It is not uncommon on a Saturday for Aliza Joy to come find me with a big smile on her face and an insistent gleam in her eyes and tell me, "my salon is open!" And by salon, she means our upstairs bathroom. And by open, she means that I will come in now for my appointment. It is not so much an invitation as it is a directive.
She's a smart one, that AJ, and she orchestrates the opening of her salon to coincide perfectly with the twins' naptime, sensing the exact minute when her mother is released from their toddler grips and seizing the moment when I can devote my full attention to being her client.
At any other moment in time, I would be delighted to experience her "treatments." I love to have my hair brushed (who doesn't?), and there is usually a foot bath and massage as part of the package, too. Honestly, she's quite the aesthetician.
It's just that, well, naptime is such a sacred space for me, especially on a weekend day when I really need some quiet space to recover from the stimulation of a houseful of people. My preference would be to slink away with a book or a journal, or heck, even my Instagram feed. Something, anything that would afford me some solitude.
But then I see that she went to all the trouble to make a sign, and even my solitude-seeking self can't resist this:
Now sit right there and close your eyes! I have a surprise for you!
Is this surprise going to hurt?
NO! she giggles.
I scrunch my eyes closed and hold my breath.
TA-DAH! she declares.
The finishing touch on my pedicure is this:
I'll tell you this much, my toenails were no longer lacking attention. I smiled and hugged her and thanked her for her artful pedicure, all the while planning to quietly and discreetly take it off and redo it myself later.
But then time got away from me, that day and for many days, and I ended up going for weeks with those two smiley faces grinning up at me from tired feet. I'm glad I left them there because in the weeks leading up to Lent, they reminded me that at the heart of serving others, the very essence of waiting tables, is a willingness to sacrifice your preference in the moment to show love to someone else.
And we all do this, don't we? In friendship, in marriage, with our children, on the job, in the classroom, at church, in our community and at home, all day and (for some of us) through the night, there is that moment when we decide if we'll choose what we would prefer or if we'll choose to meet someone else's need in some way.
Jesus said "greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." I've always thought of that in terms of the Cross and assumed He meant that in dying for someone else, you demonstrate the fullness of love. But now I wonder if maybe He meant something far less dramatic, much less heroic.
What if the laying down of one's life for your friends (and family and neighbors and strangers) means choosing the imperfect pedicure over the perfect one and sacrificing the way you would prefer to spend your time for the quietly noble choice of meeting the need of another? May the smiley faces toes smiling back at us affirm that daily, we are walking in the way of Christ by allowing His preference to become ours.
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“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." -- John 15:9-12, NIV