“Hurry and pick up those toys!”
“No, you can’t play outside right now, someone is coming for lunch!”
“I said we would make cookies later. Put the books back on the shelf.”
Even as I write those words, I feel shame at the message I was communicating to my children – they were not important – but the person coming for lunch was.
This was back in 1984. Phil was serving as a campus minister and I was staying home with four small children. One day a young college girl asked if I could meet with her for prayer. I was THRILLED! We talked about her schedule and it seemed the only time that she could meet was lunch since she had classes and a part time job. We planned to meet the next week on Monday for lunch.
I enjoyed it so much! I was ministering to this young woman, sharing from the vast wisdom I had accumulated in my 33 years. I felt so good afterwards. I was serving God. I was meeting a need in this young woman’s life. Soon I invited another college girl to meet with me each Tuesday during lunch. Not long after, I invited a student who was a single mother to meet for lunch on Wednesdays. Finally, I invited a woman who was a graduate student to have lunch each Thursday. She was close to my age, a single mother with a daughter the age of our oldest daughter.
I saved Friday for my children.
How many “I’s” are in the above sentences? I believe it is 17.
It was all about me.
The shame I feel is for the way I neglected my children so I could have a “ministry”. I rushed them through an early lunch each of those days so that I could put them down for a nap and have “freedom to minister.”
I put other people’s needs above the needs of my own children.
Finally, I crashed. Fortunately I didn’t burn because of God’s grace and forgiveness. I was crabby and tired and I was taking it out on my children. Phil confronted me one day with the reality of my selfishness. I wanted to minister to these young woman because it made ME FEEL GOOD TO HAVE A MINISTRY.
I did not see that I had a ministry 24/7 right in my own home! God had given us four children and they deserved my full attention, not the leftovers after I had spiritually fed others.
Godly ministry is birthed by God and led by the Holy Spirit. It ALWAYS glorifies Jesus -not the person doing the ministry.
A very wise friend recently challenged us as a group of women to read Mark 14:3-9 to see something that I had not noticed before. It is the passage of scripture that describes the situation when a woman pours perfume on the feet of Jesus.
Mark 14:3-9 (NIV)
3 While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
It is certainly true that this story has been shared thoughout the world, recently through the beautiful song by CeCe Winans called the “Alabaster Box”. The part of this passage that our friend shared was verse 8 – “she did what she could…”
Jesus was pleased with her because she did what she could. Instead of striving to be or do something she couldn’t, she honored Jesus by doing what she could.
It has taken me many years, many missteps, and so much grace from God to teach me this lesson. I don’t have to have a recognized ministry to please the Lord. In fact, He wants me to see that where He has placed me IS my ministry. Back in 1984 my ministry was our four children – and maybe the ONE student who asked to come pray with me. I took it too far by scheduling time that should have been my children’s.
Let’s pray that we would be like that woman who pleased Jesus by doing what she could.