I have a longing that tugs at me: to serve the homeless. It isn’t new. But, it pulls at me stronger now. In the winter months. In the cold and damp and dark months of the year. In those times when I am blessed to sit in my home, with the warmth of a fire and warm meals on the table.
I pray for the right opportunity to serve. To know God’s plan for me. And, yesterday, at church, I thought: This is it. This is it.
Our church has a ministry called 3 O’clock People. Those involved serve hot meals to about 100 of the homeless in our city every Saturday–every Saturday–at, you got it, 3 o’clock.
This year, Christmas falls on Saturday. And so, hot meals need to be prepared and served. Without 3 O’clock People, these members of our community would go without on the day when we celebrate the birth of Christ. The savior. God among us.
And so, we are serving Christmas dinner in the gym at church. Fully decorated, tables, home cooked food. And, we are sitting down–together–with the homeless, and breaking bread. On the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. God among us.
I came home excited, ready to sign up the family. Drawn to the opportunity to live Christmas a little differently this year. Drawn to the opportunity to serve.
But, when I spoke to my husband about it, he had a different view. He wasn’t as excited about sharing a meal with the homeless. He was happy to help–to provide food, to help with set up. But sharing a meal wasn’t what he wanted. He explained, it wasn’t about not wanting to share a meal–it was about having to be social. Having to push himself to talk to people he doesn’t know.
I understood completely. But, I was let down. I told him, “That’s not my vision at all. I really want to do this.”
“But,” I said, “let’s talk to the kids and hear their thoughts about this.”
My selfish, blame-it-on-my-husband voice kicked in. The ugly me. I thought to myself. Of course he doesn’t want to do this. He never wants to. I wish he would change. If he were a Christ follower, maybe he would want to do this. Another Christmas where I’m reminded so loudly of our different beliefs.
Then, I heard my husband’s voice, “You know, I’ll do whatever my family wants to do. I just want to spend time with my wife and my kids.”
My selfish voice, the voice in my head continued: Great! We’ll get him to do this. It will be perfect. A selfless Christmas serving others. We’ll get to do what I want. I know the kids will want to serve.
In the quiet of the morning–this morning–it struck me. My husband—seeing the excitement in my eyes, and the disappointment when he told me he really didn’t share my excitement–was willing to give sacrificially for me–to push himself beyond his comfort level for me and the kids. This man who does not know Jesus, showed me what it means to live sacrificially.
Any selfishness was mine, not his.
And so this morning I’m grateful. Grateful that my husband displayed for me selflessness. Grateful that God showed me my selfishness Grateful for God’s grace and mercy. Grateful that God reminded me of the things I love about my husband and the things I need to change about me. Grateful that God reminded me that I was placing my desire to love those I don’t know over my love for my husband.
I don’t know how or where we will spend Christmas day. I’m praying about it. I’m praying that my heart won’t be restless about it. And, I’m praying, whatever it is, that it will reflect Christ to those around us and to my husband. I’m praying for a heart that trusts God fully and trusts that God is faithful.
And, I’ll continue to pray that God will show me how to serve the homeless. Where He wants me and why He has placed this on my heart. And, I pray that serving and loving others will be a response to God because of my faith.
“Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” — Galatians 5:13-14.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
-1 Timothy 6:6-7
Our culture makes it easy to want things now — credit cards, no down payments on homes. You name it, we can get it now. We know where that has gotten us as a society. But, we saw it in our kids, too. Wanting that item they saw on TV or the item their best friend just got; asking for things while shopping because the cool packaging caught their eye. Everywhere they turned the message they received was “you need this,” “buy me,” or something similar–a message that made them want what they didn’t have and perceive that they needed something more.
We struggled to figure out how to teach our kids to wait–to not buy on impulse. To be content.
Our recipe was simple: A piece of paper, a magnet, and a refrigerator. It helped all of us learn about waiting and making thoughtful decisions.
So here is how the refrigerator-note solution worked. If the kids wanted something, they had to write it down on a piece of paper and put the date on it. We then posted the item on the fridge. It stayed there for two weeks. If they still wanted the item at the end of two weeks, they could buy it– assuming they had enough money.
The result? Our kids rarely ended up buying the items posted. I don’t remember where we learned that trick, but I am grateful for it. It helped the kids and, over the years, it has helped us, too. Nothing like writing down that you want a $15,000 car and posting it on the fridge for two weeks — only to decide that you really didn’t need it or want it after all.
This works for other decisions in our lives, too. When prayerfully considering family choices, I found that posting the prayer where I could take a moment to consider it throughout the day helped. I find I jump in and make life’s decisions on my own. It feels better to do rather than to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully. I think if I’m doing and moving forward that is good. But, of course, my spur-of-the-moment, shoot-from-the-hip choices, haven’t always been what a prayerful and well-considered decision may have yielded.
Being content with what we have and learning to wait will always be a struggle. We desire. It is part of being human. But, learning what makes us desire and act impulsively–and then finding ways to change those impulses honors God’s desire for our lives.
Note: I re-posted this from my old blog. And, I just saw that Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and founder of The Mentoring Project, started a series today on commercialism that fits nicely with the theme of impulse buying that I touch on here. You might check out his post.