It's exhausting to think about other people when you are trying so hard to think about yourself.
The selfish servant.
Perhaps that would be my name these past weeks if I had a role in the book Pilgrim's Progress.
Outwardly serving my precious family and painting joy on my face.
Inwardly knowing that I'm such a faker because my heart and mind are not in line with my actions.
Often, my service to my family is genuine and straight from the heart.
Not always, though.
Recently, I've found myself going through the motions like a robot and inwardly sulking.
I can blame post-partum.
Or having teenagers.
Or six kids.
Or a busy husband.
Everyone has their own "justifiable" reasons for sulking while serving.
We can rationalize any sin. Surely we know that about ourselves.
Who serves me? And I kind of storm around banging pots a little loud and offering deep sighs of martyrdom when someone in my family asks me to do something that interferes with whatever "service" I'm currently doing.
"No, I can't get you a fork---I'm nursing the baby."
"No, I won't help you with that craft---I'm making your lunch."
And somehow I'm annoyed by even the sweetest of requests.
Annoyed that I'm needed.
And I hate that I'm thinking about myself so much, but I persist in this vicious thinking that keeps ME in the center and all of my family members as potential enemies for asking anything of me and not meeting MY needs.
Who serves me?
Who thinks about what I need?"
I might have actually spoken that to my husband when I realized-as we were on the way to a friend's house and going to be gone for several hours-that I had completely forgotten to refill the diaper bag with diapers.
A diaper-less diaper bag. The smallest of things.
That's all it took to reveal my heart.
Who takes care of me? I asked.
Why didn't anyone else check the diaper bag?
Why do I have to do EVERYTHING? (I speak in absolutes when I'm irritated...or always.)
Who serves me?
I've thought those statements enough recently that from the overflow of my heart, my mouth spoke.
Oh, I wish I would have held my tongue.
But the thoughts were there, and the slight, very slight squeeze of a diaper-less 3-month-old, revealed the ugly nature of what I was holding inside.
My husband, sensing the coming flip-out, gently asked, "What do you need?"
WHAT DO I NEED?
I. NEED. DIAPERS.
That's all I could say.
I need diapers.
And I cried over diapers.
And that's not the question he was asking.
And that's not the answer I wanted to give.
But it was safe.
Right now, I Just Need Diapers.
There was so much unspoken behind his question.
So much unspoken behind my answer.
And the truth was...I had no idea what I needed.
It certainly wasn't diapers because I have hundreds of diapers given to me from special friends.
"What do I need?" I thought about that question all week.
Time? But how much time would I need to truly be refreshed?
Help? My husband has done some grocery shopping for me this week and my daughter loves to bless us with fun snacks through the day.
Service? A dear friend has taken my son to school almost every day for 3 months and I'm surrounded by wonderful people who regularly take my kids places with them. Not to mention, my mom is here for a week to SERVE ME.
Appreciation? My husband is not short on words that express value of me. I even get the occasional "thanks" from my kids.
Silence? Maybe. But could it ever be quiet enough for me to solve all my issues and think all my thoughts?
Aloneness? With six children? There's not enough time to demand too much of that.
But truly, what do I need?
As I stumbled through last week, I constantly thought how I would answer my husband if he dared ever ask again, "What do you need?"
As I was doing a load of laundry...what do I need?
Stirring a bowl of brownies...what do I need?
Attempting to teach first grade math...what do I need?
Driving children to soccer...what do I need?
How exhausting it is to constantly be thinking about yourself and what you need.
As I'm fixing dinner...I think I "need" to go to coffee with a friend.
Waiting for dance class to finish...I think I "need" to be sleeping.
Talking to my husband...I think I "need" to be reading.
Every "need" I had made me ANGRY at the task I was doing...and FURIOUS at the people who"needed" me.
What I needed was to not be thinking so much about what I needed!
Trying to have all my "needs" met for time, help, service, appreciation, silence, and aloneness leads me straight down a bottomless pit of discontent.
This discontent leads me to hunt down what I think I "need" in order to bring myself to a place of contentment.
Lord, what do I need?
Desperately I want an answer to this question because its very asking has made me slightly crazed.
And the season of life where I'm hovering brought me to Philippians 4:11-13.
Paul says, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I CAN DO EVERYTHING THROUGH HIM WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH."
I need...I WANT...to learn the secret of contentment.
I CAN DO EVERYTHING THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
I CAN BE CONTENT LIVING IN MY "NEED."
I can find quietness in my soul in a noisy home~by His grace.
I can find joy changing a diaper when I really want to read a book~through His power.
I can serve my family when energy seems lacking~in His strength.
I can value being the one that is needed instead of continually focusing on what I think I need.
I CAN LEARN THE SECRET OF BEING CONTENT THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
Contentment doing the beautiful task of serving the family that God has given me.
Contentment with the little moments of quietness God does carve out for me in a given day even with six kids.
Contentment being a mom.
Contentment being a wife.
Contentment without a professional title.
Contentment in doing seemingly insignificant tasks that often seem so unimportant, yet so necessary in running a home.
Contentment in Christ who strengthens me for whatever the "need" is in front of me.
And contentment with a husband who will stop at a gas station so I can buy a ridiculously small, expensive pack of diapers for a wife who forgot to check the diaper bag.
Lord, teach us the secret of finding contentment with whatever it is you have called us to do.
And may the pursuit of our "needs" never interfere with the glorious privilege of serving YOU.
"I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM WHO STRENGTHENS ME."