The third love language we studied is acts of service.
The love language of service is one of sacrifice and help in a time of need. This is best exemplified through Jesus, and that is what we focused on in our group. Tina did a great job leading our discussion.
We listed all of the acts of service that Jesus performed and received during the three years of his ministry: healing the sick, raising the dead, washing feet, feeding five thousand, educated the masses and dying on the cross, just to name a few. He was among the least of them, the most needy and meet their basic, most pressing needs. Thinking about how Jesus received was a new tangle for me. He received water from the woman at the well. Another woman used expensive perfume to clean his feet. Martha served him when he was in her home. So this is a love language he knew well.
Acts of service is a way of expressing a sense of responsibliity for the well-being of others.
As with all of the gifts there is a shadow side, how it can be distorted to be negative and unhealthy. For acts of service its underbelly is slavery. In slavery you are not giving because you want to but because you have to. In slavery “freedom to truly serve is lost. Slavery hardens the heart. Slavery creates angelr, bitterness, and resentment.” This isn’t love.
When you treat another person as an object, you preclude the possibility of love. Manupulation by guilt (‘If you loved me, you would do this for me’) is not the language of love. Coercion by fear (‘You will do this or you will be sorry’) is alient to love. Love refuses to be manipulated.
I have to admit this love language is really hard for me, not to give but to receive. I think I’ve got too much experience with the black side of acts of service. For me it means vulnerability and weakness. I do not like to be needy. If I can’t do it myself I don’t really need it. Making a need be known is really an effort. If someone asks to help that’s one thing. But having to ask is quite another. This is definitely an area I need to work on.
It’s interesting that when God reveals a weakness he will continue to work on it for you. In another study this idea of vulnerability through acts of service came up again. This time it went futher to say that the inability to ask for help is evidence of a stubborn pride preventing us from letting go and asking God for help. So instead of growing, changing and maturing we cling to lifestyle that doesn’t work for us anymore but we’re suck because we operate in our own power never asking for help. Yikes. Definitely need to look at that some more.
Still, acts of service is definitely not my primary love language.
On Friday night I had my final presentation in my family therapy/pastoral counseling class. It was an indepth analysis of all of my family’s history and dysfunction color-coded and graphically represented in a genogram. I’ve done some of this before so i thought I was ready.
I’ve spent the last three years of grad school dissecting my life – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve written papers on the trauma, prepared workshops based on my experience and practiced cousenling others. But I have never had to stand in front of 30 strangers and say out loud the different things that have happened in my family’s history and in my life.
I thought I would be fine given my own personal therapy and everything I just described. I thought I had worked through the emotion attached to it and would be able to do it focusing on the resilience, developed resources while being honest and professional.
I don’t even remember what I said. I had a cheat sheet listing several elements I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss but other than that – no idea. I love public speaking, but this time was different. It was ultimate vulnerability in front of strangers – not just presenting facts, theory or speculation. This was my life and my family heritage laid out for all to see.
I thought about holding back but knew that there is a lot of healing that comes when you give words and voice to your story. I have never said out loud to anyone, other than my therapist about some of this. Granted, I didn’t go into graphic detail but I talked about the family legacy of adultery, abuse, alcoholism, unavailable men, co-dependent relationships, etc. WOW! I was also able to speak about the history of strong, independent women and the blessing that my mater great-grandmother spoke over her son and his family for generations to come. I also recalled how my parents have stopped many cycles and worked hard for our lives to be different. It’s not all bad.
Maybe I remember more than I thought. But I underestimated the power of my story, emotion and all. I came home and just cried. It’s hard to sit with some of it but I’m glad its out there. I’m anxious to see how God uses it to help someone else.