator entered into our brutal history as a man. He was a King, and yet He didn’t introduce Himself into a pristine, sterile palace. What’s more, the announcement of the King’s arrival didn’t go through the usual channels: The rulers, statesmen, diplomats, and religious big shots were skipped.
The news went first to lowly, smelly shepherds: The King was awaiting them – in a stable! Stables smell horrible, too. Stables mean fleas, germs, and manure.
Yes, to be a servant means moving downward. It means refusing to be offended. It means entering into our mess, and saying, “It’s worth it, because I love you.”
Several years back, immediately after the Indian Ocean tsunami, I went with a small group to help bring emergency supplies to devastated areas of Indonesia. We were asked repeatedly, “Why are you here?” In Aceh province, many thought westerners – Christians – were their enemies.
One of the members of our group worked in a truck with locals, driving through the devastation, in the sticky humidity, picking up the bodies of their neighbors. They piled them in the back of a truck.
It was horrific work. They wore masks, of course, but there’s no covering the smell of death.
The locals paused and asked him too: “Why? Why are you here?”
He told them it was because he worshiped Jesus, and he was convinced that Jesus would be right there, in the back of the truck with them. He loves them.
“But you are our enemy.”
“Jesus told us to love our enemies.”
We’ve made “love” into a consumer transaction: You do this for me, and I’ll keep doing this for you. But if that’s love, it’s certainly not profound, and not even terribly interesting. Love means downward mobility. It means a refusal to walk away, offended. It means a willingness to get in the back of the truck.
I’ve always liked the idea of “Silent Night”. But I’m told the song must surely be misleading; stables are bleat-y, noisy places. Newborns shriek, too.
But there’s a deeper silence, I think, and it’s wonderful. It’s the silence of a collective, sudden, jaw-dropping realization: After all this… we’re still loved.
We humans, including me – especially me! – are beset with our own smelly selfishness. We know it. The creation that had begun as a fragrant garden had become a blood-stained battlefield. We did this.
Yet… Love came down. It didn’t lecture us from afar. It was born in our mess.
Yes, your daddy still loves you.
He still wants us!