Thursday, January 12, 2012
I was list making earlier this morning. It wasn't the good kind. It was the kind where everything on it was something someone had done to irritate me, inconvenience me, take advantage of me, broken a promise they made to me, things like that.
I hate list days. The whole time I'm list making, I tell myself I'm being ridiculous. I irritate people. I inconvenience them. I take advantage of them. And I know the things that are so terrible that they land on the list, if I shared them, everyone would say, "Really? What a princess." And yet, the list keeps growing. When broken promises and dog begin populating the list, I start getting embarrassed at the level of crazy going on in my head. I'm glad I've learned over time to keep my mouth shut when I'm doing crazy. Eventually, but not soon enough, I think of Someone who is entitled to a list longer than any of us could even begin to fathom, a list thousands and thousands of years in the making, a list that I contribute to daily, and how, instead, He forgives. Not only does He forgive, He sacrificed for those whom He could put on the list. And, I've been called to sacrifice, not make lists. Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice . . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . . do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement. And then . . . whoa. There is a list. Serve. Give generously. Lead diligently. Show mercy cheerfully. Love sincerely. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourselves. Serve the Lord. Be joyful, patient, faithful. Share with those in need. Practice hospitality. And lest I be tempted to think, "Yes, but the people on my list . . ." it wraps up with bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. The people on my list weren't persecuting me. They were irritating me. Inconveniencing me. Taking advantage of me (and this one is a big stretch). Surely that means I'm not supposed to be cursing them either.
Now that I've erased my silly list from my mind, I'm thinking of Will. He came to me yesterday morning and said, "Ethan broke his lunch bag and had to bring his lunch in a brown paper sack today. He was embarrassed. I would like to take my lunch in a brown paper sack tomorrow so he won't have to be alone." That story is what I planned to share here this morning. It was a last minute request so I didn't have time to take a sweet photo of him looking at me while holding his brown lunch sack yesterday. I thought I would just grab a quick one of him this morning while he was packing his lunch. My flash wouldn't cooperate (operator error), and he left before I could figure it out. I was irritated that my blog post wasn't going to be the same without that photo.
I started looking through old photos of Will, trying to find one of him looking at the camera with his sweet, full-of-joy smile. Instead, I started by opening a folder containing these photos. They are over 3 years old but they illustrate what is most beautiful about him better than what I had in mind. His sweet heart. His concern for others.
We used to have this rooster. His name was Fuzzy. Fuzzy's dad was Cogburn and Cogburn was driven more by his king-of-the-cock (as my mother-in-law describes him) instincts than his fatherly-love instincts. He terrorized Fuzzy so much that Fuzzy left the flock. He wouldn't even go into the chicken coop at night. He felt safer in the woods with the coyotes than in the confined quarters of the coop with his father. Will was only 6 at the time, but it made him sad and angry that Cogburn treated Fuzzy the way he did.
Will discovered that Fuzzy liked to hang out under the hickory nut tree and pick up little pieces of nut that he could get through the shells that had been broken when run over by the tractor. So he started going out, every afternoon, and breaking open hickory nuts for Fuzzy to eat. When Fuzzy saw Will walking toward the tree, he would come running across the pasture.
I felt sorry for Fuzzy, too. Maybe my child heart would have made me do differently when I was 6 years old. I don't know. I'd like to think so. But at almost 40, even though I felt sorry for Fuzzy, my reasoning told me it was just instinct and I walked away. Will served. He gave generously. He showed mercy cheerfully. He loved sincerely. He clung to what was good. He honored another above himself. He shared with one in need. He practiced hospitality. He didn't need a list to drive him to do those things beforehand and he didn't make a list to think more highly of himself than he ought to afterwards.
I don't want my love your neighbor as yourself to be as simple as feeding a bullied rooster hickory nuts. Compassion for animals is a wonderful thing, and Shawn says you can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals. But I want my love to mature, much like Will's has, to looking at everyone around me, to do things in the name of making them feel loved that may put me outside of the circle of comfort and conformity. I want to love better. And I want it to be a part of me, not something that I can't remember to do without a list.
And for the record, one of Will with his full-of-joy smile. That dimple slays me.