In the first few weeks after our return from Serbia, Sofija had this lovely habit of slapping us across the face. We’re talking full-force, run across the room and swing with all her might, palm-meets-cheeks slaps. I can’t recount how many times her big thick calloused hands have landed on my face, but I do know that every single slap stunned the crap out of me and reminded me that my life was forever changed.
Just to clarify….
A stinging cheek = A wake-up call.
Slap # 1
A few nights ago I was sitting on my stairs answering an email on my phone, when my ten-year old son looked over my shoulder and said, “Wow, Mama. You’re a really good typer. Maybe you should be a writer or something.” Slap!
I then tossed and turned all night and finally climbed out of bed at 7:15am after achieving little or no rest. My cheeks were stinging and I knew that it was time to write. I think I’ve mentioned once before that I have been writing a book for the last three years. The story is done and it looks very promising that it will be published. I’ve spent these last few weeks of summer playing with the kids, trying to prepare Sofija for kindergarten, and editing the book. The words of a ten-year old delivered a wake-up call. He reminded me that I NEED to write. The fact that I couldn’t sleep all night because I was obsessing about the eight-step plan gave me a pretty good idea of what I should be writing about.
Step 1 is far from being mastered, but after a month of working hard on dishing out love to my loved ones, steps 2 through 8 are calling my name. I have read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (almost) daily and I have found myself swallowing some pretty large doses of conviction each and every day. I’m kind of wishing I had done a better job of documenting the events of the past few weeks, but “love keeps no record of wrongs” so I guess I need to forgive myself and move on.
Be as humble as Jesus.
I blogged a while back about surrender. It still amazes me how many promises God attached to total trust and surrender. Something I never realized until today is that there are just as many promises attached to humility.
2 Chronicles 7:14 – Be humble ~ Be healed.
Isaiah 29:19 – Be humble ~ Receive joy after joy.
Psalm 25:9 – Be humble ~ God will keep you out of trouble.
James 4:10 – Be humble ~ Be honored.
Job 5:11 – Be humble ~ Be prosperous.
2 Samuel 22:28 – Be humble ~ Be rescued. (This one comes with a promise to what happens if you’re not humble. It says that He will humiliate the proud….)
James 4:6 – Be humble ~ Be favored.
Proverbs 11:2 – Be humble ~ Be wise. – It actually says that “the humble receive wisdom.” I like that. In fact, I think that’s enough motivation for me to feast on some humble pie.
I’m pretty big on meanings and translations of anything I am attempting to understand (hence the many dictionary entries in my writing). When I started looking for a clear definition of humility, I didn’t have to look far. Right back in Philippians, where Paul laid out the 8-step plan, he gave us a very clear and simple picture of what being humble looks like.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Just like every other attempt I make at being Christ-like, I’m quite certain that living out humility will be easier said than done. And… I can’t use ignorance as an excuse for a lack of humility. When I think about the basis of my belief system, I realize that step 2 is wrapped up in a pretty neat little package.
Jesus was the Son of God and he never thought of himself as being better than anyone else. In fact, he was so humble that he inspired Paul to preach to the people of Philippi to think of others as being better than themselves if they wanted to be at peace with one another.
I don’t know about you, but seeing myself and my own wants and ambitions as being lessor than those of the people around me seems like a small price to pay for things like healing, prosperity, honor, joy, guidance, healing and wisdom.
I’m not a betting woman. But if I was, I’d put every dime I’ll earn in this lifetime on the fact that I’m about to be challenged with some opportunities to exhibit humility (and desires to be anything BUT humble). I’ll let you know how it goes.
All of my kids, including Sofija, will start school next week. That procrastination I mentioned before….well, it’s been the rule of thumb in preparing for the upcoming school year. I have invested time into teaching my younger two and shopping with my older two, but I have totally ignored the mounds of paperwork, list of phone calls, and many appointments necessary for them to start school. With eleven days to spare, my mad dash began. After visiting all three schools, I grabbed a venti latte with an extra shot, said a prayer, and headed to the social security office. This has been the one school registration duty that I have dreaded the most. Yes, I know that we cannot claim our daughter as a dependent or get the adoption tax credit until she has a social security number. I also know that there is one single social security office to service a quarter of a million people in this area. This was not a stop I’ve looked forward to. After chugging my coffee, I entered the building with a bag full of items to keep me busy. I had all of the school enrollment forms to fill out, a sudoku book, and a book that promises to help me relate to my teenagers. I told the lady at the counter my reason for being there, grabbed a number and took my seat amongst several dozen other social security seekers, feeling pretty well-armed. Those government workers might have the power to treat me badly and make me wait for hours, but they would never conquer me with boredom!
Before I could even finish signing the application for a social security card, I was called to the back. I have to confess that I was a little disappointed. My arsenal of boredom-busters never even made it out of my bag.
The gentleman who called me back was quite possibly the most pleasant government employee ever. And yes, my husband does still work for the government. He went through my paperwork, asked a few necessary questions and waited for the signal that my receipt was printing. In the waiting, he looked at me and asked, “How do they treat the people with disabilities in Serbia?” Next question, “How do they treat the orphans?” He looks at me and says, “I see Serbian girls and girls from all over eastern Europe that come through here with their new American husbands. I think the men buy the girls.” I responded, “Yes. They do.” We then had an in-depth discussion about human slavery, sex-trafficking and the A21 Campaign. At the end of the discussion he looked me straight in my eyes, sat silent for a moment, and then asked, “So what are you doing about all that you know?” Slap! I’m awake.
Mr. Smelling Salts went on to inform me that he is a social worker who just happened to be occupying that desk, on that day, because they were so busy and they needed him to fill in. He asked me how he could get involved and I kindly offered him every single way I could think of. He actually pulled out a legal pad and took notes :).
It’s been three days and my cheeks are still stinging. Just think. That man is a social worker. On any other day, at any other time, I would not have sat across the desk from him. I would not have had this kind man look me straight in the eyes and ask me the question that God wanted me to hear. I would not have woken up to the fact that I do know what is going on in the world. I do know that slavery and sex trafficking are very real parts of the world where my daughter was born. And for the past month, I’ve done nothing about it.
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
That’s not just a slap. That’s a full-blown beating.
While the thought of Sofija starting school after only four months of time with us is somewhat saddening, I am very aware that I need some time in my days to pursue the tug in my heart. Step three is not only about serving my loved ones. It’s about serving the greater good. It’s about throwing away my own desires and ambitions and pursuing God’s calling on my life. It’s about doing what I know I ought to do.
3. Stop acting out of selfish motivation and vain ambition. Be a servant to those around you.
After the kind reminder by Mr. Smelling Salts, I opened my Bible to Matthew and read Jesus’ parable of the farmer throwing seeds.
“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long…..The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest greater than what they planted!”
I want to live a fruitful life and to produce a harvest that is greater than what I have planted. I want my children to have a stronger faith-life and a closer walk with God than I have ever dreamed of. I want to be deeply rooted in my own faith-life so that I don’t have to worry about my joy being temporary. I do not want to have God’s truth in my life crowded out by life’s worries or for my marriage to suffer because I’m out chasing success and wealth. I do not want to pursue my own selfish motivations at the price of chaos in my house.
Hopefully step 3 will be a little easier to put into practice than step 1 has been. I’m thinking that if I master humility, it should be pretty simple to be a servant to the people around me. After all, rubbing my husband’s feet should be a piece of cake once I’ve accepted that his feet are less smelly than my own.
On the drive home from the social security office a public service announcement came on the radio about parenting teenagers. Quote, “Don’t discount a compliment with an insult.” The speaker went on to say that telling your child that you are proud they ‘did great on their algebra test, but it’s still a shame that their english grade is bringing down their gpa’, is not a compliment. I immediately heard my own voice saying things like, “I’m proud that you made your bed without being asked. If you had put away all of your clean laundry people might actually be able to tell it’s made.” “I’m proud that you dressed yourself. If your clothes matched, I might even let you wear them out of the house.” “Honey, you are the best husband ever. Thank you for doing the grocery shopping this week. You do know you got the wrong brand of ketchup?”
Sigh….Looks like I still have a long way to go with step 1. Adding 2 and 3 should make life pretty interesting.
God, please only slap me this week if I really need it. Amen.