Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Slave of All?

I was recently considering the phrase, "Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant."  I just looked up the passage and Jesus goes on in His teaching to His disciples,

"And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."  Mark 10:43b-45

Especially the idea of "slave of all" stands out to me.  I've been mulling over it for a few days.  I've been considering my life and my choices and trying to match it up.  Do I serve others as a slave to them?   What would that look like?  Do I lay my life down for the people God has placed in my life?  I think I do.  I mean, many or most of the tasks I perform in a day are important services for my children and for the improvement of our home, whereby everybody benefits.  It would seem that my life is devoted to serving others...but...is it?  

My spouse and I have been talking through some conflict off and on this week and it was this that caused me to consider further if I am really taking a servant's mindset.  I was noticing last night how much I want to lean on him and depend upon him, which affects my decision-making.  If he is reading to the kids, I am just glad that he's handling it so that I can get something else done or get a minute to myself.  I disappear.  Then I'm nowhere around when it's time to put the kids to bed and he ends up doing it.  If he regularly pitches in with the dishes, I begin to assume that he will take care of that and I can use the time to accomplish a personal task that's important to me.  I had been thinking of these types of decisions more in the light of being task-oriented and dividing labor effectively.  But I find I am being naive about my motives in certain regards and actually depending on him instead of being dependable for him.   

These days I don't like to waste time.  I want to get a lot done and there is A LOT to do!  Sometimes other people are just too slow for me.   Let me emphasize the last words of that last sentence, for me.  (doesn't really sound like the slave of all, does it?)  Being task-oriented can be good.  But I think it can actually militate against a true servant mindset sometimes.  It takes setting aside my own agenda, no matter how good it is, to just be available for others, whatever they need.  Man, that can be hard.  It isn't wasted time, but it sure can feel like it initially.  When I realize that I view it that way, then I can see how it must come across to those who are depending upon me. 

My pride resists this kind of self-rebuke.  The things I'm doing are important.  Really, I ought to be recognized for them.  But the truth is that the people around me need to feel important.  Important enough that I stop everything to be there for them (not just for emergencies).  That I set aside my own goals to be actively pursuing activities that will make them feel supported and able to depend upon me. 

I was considering Jesus' life as I was mulling over these thoughts.  He made Himself the embodiment of other people's needs.  I have begun a Bible-reading program for the new year and look forward to working my way through the gospels and focusing on looking at His life, that I might gain more insight into how to live this way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Central Criteria for Living Correctly

Gal 5:14  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

I have found lately that my fundamental decision-making criteria is being shaped into the simple directive above.  God has made me a parent.  Parenting can seem so complicated.  There are so many choices.  Which specifics do I make an issue over with my child/children?   I guess I had better do something about the screaming tantrum, but why?  How important is it whether or not I push my child to eat his green vegetables?  What about sharing a cherished toy with another child?  This only gets harder as the kids get bigger and there are more of them.

As the Lord has convicted me of my own blindness and sin and graciously allowed me to be refined by His revelation, these parenting questions are getting simpler for me.  Parenting is essentially teaching children to live correctly.  Correct living is defined by God as revealed in His Word.  Only as He shows me how to live correctly myself can I exemplify it and teach my children to do it.  All of God's Word is useful for learning correct living, but Galations 5:14 tells us that the whole law is fulfilled in one word.  Amazing!  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Every moment of every day I should be asking myself, "What SHOULD I be doing right now?"  The answer is based on the criteria given in the Galations directive.  Taking all things into consideration, what do the people around me, that God has given me responsibilities towards, need from me right now? 

When I wake in the morning, there are some basic things that usually always need doing.  Most of the time the answer to the above question is going to include showing my kids consistency through: making my bed, straightening my room, putting thought and a little time into my appearance to look nice for them throughout the day, reading my Bible, greeting them each cheerfully, meeting any immediate needs such a diaper changes or help getting dressed, giving directions and getting breakfast started.  Usually the most pressing need is for consistency in these things so that the children believe that they actually are important and I/we do them for a reason.  All of the things that I just listed, but especially consistency in doing them, by the way, are not my strength.  Victory in this has only been recent.  

Sometimes the most pressing need changes and this is where my true motives can be tested.  Each day when I wake up, I don't know exactly what I'm waking up to.  God has it planned and He doesn't always mean for me to to get that shower I needed or the quiet time of reading I was trying to be consistent at.  Should I be OK with this?  How do I know when this is from God or when it's my emotions getting in the way?  Loving my neighbor, doing what's best for those around me is the criteria. 

For example, having a long conversation with my daughter about the meltdown she's having about her favorite shirt being in the laundry and not available to wear might be exactly what is most loving and needed and my goal of starting school at 9:00 isn't what God had in mind after all.  I need to let it go.  There's no failure or need for feelings of failure because I didn't keep to the schedule, if I was faithful to do what the Lord had for me.  Another time, I might perceive that the need for my daughter to conform to the schedule for the sake of the whole family is just the lesson she needs taught and the long conversation isn't going to be the ticket.  Either way, my heart is at peace with whatever parenting task the Lord has for me and that's the key.

Becoming flexible in this way is entirely freeing.  I serve one master, Jesus Christ.  I am not in bondage to a lot of rules and programs.

A big part of this process of learning for me has included becoming comfortable with "mess."  How can one have victory in consistency and increase in tidy habits while becoming more comfortable with "mess," you say?  Though it sounds contradictory, the first two things are only possible with the third one coming into play.  Getting uptight about a disaster or sin or whatever mess there is, never helped anyone to overcome it.  It's bondage to rules and programs that creates this uptight-ness and frustration when things don't go as planned or look like what I pictured.  The tranquility that comes with dependence on Christ, looking at the big picture in the midst of a mess is exactly what gives me the fortitude to continue on the path and persevere with clean-up.

Functioning with a central criteria also helps me know what to "put my foot down" about when it comes to taking up issues with my kids.  The main thing that I shouldn't tolerate is behavior that runs over or hurts others.  Of course, I can only teach this if I, myself, am behaving this way in the lesson.  I must not tolerate it while not tolerating it in a loving and kind way.  I used to be so muddled in my head about where to place compassion and where to exert authority.  I see now that I gave "compassion" to my children many times when their heart was wrong, they were harming others or in rebellion.  That was not biblical compassion at all.  I see now that that was extremely unloving behavior that enforced their sin and made it look OK.  While my motive may have been somewhat sound, my actions were in reality selfish, unloving and harmful to my child.  Real compassion teaches a child when his heart is selfish and does not protect him or make excuses for him in his selfishness.