“I will walk in my house with a blameless heart”
Yesterday, I went to a funeral home where family and friends gathered around a casket that should just be too small to exist. A slide show displayed pictures of the sweetest little baby girl, enjoying her first birthday, meeting Chuck E. Cheese, looking no bigger than my youngest daughter—and a few feet away was this baby girl’s casket.
A moment like that is a terrible shock for someone like me. I’m a to-do list maker, a go-getter, a get-things-done kind of person. There are days when it probably seems to my daughters that since Candy Land isn’t on Mommy’s very official to-do list, we can’t play.
Yet, last night I saw an unmistakable reminder that people are ever so much more important than any deadline or production goal.
It’s very easy for me to let external priorities take precedence over my relationships with people. Over the years, I’ve had to slowly learn not to begin conversations by going directly to “business.” God has taught my heart how to truly mean it when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” and to linger there in the relationship time before moving ahead to any items on my agenda.
From God’s perspective, people are always top priority. His entire goal from the creation of the world was to build relationship with us. When Adam and Eve’s sin caused a breach in that precious communion with God, He immediately began planning a way to reunite us, ultimately sacrificing His Son all because of His great, enduring and passionate love for us. Relationship with us was always part of His plan.
If God loves people that much, then we should reflect His heart by loving people also. In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:
People are at the center of the Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies. We travel light. The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships.
When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, “Children are God’s best gift,” it reminds my mommy heart to value God’s greatest gifts to me by prioritizing time with my children over my work.
But this verse isn’t just for parents. It shows that God’s focus is always on relationships over tasks, people over productivity. Eugene Peterson wrote, “We invest our energy in people. Among those around us we develop sons and daughters, sisters and brothers even as our Lord did with us.”
In our efforts to love people, though, sometimes we fall into the trap of “ministering” to people and “serving” in the church, but never really loving anybody! Even ministry—the programmed and scheduled kind of ministry—can get in the way of actually ministering to people. Are we too busy attending meetings to take dinner to a sick friend? Are we on so many committees we no longer have time to meet another woman for lunch and encourage her?
And then there are the times when loving and serving people means “other people” and not those in our own homes. We’re “showing God’s love” to the neighbor, to the single mom at church, to the child in our Sunday School class. Yet, sometimes the people we love the very most can get the worst part of us. We can be gentle with anyone but our kids. We can be encouraging to everyone except our husbands.
In one of my most favorite books, Bleak House, Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby as: “a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa”.
Just like me, Mrs. Jellyby was a get-things-done kind of woman, but her eyes were so fixed on saving orphans in Africa, that her own children were starving, dirty, uneducated, in rags, and totally unloved.
Mrs. Jellyby is an extreme, but it’s not difficult to see how we can get our priorities scrambled at times. I had a friend who had some special recipes that her family loved,. More importantly, though, the people at her church loved them. So, she would fix them for church potlucks. After all, everyone wants to have the empty dish at the end of the covered dish meal! But when her kids would come home and smell the delicious cookies baking, she’d say, “Those are for church!” Then, one day she was reminded that she should cook the special dishes and treats for her precious children also—not just for the people outside her home.
I love what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is Christ whom you serve.”
In the past, I’ve taken that verse to mean that I should work hard at my job, give my best effort in ministry, and just generally DO stuff for God. Yet, I have no greater work or ministry than serving and loving my husband and my children. After that, my top priority should be relationships with the other people God places in my life.
That means: Being patient with my daughter as she learns to tie her shoelaces. Taking a break from work to play Candy Land. Fixing my daughter the pasta salad that I normally reserve for church potlucks. Writing a note to my husband, not just the ladies in my Bible Study.
I do all of these things “as for the Lord rather than for men” because “it is Christ whom I serve.” We will get no earthly recognition, plaque, award, or productivity bonus from loving people. In fact, if we love as we’re supposed to–humbly, quietly, and sacrificially–no one may ever even know it’s happening. Nevertheless, God always sees our actions and heart when we, like Him, make people our priority and He will give us “the reward of the inheritance.”
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King