Disclaimer - it's been a long time since I posted about faith, and I'm a little nervous to share today because I've been wrestling with lots of basic faith-stuff. But this experience is helping bring me back, so here we go.
This past weekend at church, the sermon was about living life on mission at home. Our pastor posed the question - why is it so hard to be a Christian at home with the people we love?
I happened to be attending alone - Jake had other stuff going on. I took notes on Christ's example of selfless love and accepted our pastor's challenge for us to pray for changed hearts and also to take action steps of "out-serving" our family this week.
I was excited to take on this challenge because Jake hadn't been there, so he would have no idea what I was up to. It was truly a chance to serve him selflessly.
Guys - I didn't even last one day.
By Sunday night, I was crying in bed accusing him of all kinds of wacky things - like loving his job more than me or not paying enough attention. I was a mess.
Jake and I rarely fight. We don't have a perfect relationship by any means, but he's really good at defusing me when I get upset. In the early stages of dating, I would push and push with ridiculous accusations and dramatic statements trying to get a rise out of him, hoping he'd respond emotionally, but he never would. So thankfully, I've learned through his example, that shouting or being mean is not the best way to communicate when I'm feeling hurt. For the most part, we handle conflict pretty calmly.
Except last night I reverted back to old tendencies. After just one afternoon of trying to say yes to whatever he wanted, and trying to be selfless by making dinner and doing the dishes and whatever else, I had run dry. I started tallying up all that I'd been doing for him, and even went back through the whole weekend, making mental notes.
With my list ready in my mind, I asked, "Jake, what are some nice things you did for me today?"
His list seemed kind of lame - probably because he doesn't keep track of these kinds of things in his head.
I said some mean things. He was taken off guard with how upset I was getting, and started asking "What happened?? We had such a good day."
This morning after he left for work, I was spent. I poured myself an extra large cup of coffee and sliced a piece of last night's strawberry cake, topping it with extra fresh strawberries to make it healthy (that's how health works - right?). I went back to my notes from the sermon and cracked open my Bible to figure out what the heck went wrong, even though I had a pretty good idea of it already.
I had taken my eyes off of Christ.
In my feeble attempts at serving, my motivation shifted to making myself feel better. It was about my performance and how great our marriage could be because of ME. And it didn't work. The more aware I was of my own sacrifice, the less love could be found in my actions. So I burned out very quickly.
It's funny because that whole point of the sermon was NOT that we just need to grit our teeth and serve each other out of our own discipline or self-will. The whole point was that this kind of love is impossible on our own - that's why it's so hard in the first place. We are selfish people, which I already knew about myself.
Recently I've been in a "coming back to God" phase. It's not that I ever walked away exactly, but it's been a dry season. Christian truths have felt cliche, the Bible has felt dull - nothing like a sharp edged sword. I'd sit in church and ask "why?" or "how?" to basic principles, to the things I could explain but couldn't seem to believe. I'd even have to check myself to make sure I wasn't glaring at a church speaker, because I was questioning ever single thing he or she said.
That's why I loved this week of receiving a challenge. Finally something tangible I can DO based on a Bible verse. And it's funny that I failed in the first day, with my husband who I legitimately love more than anything.
But my failure broke through the fog I've been experiencing - finally I could see clearly again.
And what I saw was Christ.
I have to start with Christ's display of love on the cross. If I get away from that, everything gets wacky, and my heart backfires into keeping score and needing reciprocation. When I get away from who Christ is and what He's done, things also start to feel cliche or pointless.
"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; andhe died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
This verse was shared yesterday. The point is not "out-serve one another to prove yourself," but out-serve because you've been served. And even though this is something I already knew in my head, it took tripping and falling on my face before the truth took root in my heart.