Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Pity Isn't Enough

There is a person I pity. Their life has been hard and is a miserable existence even still. They have very little family and are at odds with even those they have. They are lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled. They are needy, selfish and hard to love.

Then there is a family I pity. They are not well off at all financially. They struggle. They are a little rag tag and just a bit non-pristinely crazy. I actually like them quite a bit. But I do feel sorry for them.

Then, I find myself in a conversation with this first person I pity. They are talking about this family like they are "white trash," in a sense. Disdain. "Do you know what they did/what they are like?" kind of attitude. It takes all I have to bite my tongue. To smile and nod and offer just the gentlest remark in their defense.

Inside I am raging. Who are YOU to look down on these precious souls? Do you have any idea how hard it is to reach out to YOU? What makes you any better than them? Just because you live at the top of the hill and not at the bottom? Inside I shake. My heart breaks. I want to go out and beat down the world in defense of this family.

I am a rather vehement advocate for the underdog - the unloved and misunderstood.

But I am afraid that stems from an intense loyalty and extreme sense of justice.

And that is why pity will never cut it.

It's why Jesus never said, "Pity one another" or "Feel sorry for one another and let that be your motivation for helping out."

It has to be love.

When this incident occurred, I asked my husband, "Did Jesus love the Pharisees?" When I read the Gospels, I hate the Pharisees. Despicable ones. Self-righteous idiots. Jesus was incredibly hard on the Pharisees. He hated their sin - the way they led others astray. But, God is love. Jesus died for the Pharisees as much as he died for the tax collectors and prostitutes. He forgave them and gave them new life when they believed (think Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea). He did love those cold, heartless, unloveable snobs. He didn't just pity them.

Pity didn't carry Jesus to the cross. It was his love for us and his determination to do the Father's will.

Pity is a rotten motivator, because it's just a feeling. Love is sacrifice, and that's why it will always trump pity.

Love chooses to love the unlovely. Love forgives hurts and betrayal. Love accepts people for who they are but helps them to grow into something beyond that. Love doesn't pick and choose who to care for. It reaches out to everyone, regardless of their range on the likeability scale.

It is God's will that I love others, no matter how they treat other people I love. And knowing that should help motivate me to lay down my life for ALL of those people God has brought across my path.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Saving or Splurging (and why neither really matters)

That moment when your little boy snuggles up against your shoulder with his little fingers wrapped around your shirt collar.

Opening your paycheck and relishing the blessing of being able to pay your bills for the coming month. 

Dipping your spoon into a bowl of freshly frozen, pure, low-fat ice cream straight from the ice cream maker.

Splurging on that book on Amazon that you've been hankering after for a good 6months.

Fixing grilled pork chops and a salad of fresh greens for a healthy supper.

Finding an amazing deal on a bunch of baby clothes at a garage sale.

What on earth do these things have to do with each other?

"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past." (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

I frustrate myself to no end with my expertise in stressing myself out. Being a woman, let alone a wife, let alone a mom, let alone a businesswoman, let alone a friend, let alone [you fill in the blank], can overwhelm the strongest, most invincible person! Add hormones, trials, sleepless nights, unexpected "surprises" and you've got the perfect recipe for an overwhelmed heap of exhaustion instead of a bright, radiant woman.

As I've discovered, rubbing shoulders with new mom friends or even old friends who I can now connect with as a mom, there are different things we pride ourselves in, which in turn can be the very things we stress ourselves out over. For instance, I am very frugal and very health-conscious. Great things, right? But they turn around and bite me all too often. If I discover I paid more than I could have for something, or we slack off just a bit in our healthy eating, my heart unsettles itself and I begin to worry.

Then again, we all think that the choices we are making are the best. Perhaps they are funneled through a frugal mindset: whatever is cheapest is best. Or a healthy mindset: even if it costs extra we will do this because it is safest for our family. Or a family-first mindset: the feelings and comfort of every family member come before anything else. Or whatever else shades the lenses of your life-glasses.

But what about the incredibly health-conscious woman who is diagnosed with cancer? Or the very frugal family who still can't manage to pay off their loans? Or the family-centered home unit with a child who rebels as a teenager?

There is no explanation for so many things in life. It's so easy to put money first, or safety, or pleasure, or ministry, or family, or whatever. And when those things betray or disappoint us, we crumble.

This is where the Preacher's wisdom comes in: it is GOOD to receive what God stretches out for us, and to accept it, and to enjoy it. This attitude in itself is a gift from God! Simply put, there is no need for me to stress out. God offers a stress-free life attitude for me and all He asks is that I accept it.

The most important thing in life is fearing God.

That life is a life of trust. Relaxing in His arms and the guiding hand of His presence. That means enjoying what I am doing now, whatever that may entail - working to pay the bills or relaxing with my family, saving pennies on groceries or splurging on new running shoes for myself and my husband, eating spinach or eating brownies, cleaning the house or watching a movie in it, serving my husband and son or just enjoying their company.

"God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past."

Life is good. Enjoy it!