How Grilled Cheese Taught Me How To Serve Others

Two years ago, when my dad was finally home from the hospital and settled (think of that term loosely) into a room at my sister’s house, there wasn’t much he could do for himself. He needed assistance to walk, to brush his teeth, and sometimes even to open up packages of peanut butter crackers (which Eli was more than happy to help him with).

During that season, our family was in survival mode, trying our best to fumble from one day to the next without snapping at someone or breaking down in tears. We were so thankful to have Dad home, but it was hard having so many people under one roof in such a stressful situation.

But God used that winter (literal and figurative) to grow our family as a whole and as individuals. And one lesson I learned was from my sweet niece. At the time, Emma was ten, and she’s the second oldest of nine siblings. She’s like a mini-mom in the house, always helping to take care of the younger kids.

Dad’s appetite was non-existent for a while after he came home from the hospital. He didn’t have much of a taste for food, so getting him to eat more than a few bites of anything was difficult. There was one thing he almost always had a taste for: grilled cheese.

I started to notice a pattern. On days when Dad wanted grilled cheese, amidst the chaos of the kitchen, Emma stood at the stove, layering slices of cheese onto lightly buttered bread and waiting for them to brown in a frying pan. Before she started, she’d always ask, “Granddaddy, do you want one slice of cheese or two?” One day, I offered to take over for her (even though I didn’t know how to make grilled cheese - y’all Emma had to teach me when I was 23), but she declined.

She always made Dad’s lunch before her own. She always hand-delivered it to him when it was done. She never once complained. She never once let someone else take over because she was tired or cranky or had done it for days in a row.

This is what it looks like to have a servant’s heart. This is what it means to “serve others humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). I don’t think any of us ever recognized Emma beyond a simple “thank you” or “that’s so sweet of you.” She wasn’t doing it so that she’d get extra allowance money or some sort of gift. Emma loves her Granddaddy and served him from that love.

Emma was a direct reflection of Christ in her servitude. Christ served during his time on earth. The most obvious example of this is the washing of the disciples’ feet at the last supper (John 13). He then tells them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). He humbles himself in service to set an example for the disciples (and us) as to what it means to live a life of service. And He commands us to follow.

Just like Jesus, we should serve out of love. There are a million ways to do this: in the church, in your community, in your work, in your worship. When our hearts and eyes are fixed on Christ, serving others becomes a natural inclination.

The Bible says that the one who serves Jesus will be honored (John 12:26) and celebrated (Matthew 25:23). Serving others is a way we serve Jesus. It is honoring one of His final commands to His disciples. Whenever I feel tired or feel like something is an inconvenience, I think about Emma’s dedication to making her sick Granddaddy grilled cheeses and how it reflects Jesus’ attitude of service.


Morgan CoynerComment