Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…Eph. 6:5-7
One of the more absurd responses from my son, when asked to clean up or go brush his teeth or some other such daily life “chores” or responsibilities, is “But I don’t want to!” In these moments, I often look at him quizzically and without any hint of compassion say, “What in the world does ‘wanting to’ have to do with it? I didn’t ask if you wanted to do it, I just asked you to do it.” Yet this ingrained sense that having to do the unpleasant tasks in life or jobs that aren’t fun for me, don’t energize me or don’t otherwise satisfy my desires for a rewarding experience is so powerful that just like Chad, I am certain some universal law is being violated when I must spend time at something I just don’t like. I have come to believe, probably because of the luxury of the nation I was born into, that it is an inalienable right of mine to do what I enjoy and have a vocation doing the things that accentuate my strengths more of the time than I should have to do those things that are awkward and tedious and seem to accentuate my inability to impress. “But I don’t want to” seems to justify my depression, irritability, incomplete work and grumbling attitude. More than that, I think I should get an award for surviving the experience…how far I am from the admonition to be a slave of Christ. Just like Adam and Eve, I regularly come to believe I am a slave to my own name and renown which none of this foot washing servant hood seems to be acknowledging.
Somewhere along the way I came to believe that if it is endlessly difficult, relentlessly unsuccessful and draining to my self-confidence and ego, it must be avoided or intentionally rejected. Doing what I love is right and doing what I don’t like is bad. Among the number of self-centered issues with this perspective is the fact that God rarely seems to call His people to serve redemptively in His Kingdom in the areas that elevate them. Joseph had no previous position of proven leadership. Moses wasn’t a public speaker. Jonah did not want outsiders to come into the family. Paul hated the followers of Jesus. A more positive angle is to acknowledge that God uses powerfully those people and events (Namaan, go wash in the dirty river without a crowd or large ceremony) which seem the most off the map to grow His Kingdom and His name in the hearts of His people. Two of the most effective communicators of the person and work of Jesus I know are men who by nature are extremely introverted and happiest alone surrounded by walls of books. God has called them to the extroverted task of “pastor”, pushing against all that comes easiest for them and at the same time, producing bushels of fruit as a result.
Of course I want to serve in the arena God has specially crafted me to work. I am energized when I get to use my strengths. I enjoy that labor rather than feeling consistently depleted by it. But when I become obsessed thinking about it, rejecting where I am in the moment because it is not “there”, my heart has taken an unhealthy turn. My faith has begun to assume that I got off track and need to fight for my way back to that flourishing garden when all the while God never got off track in His scripting of my days. There is a season for plowing and sowing and a season for harvesting and reaping. Of course that latter job is much more rewarding, but it is the former season that makes it so.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24
It seems that in God’s economy, as Walter Henegar said in effect the other day, “those things that ought to kill us are the very things that heal us”. He is healing me from a deep addiction to self. I am ferociously committed to my own comfort and pleasure and glory. As with all addictions, they promise life but never deliver, also robbing life from those around the addict. He has me in a season where at least 98% of my time is spent doing things that don’t come easily for me and don’t seem to be producing a great result. He isn’t being mean and I haven’t fallen off a train that I need to hunt down, chase and jump on to save my life. He is interested in giving me better things than a moment’s self-satisfaction. He wants more for me than joy and energy that is dependent upon personal success or personal fulfillment. I want crutches and He wants to give me new legs. He has come to offer me life, and that life in abundance and I keep searching for it everywhere else besides the place where I am right now.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:17-18