Monday, May 14, 2012

Give it your best

Here's a post from earlier this year (January, to be exact) that I found in my drafts. Guess I never got around to publishing it until now!


Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life.
[Prov. 19:20]

The other day, the kids and I were reading our daily chapter of Proverbs, when Nolyn and I began to talk about life, and how God calls us to do hard things.  He calls us to obey, even when we don't feel like obeying.  He calls us to give, even when we have other plans for our finances. He calls us to love, even though we may not feel especially loving at the time.

"Honey, sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I don't feel like getting out of bed," I say. "I don't feel like making anyone breakfast, changing any diapers, doing school, running errands.  I get it.  There are things I know I need to do, and I sometimes feel like just taking the day, or week, or maybe even the whole year off."

I explain that every week day morning, and sometimes weekends too, Daddy gets up early and heads off to work, not because he loves going to work or because it's loads of fun, but because he is called to provide for his family.  "Daddy would much rather be here with us, but he knows it is necessary to provide for our family. So, Dad does his job to the best of his ability and eagerly returns home because home is where his heart is."

My son leans in close, propping his head on his hands.

"You see, hon, God calls us to give our best in whatever we're doing.  When you are helping around the house, doing your chores, do your very best.  Don't do the least you can do to get by, do your best.  I want you to understand that now, in these things that seem small. The bible tells us that whoever is faithful in the little things can be trusted to be faithful in the big things [Luke 16:10].  These little tasks, they prove your character. They test to see whether you are trustworthy, faithful, and honest.  So often we want to jump ahead to the big stuff because we think it will be better, but the little stuff is big stuff too. Do you know that? Do you know the little stuff is important?"

He shrugs, nods.... I can tell he doesn't quite believe me.

"My day is made up of a lot of little things. Maybe they seem insignificant, boring, or silly. Maybe they don't seem like much, but can you imagine what it would be like if you woke up one day, and no one made you any meals that day?  What if I didn't do the laundry for a week?  What if I didn't change any diapers?"

He scrunches up his nose. "Evie would not be happy," he remarks.

"No one would, right? You'd be hungry, complaining about your bellies hurting, and how you need a pair of clean underwear.  Dad wouldn't have anything decent to wear to work.  See, sometimes these little tasks we do... they seem so small. They seem unimportant. We think that it's the big stuff that counts, right?  And the big stuff does count, I'm not saying it does.  I am so glad Daddy has a job, and he faithfully goes to work, and we are able to pay the bills. But Daddy will tell you that these little things are just as important. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the little things because we want something that we can show off, that looks cool, that seems big and grown-up, right?  And washing the dishes, cleaning off the table, vacuuming the livingroom, and  tidying your room doesn't seem all that noble, does it?  But wouldn't you say those things are important? Maybe you don't know how important they are until they aren't done for a day or two, right?  But then there's a mess, a stink, and it's an even bigger chore, huh?"

"Yeah," he says. "And then it takes even longer, and it's grosser."

"Yep, that's right.  I want you to understand that it's not okay to be lazy.  Don't get me wrong- we will have days when we can hang out, do mostly nothing.  I'd say those days are special, but every day is special- days that require hard work and days we get to kick back and relax. Every day is a gift from God, and that makes every day special. Anyway, I want you to see that hard work is important, and it's important to give each task your best. First of all, when we really focus on the job at hand, we'll get it done quicker.  You know how sometimes you don't really want to do something, like maybe wash the dishes, and so you fiddle around, play in the sink water, swish the scrub brush carelessly over dishes?  I can see you aren't focused on your job. You think it's silly, boring, unimportant.  But God doesn't see it that way, and Dad and I don't see it that way."

"Really?" he questions, brows furrowed.

"Really!  I really hate to see you fiddle fart around, inwardly moaning, outwardly sighing, because you have to do things around the house. But you know what? When you do them cheerfully because you really want to help, that makes me so happy.  And it really makes me happy when you do your very best.  It excites me when you really give your time and attention to doing the best job you can.  I can always tell when you've done your best, and when you've done just enough to try to get by.  Did you know that God knows when we're giving our best? When our heart is really in it?"

I reach out and touch his hand. "You know, sometimes I get out of bed, and I go through the motions.  And at the end of the day, I know that I haven't done anything great, even I did stuff.  I know I did just enough to get by, just enough to say I did something, just enough to call it a day.  I didn't really devote myself to things, I didn't do my best, and I didn't really use the day as I should.  The bible says we should do all things to the glory of the Lord. What do you think that means?"

Nolyn grins wide because he knows the answer. "It means that we should do our very best and do it for God!"

"Right! You're very smart," I smile back. "This life is to be lived for His glory.  Sometimes it doesn't feel very 'glorious' when we're taking out the trash or cleaning up after someone else, does it? Sometimes we don't want to take those small jobs because they feel small and lowly."

I pause. "Did I ever tell you about the time when Jesus' washed his disciples' feet? No?  Well, back then, washing someone's feet was a job generally reserved for the lowest person in the household- the slave, the servant. It was seen as one of those icky jobs.  People didn't bathe as much as we do now, and they didn't have shoes like we do now either.  They usually wore sandals, and their feet were really gross, sometimes even bloody from all the walking they did. That's why it was such a big deal when Jesus knelt before His disciples and began to wash their feet. He was their Rabbi, which means he was their esteemed Teacher.  They were so humiliated because they felt they should be washing his feet! Peter did not want the very Son of God washing his feet! There's more to it than that, but what we can see in this beautiful scene is that the Lord took on the lowest position. Our King came to serve. He did the dirty jobs. He wasn't afraid to get His hands dirty. He wasn't afraid to do the jobs that other people reserved for their servants. And yanno, He didn't complain about it either. He was loving them.  So, you see, when we do these small jobs, we can do them joyfully and do our best because we doing them out of love.  We are doing them because we love other people and because we love the Lord."

I then told him about a time when his Daddy had helped clean out a homemade sewer system (oh my, was that disgusting) and was up to his knees in poo and ick. He did it because he loved his mom, and she needed the help, not because it was enjoyable.  He gave it his best. He got in there and, um, literally got his hands dirty. (And, also won a trip to the ER after his brow became super swollen because of staph infection, which scored him a nice juicy shot of penicillin.) True story, folks.

We talked about things we or other people had done that weren't the easiest or the coolest or even the most fun to do, but how it was helpful and good, and even if no one seemed to care or appreciate it, it was important.

"Hon, I want you to listen.  You see, when we are teaching you things, whether it be about the Scriptures or maybe how to properly mop the kitchen floors, we are trying to impart wisdom to you.  Sometimes we think we know it all, and so we don't really listen, and we miss out on really important things. Listening is one of those things we need to do that's hard to do a lot of the time. Sometimes we get to thinking about what we really want to do, and we don't pay attention to what someone is telling or showing us.  I want you to learn to listen well, to tune in.  I especially want you to tune into the voices of your Mom and Dad.  Whenever we speak, I want you to stop and listen.  As you grow in the Lord, you will also learn to stop and listen whenever you hear the Lord.  Everything you learn in this household, even these small things, they are preparing you for your walk with the Lord.  Sometimes we think our walk with the Lord is just all this spiritual unseen stuff, but it's very much how we live, act, speak.... what we do. We have to learn to be faithful in the small things first."

He nods, "Yeah, like, I need to learn to take care of my toys before I can take care of something bigger, like a car, right?"

I nod back.

"An' I learn how to help here and stuff so that I can help others and stuff, right?"

I smile, take his hand in mine. "Super right."

"Oh, and I learn how to obey my parents, not just 'cause that's what God tells me to do in the bible but because it also helps me learn how to obey Him," he explains.

"You've got it!"

I give his hand a squeeze. "Nolyn, I want you to remember this. You should never stop learning and growing. God is still teaching and growing your dad and me. We are still learning new things."

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