Thursday, April 1, 2010

Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

I had planned to do some laundry. The machine is broken. What do I do with all the soapy water and clothes? Should I start washing by hand? Michael specifically asked me to do some writing. So, I shall write.


Nathanael is having a bad day. He's temperamental. Abigail is moody. Julia is pouting because she feels left out and Chloe says no to every command. I'm boiling.
"Everyone be happy! " I command (without a hint of cheer).

Later, Abigail is crying. Her eyes are red. She sits on the corner of my bed and confesses a list of everything that's wrong with her life. Each thing, strangely enough, is something that is actually wrong with someone else in her life: Julia Noel is bossy and pouty, Chloe Joy is destroying her tent, Nathanael won't stay out of her room. Everyone else needs to change: "If they would all do the right thing, I would be such a delightful person." But until then... she is justified to moan and make her family know how they have not only destroyed her tent and her mood-- they are robbing her of the ability to be a delightful person.

Then Julia is forlorn. She stands in front of me with a long, miserable face and announces woefully, "I did the experiment. For 20 minutes, I set aside my own plans. I decided that I was going to serve Abigail. I wrote out my plan, my hypothesis and an empty space for the results. When the timer went off, it had been a horrible 20-minute-experience, so I sat in the corner of my room and cried."
"Why? I thought you were going to spend 20 minutes serving Abigail, making life great for her."
"She didn't want my service. She didn't want my plans for her. I told her that I was serving her."
"Is that how you serve someone?"
"What do you mean? I gave her that whole 20 minutes, and she rejected me. The experiment failed."
"You were not serving her. To serve her is to fit into her world, her plans. To join in with what she's already working on and make it sweeter for her. You ask her what she needs, or even just anticipate it. Serving doesn't make demands. You don't do what you want, how you want to, and call that serving. That's bossing. That's why she's mad at you to begin with."
"But I told her I was going to serve her."
"Then you proceeded to demand how and when?"
"But if I live like this, who will serve me? I'll be doing all the work and all the 'fitting-in'."

Such a good question...

Even as I'm rebuking her, I'm uncomfortable, feeling the weight of my hypocrisy. I look at her, wincing, and admit, "Julia, I'm demanding something from you that I am not doing myself," I begin.

Abigail enters, and interrupts,"Yes, that makes you a hypocrite."

Can she read my thoughts?


Julia's eyes light up, "What are some other ways you're a hypocrite?"
"I tell you to rejoice in the Lord in your every circumstance, but when I'm bothered with you, instead of praising God, or calling out to Him, sometimes I go and pout, too."

They are clearly both very satisfied upon hearing this confession, leaning in a little closer. I continue, "Abigail wants Julia to stop being the boss and pouting when she's not, but she demands this of Julia, while pouting herself."
"Amen," says Julia.
"And your idea of service is really for your own gain, Julia," I continue. She smiles uncomfortably, knowingly.

While I long for my children to motivated to serve each other out of love, I often serve them out of duty with joylessness. When they act like I do, my own choices become painfully obvious.

I suppose Julia's question is more important than I realized: Is a life of praising God and serving others cheerfully REALLY worth it? In her words, Who will take care of me? If I'm so busy serving others, who will serve me?
We talk awhile longer, realizing that none of us is the innocent party. We are confronted later, when Michael is reading to us:

"...but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and
to give His life a ransom for many."
Matthew 20: 27-28

Therein lies the Gospel, in all it's fullness, as it applies to bad moods and disagreements and everything else that finds it's way into a normal day...