Caught in the Act

I want to share a recent moment of conviction with y’all. I was caught in the act of sinning, but because I am a parent, I know it was for my own good.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Hebrews 12:7

Last Saturday, I had a migraine and went to bed early. I woke up Sunday morning to find dirty dishes waiting for me in the kitchen. Since my husband and I are empty-nesters, it didn’t take much to determine the identity of the culprit. It made me angry, and my mind filled with ugly, hateful thoughts – thoughts I indulged as I began to tidy up.

Then my sullen inner dialog was interrupted by these words: the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…

With that Scripture, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sinful response to my husband’s dish indiscretion.

One of the passages you’ll find this verse in is Matthew 20:20-28. This is where the mother of two of Jesus’s disciples, James and John, had approached the Lord. As if to prove helicopter moms existed before helicopters did, she asked that her sons be given prominent positions in His kingdom when Jesus established it.

Jesus responded in a way that doubtless stalled the rotors of the matriarch: He offered a lesson in humility. After an initial declaration that the positions of power she requested were not His to offer, He went on to teach hard truths about the power. The kind of power mankind associates with leadership is in stark contrast to God’s way of leading. In fact, Jesus stated that even He – the King of kings – “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

As the Spirit brought these things to mind, yours truly was certainly humbled and repented in prayer as I washed the dishes. But He was not done with me yet. While I went about my morning routine, God brought to mind all the ways my husband has given his life for me – working ridiculous hours so I could stay home with our kids when they were little, sacrificing so I could homeschool, and even staying in jobs that wore him out so our children could have a private school education in high school.

Then there’s Jesus who did give His life as a ransom for mine – even though in my arrogant youth, I mocked Him and His followers. Despite my scorn, He loved me and chose me, paying the penalty I deserved for my very haughtiness and my derision of Him.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:8, 10

And yet, here I was complaining about a couple of dishes.

The truth is, if I’m to be Christlike, that means being willing to serve. Period. No contingencies, no clauses, no conditions. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit reminding me of this truth when I slipped into sin. Getting caught in the act may not be exactly comfortable, but I’ve come to learn that the end result is beyond wonderful.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

Christ’s Likeness

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

It’s one thing to claim a desire for Christlikeness, it’s quite another to live each day with the selflessness Jesus actually exhibited. For although He is the exact imprint of God the Father, Jesus walked the dusty Middle Eastern streets without a shred of the honor due his Name. Instead of coming in glory to compel our worship, Jesus came as a sacrifice.  

As I meditated on today’s passage, the Holy Spirit revealed an ugly truth about myself. When I’ve said, “I want to be Christlike,” what I’ve often wanted is the exaltation of Christ without His depth of humility; the glory without the gore.

I wanted to be perceived as a servant while forgoing the distasteful business of always putting others’ needs before my own. And a decades-long battle with chronic migraine and myalgic encephalomyelitis makes this attitude oh-so-easy to justify.  

Some might say I have good reason for frustration when I come home, achy and fatigued, only to find the house seemingly full of dishes and dog hair. But the truth is, my anger is mere self-focus and leads only to resentment.

I’ve wasted enough of my life nursing resentful thoughts. Whether justified or not, they only warped my attitude and grew into caustic actions and words. The more attention I focused on my need, the more malignant the needs seemed to grow.

There’s nothing remotely Christ-like in such a life.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

– G. K. Chesterton

By God’s grace, His Spirit intervened, opening my eyes to this self-centered and self-inflicted poison. I repented, yielded this area of my life to Him in prayer, and asked that He make me more like the Lord I love.

Now when unmet needs provoke irritation, He whispers, “My grace is sufficient…”

When my family leaves housework me to do after a job or volunteer work has left me drained, the Spirit murmurs, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve…”

And when I’ve given all I have to give and there is so much more required, He calls to mind the words of Paul, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering…”

After all, if my King came to live on earth as a servant, why should I expect anything more than servanthood for myself?