This morning I let myself ‘sleep in’…Those of you who know me well are probably giggling because you know what ‘sleeping in’ means to me. I didn’t crawl out of bed until 7. My love for the early morning hours and ability to rise before the sun with a smile has been a…well…interesting factor in my marriage. I still don’t understand anyone who ‘wastes away’ the beautiful morning hours in bed. But I know what some of you are thinking….exactly what my sweet hubby thinks…who falls asleep at 9 pm and wastes away the fun night hours asleep in bed?
I slept in this morning because I was quite exhausted. The past three days I have been up at my church for 20+ hours helping to take care of kids ranging from 8 weeks to 5th grade. It’s times like this that I am quite confident when I say that God did not design me as He designed some others. Though I love occasional opportunities to be around large groups of kids, especially when my own are involved, I cannot believe that some people choose a profession where they are with babies or toddlers or preschool or elementary age kids everyday of the week. Then again, there are those who have thought I have a few screws loose because I CHOSE to be a middle school teacher for five years and actually LOVE being around middle school aged kids.
This brings me to my thoughts on what I have been reading in John chapters 11 and 12. There are some things in these chapters that religious circles could debate over for years and still never agree upon. One of my deepest theological struggles is touched upon in John chapter 12. Some of my favorite authors, professors, Bible teachers, and friends would disagree on the meaning and application of John 12:37-42.
To be totally honest, I’ve listened to and studied all the views of what these verses mean in relationship to God closing eyes and ears and I still find myself on the fence with these verses. At times I have felt like a poor ‘theological student’ for not wanting to argue my opinions on these verses. If you are interested in interpreting these verses for yourself I would direct you to other related verses: Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:25-27; Romans 11:28. I encourage you to study these things for yourself. However, do NOT feel inadequate if you cannot wrap your mortal mind around it! And don’t let anyone make you feel stupid if you disagree with their theological interpretation!
In my study of the Bible, I have found it rewarding to search out answers to the theological questions I have. However, I find it much more rewarding to live out the things I DO understand.
There is a tiny verse at the end of that difficult passage in chapter 12 that I DO understand. John 12:43 (NIV) for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
My, my how that is an easy trap to fall into in the church world. In my 30 plus years of attending, serving, and leading in churches, I have had to check my motives for attending, serving, and leading in church. There is a great feeling that comes from hearing someone praise you for something you have done.
Some find themselves getting up and going to church simply because they don’t want others to think they are ‘bad’ church members for not being there. Others serve and lead in churches for the recognition it brings. In the same way some celebrities give to charity for the accolades that come with giving and serving….it looks good to those watching and they just might get their name mentioned on Entertainment Tonight or their picture on the cover of People magazine.
I have struggled with this in my heart. I LOVE serving, giving, volunteering, and leading. Though the things I have done in the past have not always brought recognition, there have been many times where I have received public recognition for things I have done. Though there is a part of me that loves doing things and going ‘unnoticed’ there is another part of me that enjoys the accolades from those who are watching. It is a struggle. I totally believe that pats on the back from others are God’s way of letting us know that we are doing what we are designed to do which leads to doing great things for the kingdom. But as humans I believe we have a tendency to shift toward doing things for the approval of men and away from doing things out of the pure motivation of pleasing God.
God has used some of my friend’s/reader’s comments to spur me to continue to write on this blog. Writing is something I love doing and I believe God has designed me to do. However, in my mind I have to remind myself that when I write I should be seeking approval from God and not seeking to write something that is going to cause 50 people to comment or click the ‘like’ button!
This past weekend and this coming weekend I am a part of an amazing ministry at my church called Clean Slate. Some of you reading this know how much the ministry affected me last year as I was on the leadership team helping to remodel a family’s home. Through the ministry I developed a deep relationship with the family and many of you have helped me in the past year to continue to bless this family.
Somehow through it all, my sweet hubby and I got a reputation. There was a rumor around our church that we were ‘angels.’ (some of you are laughing because you know us much better than our current church family!). Several times in the past year even the pastor of our church (who we honestly barely know because our church has thousands of people who attend each Sunday) has mentioned Joe and me and the things we have done.
Though it does feel great to have the approval of those in ‘higher’ positions, the accolades of others are nothing compared to the feeling that comes from knowing that you are following God’s leading and have received His approval on what you have done.
When it was time to sign up to be a part of Clean Slate leadership this year, I figured God would tell us to do the same thing we did last year. Afterall, we were ‘designed by God’ for such a ministry. However, as we prayed about what we were to do, God kept saying no. It didn’t make sense at the time because they were in need of leadership.
I knew part of the reason I needed to say no was because it takes hours and hours to plan for such a weekend and I am in my final weeks at home with daughter before she starts kindergarten in the fall. I didn’t want anything to distract me from these fleeting moments at home with her.
However, when the opportunity to help in a different way came up, I knew immediately that it was where I was to serve. This year I never set foot in a Clean Slate home. I never personally shook the hand of any of the Clean Slate families. Instead I remained up at the church helping to watch kids of volunteers working in the homes.
I mentioned earlier that I am not much of a ‘kid person’. On the surface it may seem that that job was not a good fit for me. . . the gal that claimed she didn’t even want kids of her own and wanted to adopt teenagers.
However, this past weekend I felt just as fulfilled as I did last year. God’s stamp of approval on my work came as I watched rain soaked, paint spattered, exhausted parents come to pick up their children.
God wanted me to step back so that others could feel the blessing that comes from giving to those in need….which is what Clean Slate is all about. As I watched those parents come in I smiled because I knew that the needy families were not the only ones whose lives had been forever changed because of the experience.
God’s approval. That’s what it is about. Not about the approval of church friends. Not about accolades of a pastor. Not about getting your church’s ministries on the six o’clock news. It’s about doing a fabulous job and knowing that God is sending down a high five from heaven.
Those of you studying the book of John with me…well….I haven’t posted questions in a while. I will try to get some up on our Facebook page later today so we can discuss some things from chapters 11 and 12.