A few days ago my husband and I were hanging out at my mom’s house, letting the kids run around in the front yard, when our Kidsave child Rita came outside to be with us. She’d been inside watching TV, and when she sat down outside I smiled and said it was good to see her. She was feeling especially shy that day, so she didn’t respond. No problem. I’ve known from the beginning that my job is to show Christ to her regardless of what I get in return, so I put my arm around her and asked her if she wanted anything to drink.
Before we’d left our house I’d seen a couple of the neighbor girls walk by and said hello to them. They were in the middle of chatting and barely looked up when I said hello but, again undeterred, I shouted “Good to see you!” Even though they just kind of grunted a response and walked on, I didn’t mind. God so obviously threw them in my path for a reason, I feel like every interaction with them is an opportunity to do his will by showing them unconditional love.
Back at my mom’s house I was headed inside to get Rita a glass of lemonade, trying to think of what snack she might enjoy, when a blur of color flashed in front of me, causing me to trip. I looked over my shoulder to see a six-year-old boy named Rodney who lives down the street from my mom running off, stumbling right into Rita because he wasn’t watching where he was going. I rolled my eyes and tried to think of a way to get him out of there.
Rodney comes from a good family and isn’t a bad kid, but he’s one of those boys who’s always up to mischief. He recently taught my three-year-old daughter the epithet “poopface, ” and encouraged my kids to play with one of the lawn decorations right after he had heard us tell them not to. Last week my son left my mom’s house gleefully making up songs with lyrics he learned from playing with Rodney in the front yard, something along the lines of “BUTT STUPID BUTT BUTT!” I haven’t yet felt like his behavior has been serious enough to ban him from coming over, but over the past few months I’d become so fed up with these antics that I’d inwardly groan whenever I saw him run into my mom’s yard to play with our kids. Eventually it got to the point that I was just openly irritated with him. Too annoyed to bother correcting him gently that day he tripped me as I was going inside to get the lemonade, I snapped “Just stop it!” and shut the door extra hard behind me. As I came back out he was coming in to use the restroom, pushing past me without asking if he could go inside, and I rolled my eyes and sighed audibly before handing Rita her lemonade with a big smile.
And then, the Holy Spirit hit me over the head with a cluebat.
I received a moment of clarity (which had to have been directly from the Holy Spirit since I was far too clueless to come up with it on my own) in which it suddenly occurred to me: “Maybe it’s about him.” In other words, this could very well be some kind of tow truck driver situation where the person whom I most need to serve right now is someone I’m ignoring because I’m so focused on some big picture of what I perceive God’s will to be.
Over and over again, when God calls me to do something challenging or out of character like extending hospitality to the neighbor girls or hosting a child through Kidsave, I end up pouring tons of spiritual energy into that particular situation, thinking about what the next move is going to be, speculating about what God’s plan is, wondering how I can better live his will in this situation, etc. My motives are mostly good, but the problem is that it’s too easy to start to think of God’s will as a detailed blueprint for one specific situation, to the extent that I sometimes fall into a vague feeling that God doesn’t really care what I do in any other areas of my life as long as I’m doing the right thing with the big project he called me to undertake. For example, maybe it was Rodney as much as anyone who needed a kind word that day when I was so focused on the neighbor girls and Rita, but he wasn’t part of God’s Will for Jen’s Life 2009 as I’d discerned it, so I ignored him.
With all the big discernment issues that have been going on lately, I’m really beginning to see the beautiful genius of what Therese of Lisieux called the “Little Way.” I think that what God is trying to teach me right now — that he’s been trying to teach me for a long time but I never seem to get because of my controlling, scheming nature — is that I need to stop thinking of “living God’s will” as some complicated set of long-term plans for specific endeavors, and start thinking of it as simply an immediate, constant act of selfless love.
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