That’s how I get sometimes.
Only that night, my daughter and I had sat down on the sofa with her Awana book between us, studying her lessons and verses for the week. After learning all of Psalm 23, all 66 books of the Bible, and a run of other long and difficult verses, she nearly bounced off the couch when she saw the first verse on the page:
Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14).
“Wow, Mom, that’s sooooo easy,” she announced and then poured out the verse a few times just to show off her impressive memorization skills.
So easy, she thinks. Oh, sometime it’s the shortest, simplest lessons that I’ll be learning over and over, repeatedly day by day, one relentless crawl up the mountain after another, until I collapse in worship at Jesus’ feet in heaven.
Do everything without complaining or arguing.
No grumbling in the kitchen when you’ve called your children to dinner five times and they can hear each other, hear the television, hear the phone ring, hear their game….but at momma’s voice they go conveniently deaf.
No whining about cleaning up the trail of trash or complaining about lunch packing or wailing “woe is me” because I’m tired and bone-aching weary, falling asleep on the couch as my daughters read the bedtime story to me.
No elaborate, shoulder-heaving, dramatic sighs over sock piles and shoes strewn here and there.
Our ministries in our homes, churches, communities, and jobs, sometimes they are joy and sometimes we lose focus and feel the burden.
We see bother and mess, not beauty and grace, precious gifts from God to us. We forget to be thankful.
And we become grumbling complainers and then staunch defenders of our “rights” and the boundaries we feel will protect those “rights.”
I get the need for boundaries, really I do. I understand that God’s people aren’t expected to just let others walk all over us. I see how that’s not healthy for us or for them.
And yet, sometimes I feel we set “boundaries” not to help others, but to protect ourselves from the slightest hint of inconvenience, the smallest encroachment on our time or budget or activity.
Sometimes boundaries are less about helping others be healthy and more about keeping ourselves comfy, uninvolved and apathetic to the people around us.
Not always, but sometimes.
How can we, nearing the Christmas season and singing and talking and preaching often about Jesus born in a manger, still stand in our kitchens and grumble about dinner and socks and lunches and mess?
After all, God of the Universe “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7 NIV).
Christmas reminds us to be self-sacrificing, to be servants, to offer ourselves with joy.
Because that’s what our Savior did for love of us, setting aside His rights, privileges, and glory, and humbly, oh so humbly, living among us and our dirt, sin and ugly pride. Being born and then dying for us, choosing the blood and choosing the pain.
Didn’t Mary also willingly endure shame, the possibility of abandonment by Joseph—and even worse, death by a mob—the loss of her reputation, the disappointment of her parents, the discomfort of pregnancy, the uncomfortable and bumpy trek to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth, and more…..for God and for the people her Son would save?
And Joseph willingly chose to stand up against the mockers and marry this virgin-with-child anyway, abandoning his home and occupation in Nazareth to journey far to Egypt in order to keep his family safe.
Even shepherds and wise men left their daily toil to journey to a baby.
They sacrificed plans and personal agendas, convenience and reputation, money, careers, relationships…because God asked them to abandon it all for Him and for His people.
It’s an indisputable fact of Christianity, an irrefutable part of our faith…God loves people.
And if God so loved the world this much, to give His only Son….then we should love people, too. Enough to serve without complaining and arguing. Enough to give to others more than is comfortable.
Enough to forget the burden and remember the joy, as Mary did in her song, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name” (Luke 46-47, 49).
“I lay me down”—that’s what Christ could have sung, and Mary, Joseph, and the worshipers traveling from afar. That’s what we sing, “I lay me down, a living sacrifice…a pleasing sacrifice to You.”
To hear Darrell Evans lead in worship, “I Lay Me Down” you can click here.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King