I gingerly stepped over the abandoned scooter and avoided planting my foot in the overflowing cat box. With a sort of hop-shift-twist, I balanced like a Zen master and continued making my way to the freezer. It looks like a hoarder lives here, I thought. I nudged a pink spiky mohawk bicycle helmet out of the way with my foot and rummaged through the frozen goods looking for inspiration.
I made my dinner selection and headed back into the house. I sighed as I passed empty boxes, discarded toys, and enough insect carcasses to make a worthy science fair project. I had asked my husband weeks prior to tidy the garage before his parents came to visit. Now they were due to arrive in about 48 hours, but I determined that I would let it go. My cardinal rule for myself is: Thou shalt not nag. Besides, I had plenty of tidying to finish inside the house. Hopefully no one would look in the garage.
I walked into the living room and noted that my husband was engrossed in a game on his iPad. Across the room, my son was also intent on the online battle game, his gaze fixed firmly on his much-smaller iPod. My two younger daughters were draped on the couch, busy living life in their fictitious towns on Animal Crossing. Heads bent together, they murmured to each other as they stared into their individual hand held gaming devices.
As politely as I knew how, I informed the kids that I needed their help. I asked my son to scrub the front porch and mentioned that there were some dirty areas on the front of the house that needed tending to. I’m not sure exactly what I said, but the reaction was swift. My husband, jaw set, put down his iPad and went out to the garage with my son in tow. The air was filled with static. When I looked out the front window moments later, I could see the tense set of his shoulders as he scrubbed the outside of the house.
Now I was seriously torqued. As I continued my own duties and assigned jobs to my daughters, I avoided my beloved. I noted sometime later that the front of the house looked brighter and the garage was no longer fodder for a reality show. I saw that some other outside jobs had gotten tackled as well. But I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact with my husband let alone say thank you. I could not sincerely muster up genuine appreciation for work that was done grudgingly. It ceases to be a blessing when done under duress. I resented feeling like a nag, or an obsessive clean freak when I am most assuredly neither.
Through the remainder of that day and into the next I noticed that every time I asked someone to do a specific chore, I was competing with some form of electronic entertainment. The work did get done, but often not until long after the request was made. And after I reminded them multiple times. It was maddening.
I pondered all of this for a good long while. I asked myself what exactly it was that I desired here. I decided that what I want is a house full of Wesleys. You know, the farm boy on Princess Bride. Every time his beloved asked something of him he responded with an endearingly intimate smile and the words, ‘As you wish’. Those simple words were his declaration of love for her. I guess I’m living in fantasy land, but I want my husband and my kids to love me so much that when I ask something of them they would respond with a sincere ‘As you wish’, rather than a put-upon air and a barely suppressed sigh.
As I was getting ready for church, I prayed about it. I asked the Lord how to handle this dilemma. I refuse to nag, yet I do not want to harbor bitterness in my heart when others don’t act as I want them to. The Lord’s response was immediate, and it continued all through the morning.
The first thing He asked me was, “Where is your heart when you serve your family?” I thought about it and was amazed as I realized that all too often, my service to them is done with a long-suffering attitude. It’s subtle, but it’s there; a Cinderella complex that resents bearing the brunt of the household duties day in and day out. Then the Lord brought my own thoughts from the day before back to me.
Work done grudgingly blesses no one.
On the long drive to church I felt Him ask another question. “How often are you distracted by meaningless things when I call to you?” I thought of all the times I’ve felt Him nudge me to stop and pray, to make a phone call, to write down an interesting insight, or to spend a few moments with one of my kids. And how often do I mumble, “Just a minute, Lord. I’ll get right to that after I finish…” Then hours or days later I am reminded of the missed opportunity that completely slipped my mind in my busyness.
The sermon that morning was from Philippians 2. The Lord was taking me to school and my lesson for the morning culminated in verse 5:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
I sat in my seat and considered what I knew of the mindset of Jesus. Again and again throughout the gospels we see Jesus serving others. We see him ministering even when he was tired. We see in him a continual outpouring of compassion, wisdom, healing, and love. He was lavishly generous with his time and affections. My pastor went on to tell us that love, in its true essence, desires to serve others. I think that sentiment bears repeating.
Love, in its true essence, desires to serve others.
I cannot exhibit real love and simultaneously focus on myself. The blessings that I desire to bestow on others through my acts of service will remain elusive while I am harboring resentment in my heart. Jesus epitomizes the ‘As you wish’ attitude and I cannot expect that mindset in others if I am unwilling to adopt it myself. If I am not serving others with a Christ-like love, it all amounts to nothing!
Lord, let me learn from your example. Teach me how to be generous and lavish in my love. Let my love be refined to its true essence and fill me with a longing to serve. May I learn to bless my husband, my kids, my friends, and most of all my Jesus, with a heartfelt smile and a genuine ‘As you wish’.