Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lessons I learned from Nadeek

He stands at the edge of the kitchen. Slight and muscled, with rich brown skin, the young-ish man in jeans and polo shirt watches and waits. His stance is erect. His brown eyes are alert, yet calm. Invisible, yet fully present. Willing to do nothing; ready to do anything.

The house is quiet, but a walk from room to room counts a dozen or more people reading, resting, scribbling in journals, praying. Christians leaning into the Lord Jesus in a space set apart for them this day.

We are hosts to a silent retreat. Men and women spread in comfortable chairs, or on cushions piled in a corner. Others stand gazing out the window or into a painting. Nadeek is not a participant. He is here to serve, to make sure the juice pitcher is full, the fruit bowl is replenished, and the dishes get washed. He works for us.

I work, too. As retreat leader, chief cook, and hostess I have plenty to do. Still, Nadeek’s undivided attention arrests me.

I am here to serve, a guardian of space, peace and the silence conducive to focus and meditation. Yet within all that I have my own agenda. I, too, desire as much holy solitude as I can carve for myself. So I come and go from my space in the study. My attention is divided.

“I lift up my eyes to You, to You whose throne is in heaven. …As the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy.” Psalm 123:1-2.

I see myself as servant. Yet Nadeek takes me aback. How flawed is my understanding of genuine servanthood. As a creature of the West, where individual trumps community, I see “service” is an activity of the moment. “My time” is to be maximized to get in as much “me-time” as I can around my responsibilities to others.

Nadeek is from Sri Lanka, a child of the East. He turns “servant” into a dignified profession as he gives me a lesson in humility. I asked him to help out with lunch and dishes. He is otherwise free to disappear into his own pursuits. I don’t see “enough” for him to do. Nadeek, on the other hand, sees this set-apart day as filled with opportunities to bless in quiet ways and has set himself as guardian. Most of the day he will stand invisible, but empty cups magically disappear, tea and coffee are ever replenished, the kitchen serving area is spotless. The smallest needs are intercepted before they have a chance to become disruptions.

Suddenly I stand on holy ground as witness to the heart and soul of a true servant. Nadeek could be out about town, resting, or pouring over his beloved sports page. But his master has something going, and he can’t imagine not being there, alert to faces and body language, giving full support to my agenda as he attends those I’ve taken in today.

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever.” Psalm 86:11-12.

With gratitude to my teacher, Nadeek.

1 comment:

KoverB said...

Attuned while attending people who want to get back in tune with their Maker, with each other and themselves....

Most the time we need a 'Nadeek' and sometimes hopefully we will be a 'Nadeek'.....

Love it~