As life tends to get more chaotic and many of us are striving to slow down and smell the roses, we often forget the basics… eating properly, exercising and even sleep. The most fundamental things can actually get lost in the ingenious schemes that we dream up to simplify our lives. We can spend just as long deciding on the five most important tasks to put on our to do lists in a day as it would take to actually do our morning chores, have a cup of coffee and call a friend who is going through a miserable time.
I have a feeling that in an effort to pursue a simpler lifestyle, we can get so caught up in sticking to what we think we should be doing, that we don’t always see opportunities to serve, that are placed right before us. We simply forget that instead of saying yes, when someone asks us if they can stop by or visit, we postpone it and then pat ourselves on the back for yet another quiet evening and getting the kids to bed timeously. Meanwhile, a visit postponed, is really just a visit delayed and another time may not be the best time either. I know that there are some things that I delay getting around to and spend so much energy avoiding that it is, even from a time-management point of view, it is just crazy not to settle down and get on with them. Take email… my inbox gets fuller and fuller, I take longer and longer to attend to it… and what might have been twenty quick emails to reply to can become a veritable monster because I delayed attending to it.
I know it is hard work to keep the kids on track, a house in some sort of semblance of home and yet still be available to help folks out. And it is something that I have to continuously attend to. I don’t know where it begins… my little children are all “Yes” people:
Now honestly, not one of those things would be on my list of top five things to do right now… but all of them would send my three year old into a dance of joy!!! I have to say that as members of our family get older so the desire to perform these seemingly menial tasks diminishes – significantly. It appears that we lose our desire to serve. If I think about some of our recent weekends, even the weeks, they have been fraught with extra commitments and guests and when the neighbour asked for help with something this weekend I was very keen to just say “No, we were unable to help.” Gasp, how easy it is to fall into the trap of that “time is mine”… just like I am able to share our home and our belongings, so I should be able to offer my time – it isn’t ours after all. Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; All that we have, including our time, belongs to the Lord.
In fact, popular literature would say: “Learn to say “no.”” This is supposed to be a huge coming of age achievement… learning to say “no”… is one of the first tips on any list of time-mangement tip lists. Say “no” and conquer your to-do list for the day, then take the afternoon off, catch up with all the rest you need. Now there are seasons of life, I get that, when your hands are just totally full with new babies and elderly parents… ill friends whatever, in those cases we tend to be really busy working around the clock… and then for sure take the rest you need in order to perform at your best when you have too. But there are many times when I am feasting on a plate of idleness, that I don’t necessarily get up and help, when I don’t rise to the occasion. But that isn’t actually what we are called to do, unless it is the Sabbath… we are called to work Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Work is often hard but that is certainly no reason not to do it!!!
I have to say that as a society we have got so busy with so very many things that we seem to have forgotten what we need to say “no” too… We can get terribly legalistic and say no cell phones over the weekend or no guests on family nights. Last night I heard that a dear friend is in hospital, he is dreadfully ill. I know that he really appreciates a text message to say that we are thinking of him. In our mad and crazy weekend, it could have been easy enough to say we were so busy that I never got round to it… but it takes just as long to post a picture on instagram as it does to send a text. So many folk say that they won’t interrupt a family night with guests – it is their time together, but in the spirit of living with your tent flaps open, we have been really blessed by having folks over on what we may have been tempted to call exclusively family nights.
So many friends have asked me how do I get my kids to work, and to serve… honestly I can’t make them work and very often they don’t. Just like I very often don’t leap up from a meal and clear the table and certain tasks just leave me cold. In fact, there are some tasks that if they were the only tasks I had to perform I would indeed be “a vision of idleness.” I am a natural recluse… my best friends know it, they know that it takes more than a deep breathe for me to say: “Come over and play.” I think we have to think beyond the mindset of “Not another thing…” and replace it with “Yea, another thing.” I can not expect my kids to be happy to serve if I am not leading the way. I think the point is that we are working for a higher boss… and even when our tasks appear to be meaningless and sheer drudgery, or just one more thing that we think we cannot do, remember who we are serving…
Colossians 3:22-24 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Recently, when my oldest boys were asked if they wanted to sign up to play with the music team for church, I just about gasped… it means a whole lot of extra work for the entire family… at least one Saturday a month if not two… and leaving home an hour earlier on a Sunday morning. Believe me I wanted to say “no”… but when I thought about it… this is exactly the sort of work I would want my children to sign up for and it requires a whole lot more work from them as well. They have to constantly required to learn and master new pieces that always seem just out of reach!!! Hard work… yes and I am so pleased they didn’t say no, when the opportunity arose.
So in a world where we are teaching our children to say “no” to too many commitments, I am trying to teach my kids that it really is a good thing to say “yes”… when opportunities arise, for them to serve… even if it requires a whole lot of work from them… I am hoping that they will grab these opportunities with both hands.