It was Monday afternoon, and I was feeling pretty ragged after a big weekend of ministry. I have learned that it’s not very smart – when you are so tired you can’t hardly think straight, to stay sitting there at your desk. You don’t tend to be very productive. So I decided pack up and go home for a sleep, and woke up about the time my wife got home. I went upstairs to catch up with her on the day’s events. I sat there on the stool in the kitchen and watched her prepare dinner (she had worked a full day as well) while I told her how tired overworked I felt.
I was looking for sympathy. I wasn’t looking to serve anyone. I wanted others to serve me.
Upstairs my eldest son was doing some weight training with his stereo turned up. Thump, thump, thump, thump went the beat. Doesn’t he know how tired I am? Doesn’t he realize what I’ve been through over the past few days? If he did, he’d be showing me a little more consideration. So I went up there, berated him and demanded that he turn it down.
After I came downstairs my wife said to me, “You know, if you’re feeling that tired, what don’t you go into your room and have a rest?”
“I’ve already had a rest,” I replied gruffly, “I just want some peace and quiet.”
There was no pleasing me. I was in a cranky mood.
Maybe I should just go and read, I thought to myself. I picked up a book I was working through. It’s called Relationships, A Mess Worth Making, by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. You’re probably starting to smile at this point. You have some idea what is coming. I opened it to where I left off. The heading was, “Circumstances Don’t Determine Whether You Serve.” I was oblivious to the cues. I was still absorbed in myself. Then I starting reading. The Lord had something to say to me, and it was about to hit me right between the eyes.
One of the most common excuses we have for not being more loving and helpful, the author said, is our circumstances. When we are weighed down with difficulties, what is the very first thing we want to do? We don’t want to do anything. We want others to do things for us. We want to be served, not serve. I began to reflect on the way I had behaved over the past hour and felt a deep shame. I read on. The author compares our attitude to that of Jesus, when he washed the disciples’ feet. It’s so good I want to quote it:
“When we encounter Jesus in John 13, his circumstances are horrible. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to die on the cross for self-centered sinners. He knew that the wrath of a just and holy God would soon fall on him. The just punishment for all his people’s sins would crush him in just a few days. Yet what does he do? He serves. He does for his disciples what they should be doing for him. He takes a towel and a basin of water and begins to wash their feet. It would have been very tempting for Jesus to say, “Don’t you guys know what is about to happen to me? Get a grip and comfort me!” Yet he says nothing about what is about to happen to him; he just serves, with out self-pity. He is utterly selfless at the moment it would be most tempting to be selfish.”
What Jesus did was not normal, and it sounds impossible. But it’s not – not if you are a believer in him, indwelled and empowered by his Spirit. This same selfless Spirit lives in you and can empower you to do the same; to do the miraculous.
I was both convicted and encouraged in reading this. I was deeply convicted, because I knew I was being selfish and I needed to apologize to both my son and my wife (which I did). But I was also encouraged to know that I am not doomed to a life of failure, repeating this same sin over and over. There is another way – the way of the Master. And his resurrection power lives in me.