...unless the kids are sick. Then it's just a twisted fake-out, where every time you silently close the door and sit back down with a little sigh of relief, someone cries, yells, or magically appears in the hallway. It's like there's an alarm on your butt so when it hits the couch it disturbs the peace yet again. At least, in my experience.
Now, don't get me wrong, I really do have empathy and I feel really sorry for the little boogers when they're overflowing with snot and they feel rotten. It's just that, I feel SO sorry for SO long, that my sorry feelings supply starts to run a little low by bedtime. Such was the case last night. I was feeling pretty crabby when we were still wiping noses, getting water, dosing out medicine, and changing diapers over an hour after bedtime. Fortunately, we did get some sleep until about 5am when our oldest woke us up after a bad dream. We went to our last resort and let her get in our bed, which is very rare for our family-our kids don't tend to sleep well with us. We both got up-my husband so he could get to church before the crack of dawn, and me so I could get some quiet moments with Jesus before the chaos began. Yes, it's Sunday again. It's almost uncanny how that happens.
So, I was having my blissful, relaxing time praying and reading, when I was quickly brought back to reality by the simultaneous screams of both my daughters-both because they had peed. Unfortunately, only one of them was wearing a functional diaper, and that was not the one that happened to be in our bed. Whoops. So I've been spending my Sunday morning playing nurse and cleaning pee off a mattress for the 47th time in my life. Ok, so that's a slight exaggeration, but it starts to feel like a lot. Things start to build up over time, and the collective exhaustion from the 167th time wiping up poop, fetching the binky, filling the sippy cup, peeling the orange, repairing the Elsa dress, hearing Elmo's less-than-soothing voice, and wiping the pink toothpaste out of the sink wears a person down.
The other night I was feeling this exhaustion pretty hardcore, and realizing that my exhaustion was giving way to resentment and not-so-subtle irritation. I was reading a little devotional I sometimes read before bed and was reminded of Jesus. I had a novel revelation: I was resenting serving Jesus. Ooh. Ouch. ALL the scripture passages seemed to hit me at once:
Matthew 25:40...when Jesus is explaining that when it's all said and done, if you've given a cup of cold water to the thirsty, spent time with the lonely, provided food and clothing for those in need, you've done those things to HIM. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (emphasis mine)
Luke 6:34....Jesus teaches to lend to those who can't repay you.
Luke 14:12-14....Jesus tells a Pharisee that when you host a banquet or luncheon, invite those who can't repay you instead of only those who can return the favor.
The theme here is that Jesus poured himself out, even to the point of death, for people who were helpless and could never pay him back. He expects the same from those who want to follow him. I've always read these passages with "the other" in view. I read it and think of those who aren't in my natural social circles, those who are strangers to me. I think of people I will buy a lunch for and never hear from again. Or the people I'll fly halfway around the world to dig a well for. Or the people I'll sign up online to sponsor monthly. As followers of Jesus, we absolutely should go out of our way to bless those we won't ever see again. Yes, that's part of it. But it's really easy for me to inconvenience myself once in awhile for someone who's not in my life everyday-for someone who, dare I say it, doesn't ANNOY the living daylights out of me. I see the person in need across town and immediately see the face of Jesus, but I miss Jesus in the needy (oh, so very constantly needy) people right in front of my face-like, literally 2 inches from my face because toddlers do NOT respect personal space. This is such a "duh" concept. Sometimes I marvel at my own stupidity when such a bogus, incomplete mindset is revealed in me. But I'm grateful that God is patient with me. He doesn't shake his finger, he doesn't say "shame on you", he just kindly adjusts my perspective. It's like I'm looking through a camera while covering the lens with my finger, and he gently moves my hand so I can see what I'm missing. And all with a smile on his face. God is like that. Smiling. Kind. Really, really kind.
The truth is, serving someone who is a permanent fixture in our lives is sometimes much more difficult than serving a stranger. Our spouse, when they don't dry the dishes and leave water spots all over your favorite glasses (oops, that's me). Or when they forget to hang your shirt instead of put it in the dryer and it shrinks up to a mid-drift (oops, me again-turns out I'm not the easiest person to live with). Our kid, when they throw the 7,000th tantrum over the color of their socks. Our roommate, when they leave their dirty dishes in the sink after you spent all morning washing their week's worth of dishes. That annoying dude at work who causes extra work for everyone else and then takes all the credit for himself. Yup. And when they have no ability to repay you? All the better, Jesus says. Great will your reward be, he says. The great thing about God is that he's not expecting me to do something he hasn't willingly done himself. "Those who've been forgiven much, love much," Jesus said. Yeah, it's safe to say I've been forgiven much. There is nothing I could justify not forgiving, and no one I could justify not loving, not even if they never do a thing for me the rest of my life.
So I'm trying to look at my sick, snotty, needy babies and see the face of God today. I'm reminding myself I'll see God when I look for him.