I'm walking down the street, balancing two fruit tarts in either hand. The neighbor at the end of my street (the Italian Mama!) has invited us for dinner.
They weigh a lot for fruit tarts. As I walk, I start thinking about the task of carrying things in my arms for long distances. It doesn't happen very often. Something about living in America, something about prosperity, something about modern conveniences means I don't carry things anymore.
I know women in other nations who carry laundry to a river to wash it against the rocks. Those same women carry rainwater into their homes to bathe their children. Women in Kenya, at this very minute, are carrying their sick family members to villages miles away to find medical help.
I'm carrying fruit tarts.
What are other women carrying in their sturdy arms today? What physical burdens do they bear? I thought of the woman in Proverbs 31 whose "arms are strong for her tasks." People who carry heavy loads often have a strength, a resolve, and a hidden joy. Theirs is a particularly robust form of flair. But nobody celebrates them with recognition or reward. And they don't seek those things.
We ate the fruit tart, and all evening I'm thinking of people carrying heavy loads. Who honors them? I wake up, still thinking of them.
As the morning progresses, 3 events transpire in rapid succession. First, I read a paragraph about the temptation to build a reputation, to seek fame, to chase reward. The author quotes Philippians in the Bible and shares how Jesus was "of no reputation," and did not seek to exalt himself in any way. He "made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant."
Then, I help a friend pack up her apartment for the moving truck. She's a professor who has served me on many occasions, and her whole vocation involves serving students. At one point, she brings over a golden statue. It's an Oscar!
I take it in my hands. It's heavy. Somebody gave her a fake Oscar for a present, and for a few minutes, we give each other imaginary acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards.
I carry it in my arms--this symbol of fame and wealth.
I'm not thinking of movie stars. I'm thinking of women carrying heavy loads.
And lastly, my daughters return from Vacation Bible School with a craft that displays the exact same verse in Philippians about the servant of no reputation.
Might I live as a servant with no reputation? They carry the heaviest of loads and shine brighter than any star.