"the brightness and gaiety"

I've been reading V.S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River. It's about a foreigner living in Africa (maybe I picked it up because Heather is in Africa—I also learned to play a Nigerian song on my recorder, one we sang in church on Sunday) and there's this interesting part about an African servant who doesn't want to leave his master, because of the security in the position of servant. We don't usually think of advantages to remaining a servant, basically a slave. But as circumstances begin to pull him away into a life of his own, it's described this way:

He altered. He lost the brightness and gaiety of the servant who knows he will be looked after, that others will decide for him; and he lost what went with that brightness—the indifference to what had just happened, the ability to forget, the readiness for every new day. He seemed to go a little sour inside. Responsibility was new to him...

Of course we see this as a necessary loss for the sake of freedom and maturity. And it is true that slavery to another human being is degrading. But I recall that Jesus frequently used the imagery of slavery to describe the Christian life, our relation to God ("You also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have only done what we ought to have done.'" Lk 17.10), even his relation to the Father ("I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge... I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me." Jn 5.30).

Simone Weil wrote that the more obedient a slave is to his human master, the greater the gap which widens between them (as the slave becomes less than human?). But the more a person is obedient to God, the more that person becomes an expression of God.

So I'm drawn to the "the brightness and gaiety of the servant who knows he will be looked after, that others will decide for him" when the one looking after us and deciding for us is God. Who can decide much better than we can for ourselves. And who can actually take responsibility for what happens.

The message of human "freedom and maturity" urges us to take charge and take responsibility for our own lives. This sounds ever louder as we get older and as we become parents (and masters?). But the models Jesus offers us are children and slaves—who know the true meaning of freedom.