The activity of the high-school lunchroom buzzed around us as Eve placed a white stone in my hand and closed my fingers around it with her own. I was trying to decide whether or not to move to the literal other side of the planet, and I had come to ask a trusted friend and mentor what to do.
Eve’s eyes searched mine as I turned the stone over in my hand. Her fingers were warm compared to the cold, smooth stone, and her words were warmer. “Katie, I just don’t think He cares as much about where you are going as He does about who you are becoming. Wherever you go, you will be His and He will be there.”
My 18-year-old heart and mind mulled over these words. I had recently left my heart in Uganda after a three-week trip, and I had asked her whether or not she thought I should move there after I graduated. Eve’s answer was not the “yes” or “no” that I had wanted. When I finally looked down at the stone in my hand, I saw, written in bold black letters, one word: “BONDSERVANT.” And then she spoke: “This is what we embrace in Christ, Katie. I see it in you.” She winked, and I watched her make her way back through the crowd of students.
I kept that stone, and when I finally decided that I would move to Uganda, I packed it in my bag and took it with me. For a while, it sat atop a stack of books that lay next to my bed in the closet-sized bedroom of the orphanage where I worked. Later I moved it to the bedside table of the small house I had rented so that I would be able to foster a sibling set of three in need of a temporary home. During that wild season, the white stone, smooth and compelling sat there and those black letters stared up at me with that word, bondservant.
At the time I didn’t know what it really meant. In the Greek, this word bondservant is doulos, a word used to describe a slave who had already gained his freedom by working the appointed amount of years to pay his debt, and yet willingly chose to remain with his master out of great love and devotion. In many cases, a bondservant would even beg to stay with his master, because being a member of the master’s family was even better than the idea of being a free man. Once the bondservant chooses to stay with his master’s family, the master takes an awl and uses it to nail a piece of the servant’s ear to the door (ouch!). Now he is marked. Now everyone will see and know – he is a part of this family.
The thought of being a slave or a servant probably repulses many of us in our culture built upon freedom and independence. We wrap our fingers tight around our freedoms, and they wrap their grip tightly around us too, entangling our hearts and taking hold of how we live. But I knew that deep down I was begging to stay with my Master. For my Father to secure me to Himself. For my everyday moments to be marked by His blood.
It has been more than ten years since I stood, a bit bewildered, turning that white stone over in my hand. I had no idea that the next decade would bring trials that would shake my faith to the core and joy beyond my wildest imagination. Now I have married my very favorite person, I have adopted 13 children and birthed one more. I have buried more friends than I care to count, I have battled long and hard for people imprisoned by addiction and terrible disease and sometimes I have won, but sometimes I have lost. I have laid prostrate on the bathroom floor and beat my hands against the tile and wondered if God could really be good in this terrible mess of a world and just days later I have raised hands high in praise and wondered why I, so undeserving, would be the recipient of so many great gifts.
Somewhere in between moving houses and growing our family and ministry and life, that white stone got lost. But I remember it, and I remember my eager high school heart, so certain that what God wanted of me was my service. And that was part of it. But a bondservant is so much more. What He wanted was my very self. The Bondservant is known; he is loved, and he is forever marked by his love and devotion to his Master. To be a bondservant is to willingly, joyfully choose our Master because the love we find in Him is the greatest freedom we could ever fathom.
It is not easy to lay down our wants, but it is always worth it, every single time. Sometimes I wrestle, and He takes my face into His hands and whispers my name, invites my eyes to look into His. And they are kind eyes — compassionate, gentle, and trustworthy. My flesh would rather it be my way, for it all to work out as I want, when I want, how I want. But what of the Master’s wants? Am I not marked by a love and devotion to Him, and isn’t being a member of His family better than being free and on my own? And do I not get the joy of being fully His – utterly, completely devoted to Him?
Today, I watch my children, my friends, my husband, my ministry, and I know. Bondservant doesn’t just mean the greatest sacrifice, it means the greatest joy. Bondservant doesn’t mean that I am to be God’s slave, it means I am to be His family. It doesn’t mean that I will follow Jesus in the most terrible of hard places because of simple obedience, but because of love. Because I love Him so much, all I want is to serve Him, to follow Him.
After the angel foretells to Mary that she will in fact be the woman to carry God incarnate into the world, “How can this be?” is her initial question. The angel answers simply that nothing could ever be impossible with God. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she says. “May it be to me as you have said.” Doulos, “The Lord’s servant,” is her simple answer. Willingly, she means. Willingly she will choose to be a servant. Willingly she will choose this Master who has always given good gifts and with whom nothing is impossible.
Recommended Reads Giveaway:
Today we are excited to give away five copies of Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors. To be entered for a chance to win this brand-new book, please leave a comment sharing what “bondservant” means to you (or why you’d love to read this book)! The giveaway will be closed at midnight (CST) on Tuesday, October 9. Winners will be randomly selected and must live in the U.S.
Katie Davis Majors moved to Uganda over a decade ago with no idea that this would be the place that God chose to build her home and her family. Today, she is a wife to Benji and mom to her fourteen favorite people. Katie and her family invest their lives in empowering the people of Uganda with education, medical care, and spiritual discipleship. She is also the founder of Amazima Ministries, an organization that cares for vulnerable children and families in Uganda and the author of the New York Times bestseller Kisses from Katie.
Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful is Katie’s latest book.Leave a Comment
Paula Harter says
Living overseas myself for many years had its challenges. I want to read Katies story as she continues to live for Jesus overseas.
Bond-servant – Totally surrendered to God and His will for my life. Doing life for Him and not for myself. Loving God to the fullest and serving Him in the easy and hard times.
Such a beautiful and thought provoking article. It is so true that we cling to our freedoms and cringe at the thought of servitude and obedience. The concept of bondservant to our Lord is perfect. I want to serve Him because I know His love! What a wonderful post to start my day! Thank you and God bless!
I needed this today. I am weary as a mom, whose husband’s job takes him away from time to time. I want to give up running this race sometimes, but this was a reminder of my “why.” It’s not to raise perfect kids, be a perfect supportive wife, be obedient out of duty, but it’s because I love my Savior and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly no matter what the cost. He doesn’t expect me to have it all together or live up to my own high standards. He wants me to just BE with Him and to desire more of Him, which then the outflow of being in His presence is knowing who I am in Him, and then serving Him by being that wife and mom He has called me to be. (Bondservant)
Melissa Ens says
For me “bondservant” right now means letting go of my illusions for what my life should look like and looking to God for His desires for my life instead.
Amen I love all these comments. In the dictionary bondservant is a slave bond in service without wages. That sound extremely harsh to the ears. To a world that doesn’t know Christ and the ultimate sacrifice He has paid for us it just doesn’t make any sense. About 18 years ago I married the man of my dreams. We were expecting our first child and life was great. The arrival date came and she was a stillborn. The next year I became pregnant again and then a miscarriage. That same year my then husband and I had a car accident that would alter our lives forever. Everything changed in the blink of an eye. He completely changed and due to the certain circumstances I had to end the marriage. Years later I am still a firm believer in Christ and I love the Lord with all my heart. My life may not have turned out the way I had it planned out but my Master has been faithful to me. During those tough years , He was teaching me the meaning of bondservant. I will praise and worship Him no matter what life throws my way. He has promised to be with me for, as long as, I live and when you surrender to Him, He will do the same for you.
Cynthia McGarity says
This post and this life are astounding to me. Thank you for sharing your heart here. May I lovingly embrace the bondservant mindset so willingly…may I always remember that following Him, no matter the circumstance, will always be better…richer…than being “free.” Beautiful word.
Sue McGee says
Being a bondservent to Christ! To me that means you give every breathing moment in your life to the glory of your master. You go where he wants you to go, you do what he wants you to do and you praise him for his faithfulness each day. I believe I strive for this but fall short. Life and circumstances get in the way. It seems I am constantly pulling myself back to his love.
Carla Ritz says
Bondservant/doulos. It reminds me of my friend, Annie, who is a trained doula (from the same word). She is done having babies. She has gone through the pain of labor and delivery four times. She has no need to enter into that difficulty again, personally. And yet… she enters into it, willingly on behalf of others regularly. She labors with mothers, comforts them, sets her own needs aside and shares their pain. Setting aside her own wants/needs to minister to them for as long as it takes for another baby to enter the world.
Melissa Allen says
Such a timely message for me. Thank you so much for sharing this. I had long considered myself a bondservant of the Lord, but had no idea that the title actually changed from slave to bondservant after having gained his freedom. He is loved and like family! It is so good to know these differences.
“To be a bondservant is to willingly, joyfully choose our Master because the love we find in Him is the greatest freedom we could ever fathom.” This is what I long for. I want to love Jesus and rest in His deep love for me. And out of this love surrender to His leading in my life. And yet I have put protective walls up in my heart due to traumas in my life. Slowly He is helping me dismantle these walls. I like Katie’s title, “Daring to Hope,” even as I wait on His timing for healing of these deep wounds. Finding His goodness in my brokenness and the brokenness in this world.
I’d love to read this book. I read Katie’s first book, and it was amazing. I’d love to read this second one, to see how her perspective has changed, how she has grown, and how her family is doing now!
Bethie Mariah says
Being a bond servant is being totally surrendered to whatever the Lord brings your way or asks you to do. Being in surrender is total trust in the Lord, no matter what. It is exciting and an adventure. It is where my heart feels full and happiest!
I’ve heard so many good things about Katie’s first book. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read it yet. I’d love to read her newest book, with the exciting newest chapter of marriage and a baby. She is such an inspiring person.
Laura Drury says
I would love to read Katie’s book, she truly is a beautiful soul. I feel I could learn and be encouraged from reading it.
I am studying obedience, and the freedom that comes through obedience to a good Master keeps coming up. Bondservant is such a powerful example of that… we have to serve something, just have to choose Whom we will serve and do it joyfully and with our whole heart!
Kim Evarts says
First, being a bondservant means that I serve Christ because I want to, not because I have to. Secondly, I would love to read Katie’s book because I loved reading her first book. Next to the Bible, Kisses from Katie is my favorite book. It was used as a tool by God to get me to go on short term mission trips.
I read Katie’s first book and would like to hear about her new faith adventures in a far away country.
Carolyn Livingston says
This excerpt moved me and stopped me in my tracks. I will be contemplating the implications of being a bondservant to Christ and plan to make my own reminder…though I haven’t decided yet just what it will be. This post is being printed to add to my collection of devotions to read and re-read, particularly as I hope I will have an opportunity to share this with others. I am sure reading the book will be even more inspirational!
The word bondservant in my life means I will trust my God in all circumstances and trust he is leading me safely to home. I can obey without fear and relax in his arms in the darkest times knowing he is near and will not leave me with him.
I have been marinating on the term “Bondservant” today, and I am ready to claim that for myself. I have loved Jesus for my whole life, but I have to admit that I have allowed tough times to drag me down and make me weary. He has picked me up and comforted me, and I pray that I will fall more deeply in love with Jesus and will follow Him no matter where He leads me. Katie Davis Major, I look forward to reading your book!!
The Lord is good … all the time! <
I just finished reading “kisses from Katie” and I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to read “Daring to Hope” I was so excited to see Katie on the today show and in this broken world we need to see more positive things like what Katie is doing…changing the world one person at a time. Thank you Katie for your awesome
Testimony and may He richly bless you and your family.
To me, being a bondservant means that I willingly have chosen to live for Christ, knowing both the cost and the joy that come with following Him.
Letting down my concerns, my worries, wants and desires and grunting God that he has my life and knows my plan to move forward and be a disciple.
Hilda Quintanilla says
Surrender to the will of God, seek Him & obey.
I love this girl, since I first read her first book! A life abandoned to her Creator, nothing more loving.
Bond servant- one who willingly lays down their rights, desires, selfish ambitions, and self interests in order to freely choose to listen and obey a master willingly. When we choose to be bond servants of Christ we lose our self to gain everything He gives. We lay down our life to gain a better one. We take on His yoke and burden which He carries, and we walk with Him in His work.
Krista F. says
Bondservant is to be crucified with Christ, to follow His will and way.
Krista F. says
Loved this article and would love to read your book.
“Bondservant” means letting go of what I think I want and need, and giving it all to God.
I would love to have this book to read! I read Kisses from Katie when it was published a few years ago, and I was totally impressed by this young woman’s drive, empathy and compassion, and obedience to God’s call on her life. I am eager to “catch up” with Katie and see what she and God are continuing to do for the people of Uganda.
I was so moved by Kisses from katie. This book sounds like it will have the same impact!