I Never Called You Servants...

He Liked The Juice

 

 

 

 

A Passion Translation

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Those are the NIV-translated words of Jesus found in John 15:15.

But the Brian Simmons Passion Translation of that verse is my favorite, and I think it’s infinitely more accurate—not based on my academic prowess but on what I know about love.

It reads, “I have never called you ‘servants’… But I call you my most intimate friends….”

He Liked The Juice

For a long time, my son, Ethan Wilde, yes, we named him Wilde, was only aware of one fruit of the Spirit, self-control. That’s because when he was between the ages of 7 and 13, I preached it with a fervor Billy Graham would envy.

My son started out like the rest of us—brilliant and immature, a professional mistake-maker. And there were a few years when Karen and I wondered if he would ever know the freedom self-control afforded.

During those years, if Ethan was hungry, he ate the chips—all of them. Sometimes he ate all of them even when he wasn’t hungry. If he thought math was stupid, he found the answer key online and passed fourth grade with flying colors. If he wasn’t tired, he approached bedtime as a suggestion. And when it came to juice, God help us!

We’re a juice family, but I never got any during those years. Yeah, Karen bought juice and even put it in the fridge. But what happened after that resembled a magic show, because if you turned around—voila! It was gone—or worse.

What’s worse? Try opening the refrigerator and thinking excitedly, “Hey, juice!” only to lift the container and discover just a swallow remains. What kinda monster leaves a swallow? A swallow of juice is like decaffeinated coffee—why bother? A swallow of juice is the kinda thing that causes parents to fondly reminisce about the days before kids—except it wasn’t the kids that drank all but a swallow of juice, it was that kid—Ethan, always Ethan!

So, I made a rule—a law, a commandment—for my son, to wit: “Thou shalt only have one glass of juice a day. Just one glass! I’m serious! Son, look at me. I mean it.”

This led to a cleverness that’s hilarious—now. You see, the first rule didn’t fix the problem; there was still no juice in the house. “Maybe it’s the girls,” I briefly wondered until the day I watched Ethan pouring juice into the 32-ounce plastic Buffalo Bills cup we used to water the plants.

That led to a second rule, a subset of the original commandment. “This glass,” I pronounced, grabbing a medium-sized glass from the cupboard.

A couple of days later, I walked into the kitchen just in time to see my curly-brown-haired boy, glass on the counter, mouth on the glass, as he poured the juice into it. He was slurping the overflow!

“Are you kidding?” I thought, annoyed, impressed, and exhausted.

If you’re a parent with littles, you are likely laughing and crying, because you also have a clever, rule-bending, wild kid; and you, too, are juice deprived.

During this parenting season, I knew a mom who told her kids, “I’ve put two juices in the fridge, and I peed in one of them.” I don’t know if it worked for her, but in my house, Ethan would have risked it.

So, for years, Ethan and I had deep conversations about self-control, generosity, obedience, and the nature of trust and freedom.

“Son, my goal isn’t to micromanage your juice usage. I got other things to do with my life. My goal is that you would get a hold of my heart for a juice culture of generosity so that you can live in the freedom of self-control and everybody in the house can have juice!”

“Son, why does a car have brakes?” I’d occasionally ask during a juice course correction conversation. “So it can go fast,” he’d respond with enthusiasm.

“Exactly!”

As parents of littles, our desire wasn’t to control our kids; it was that they would mature in love and grow in self-control. We wanted our kids to have full access to our love and affection so they could have full access to freedom in every stage of life—so they can go fast!

Our goal as parents is mutual trust, and to mature in friendship. Therefore, our highest pursuit wasn’t obedience. Rather, it was heart-to-heart communion, knowing, connection. Obedience was simply a road we traveled together as a family—as friends—maturing in love.

When our kids were young, and, therefore, immature, obedience was a huge part of our friendship. And on the days when Karen and I were most like our heavenly Father, there was nothing transactional about it. By that, I mean, obedience wasn’t about changing behavior; it was an opportunity to grow in mutual trust.

Karen and I endeavored to create a family culture that protected trust. In that culturally safe place, obedience was an opportunity for our kids to discover and develop our values—our heart for the whole family. Obedience was a way our kids could mature in greater love and the fruits thereof—one of those fruits being the freedom of self-control.

On the days when we were most like our heavenly Father, we didn’t want to control Ethan; we wanted Ethan to control himself. We wanted our son to be empowered to go to the fridge, assess how much juice there was, take into account the four other people who lived in the house, and make a decision that was about love and generosity and going fast! For us, this would have been like heaven had come to earth.

In a family culture where self-giving love is the foundation, obedience becomes an expression of humility, generosity, and freedom. Karen and I have learned that where there’s a heart-to-heart connection, obedience is a natural response, the evidence of a maturing friendship. Conversely, where there is no heart-to-heart connection, obedience becomes transactional, and slaving, or rebelling, is the fruit.

“I have never called you ‘servants’… But I call you my most intimate friends….” 1

We never called our kids servants. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Our kids have always been our most intimate friends.

You see, if you teach children to obey and serve outside of heart-to-heart connection, they will become servants who don’t know friendship. And that’s the last thing Karen and I want for our kids! Those servants end up slaving like the prodigal outside of family, or the older brother outside of reconciliation.

Karen and I weren’t interested in raising slaving servants, “because a servant does not know his master’s business….” Instead, we endeavored to raise friends because, well, they get access to “everything that (we have) learned from (our) Father….”

You know, my kids have never once called me, master. They have always called me, dad.

You know, Jesus never once called His Father, Master. He always called Him, Dad.

Jesus was the greatest servant of all but never left sonship to serve. He never rebelled or slaved for a Master, because He had a heart-to-heart connection with a good Father—they were best friends. Jesus never lived desperate, because He knew the confident freedom of sonship. He never lived insecure, because He knew the eternal life of a greater love friendship.

Jesus redefined obedience in the relational trust of family and friendship. He revealed that serving had nothing to do with the transactional hierarchy between masters and slaves.

(1) 1 John 15:15

This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
Order Now At AMAZON.COM

Jason Clark is a bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.

2 Comments

  1. Laura de Mocskonyi

    This article was on my phone when i woke up and after i finished reading the last of it, (having fallen asleep mid day through), my finger accidentally slid up and sideways (or something) and the page disappeared from my phone. I panicked and immediately started trying to do a search for what i was reading (it was late and I didn’t even know where i had found it).

    Turning up nothing resulted in more panic. I really wanted to read it again and perhaps share it, maybe even read through it and discuss with my oldest son, DJ, with whom I happen to be staying at the time.

    After a few searches, and inquiries into “history”, i finally typed in “we never called our kids servants” and it came up!!

    Ahhhhh!

    My husband and I, after a fairly brief whirlwind romance, got married and started having children… By the time we celebrated our fifth anniversary, we had four little ones and two babies in heaven, only to have another child a year and a half later (five children under 5 1/2), then two more heaven babies (my youngest daughter taught me there was a better way to refer to them than calling those precious little ones, “miscarriages”), and the three youngest after that… And a final heaven baby.
    So, after thirteen pregnancies, I was pretty wiped out. So was my husband Greg. I would say my oldest children were, as well, to some degree.

    And they were servants. I hate to admit that. They really got lost in the shuffle of busy-ness.
    My heart hurts as i think about it now … Almost to the point of debilitating me.

    We were homeschooling through much of this busy time and in some ways, that was a blessing, but honestly, I was not able to give all of my children everything they needed. (We raised our family geographically far away from my parents and sister and for a bulk of the time, from his family, too. There was also a very limited emotional connection between our parents and the little (not so little) family we had. This placed a lot of the burden for physical help and support on our older children as we were having especially the youngest three (my oldest son was twelve and a half when his youngest brother was born)

    It made for a very interesting family dynamic.
    I was so tired for so much of it. Mostly because I was trying to “manage” all of it, instead of walking through it with a glorious knowledge of a Father who loved me as a dear daughter, NOT a servant.

    Greg and I had both grown up Catholic but were “born again” at a crusade just three months after we got married (we eloped after a very short period of dating and moving in together… I couldn’t stand cohabitating with a man who was not my husband).

    After the crusade, we threw ourselves into church for about eight months until the seed was seemingly sown among thorns (or one of the birds on the rocky path carried it over to the briar patch and dropped it there!! We became obsessively concerned with the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, believing that the home business God had “brought” into our lives was the ticket to the happy family experience we destined to enjoy.
    After digging in pretty intensely for about three years (multiple meetings every week, bringing stress to already strained family relationships and allowing the joys of early marriage and parenting to be eclipsed by the hope of eventual financial and time “freedom”), we finally threw in the towel. But so much damage had already been done. To our unfirmly founded marriage and house of our family.
    Just like Jesus said, when the storms came, the house came down.

    Through the years, and all the storms, what little “friend”-liness between my husband and I and our children had been there eventually disappeared (if it was even real to begin with).

    It only really was made real to me over the last six and a half years how precious my life was to Abba. How precious I am to Him. Even though my almost my entire married life was characterized as a “Christian walk”, it was made clear to me that I really had no clue about who my Father is and who I am to Him… I really didn’t have a relationship with Him all those years. I was still trying so hard to live by the rules and prove that I was a good person. Bleccchhh!

    My husband and I were separated in 2016, as he personally handed me divorce papers and orchestrated the removal of me and all my things from our home. This was devastating to me, as you can probably imagine. But things had been strained and loveless for almost five years by then, actually all along. I do not know how we made it as far as we did, other than by God’s prevenient grace.

    The journey our family has been on since then has been so very difficult.
    A year and a half before receiving the divorce documents, a few months after being made aware of some serious trouble in our marriage, God introduced me to the concept of marriage reconciliation, through a woman I met in a grocery store parking lot, who shared “Rejoice Marriage Ministries” with me.
    I do not believe in random coincidence. I know God choreographed that.

    And with that encounter, I embarked on what has now been a very long solo voyage… What feels like a round the world cruise on very rough waters, praying, since October, 2014, for our marriage to not end in divorce.

    The divorce took a lot more time and resources than my husband bargained for, being finalized in 2019, February.

    By then, having prayed for four and a half years, I chose to see us as not divorced, but on the road to reconciliation and healing. After hearing so many testimonies of families that had been healed and restored after even worse, I had hope.

    Through all of these heart-wrenching experiences, I learned to work to provide for myself, and I am still being taught about who I am and how a princess stewards her life and her resources. Walking through poverty, homelessness, natural disasters, estrangement from my children and just some of the most awful devastation has made me realize who I am. Because I see now Who has been here all along, carrying me, sustaining me…protecting me and providing for me, growing me in His grace and in the knowledge of His Son, my Bridegroom.

    This article reinforced that.

    Now that I know Him, as my closest Friend, I can show the Love He has shown me to others, especially my husband and children.

    I can pray unceasingly, releasing everything into His careful Hands that are directed by His quintessentially compassionate Heart. As I grow in this friendship, I am trusting Him more and more. I am not as afraid as I once was, having to try to control everything. And everybody.

    I am hearing Him sing over me. I am feeling His pleasure more and more. I am locking eyes with Him.
    Inhaling His life, exhaling my praise and adoration to The One who has rescued me and fills me with His joy and hope for miracles in every area of my life and the lives of the ones I love. Because He loves them and me more than I can ask or think it imagine!

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Hey, Laura

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your story. It resonates in so many ways with some of the religious aspects of my own journey. And I think many could relate. The lie of separation and all the fruits thereof has wreaked havoc on so many sincere folks.

      But I love your testimony of our Father’s kindness and faithfulness and the trust you are growing in. The trust for your kids and the measureless reconciling love you are sharing. I love the intimate way you know friendship and the miracles He is doing in and through you.

      I add my yes and amen to restoration, connection, healing, wholeness, and friendship. I’m honored to be on the journey with you and praying grace and wonder over you tonight.

      Blessings
      Jason

      Reply

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