I was cutting broccoli for our stir-fry this evening, and enjoying the simple pleasure of preparing healthy food for my family.
This is more remarkable than it sounds. I am not a natural cook, as you may have noticed. Cooking by nature feels like drudgery to me: messy, hot, unremitting hard work. Which shouldn't be surprising, since one of the results of the Fall was to make work difficult and laborious, whether in the home or outside the door.
But one of the things I have noticed about obedient service is that it becomes easier and more joyful with time. What was once a constant fight with self, and then relentless labour, becomes a happy freedom.
Like the body-memory of a skilled athlete or musician, whose muscles repeat a pattern of activity until it becomes natural, so the muscles and sinews of the soul become accustomed to obedience and service.
I didn't find it easy to serve my husband and children at first. It was a sharp struggle with the self-centred desire to have my needs met, my rights observed. With practice, it felt more natural, but still tedious, repetitive and never-ending. Those feelings haven't gone away, I won't lie to you. It's still a daily battle.
But I increasingly find myself smiling at the joy of service.
The pleasure that comes from nurturing loving relationships. The satisfaction of giving more than I thought I was capable of giving. The unlikely freedom to choose to put others' needs before my own.
The joy of pleasing my Lord, of giving him the love-gift of costly obedience. The wonder of humbly serving others, and in them serving the Master who humbled himself to serve me. The privilege of laying down my life, of walking in the footsteps of the One who laid down his life for me.
It shouldn't surprise us that obedient service feels natural and joyous. For we were made for this. God made us for himself, and we are never fully ourselves until we lose ourselves in him.
In his service there is glorious freedom and inexpressible joy.