Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Worry About You

Rejection hurts.  It especially hurts when you're trying to show the love of Christ and be His hands and feet.  When you're trying to be Him and it doesn't end well, you can't help but feel like you failed.  Because obviously, He didn't fail.  So you must've.  You must not have loved well enough.  You must not have had enough patience.  You must have been too intolerant.  You must have expected too much.  You must not have given enough.  You must not have worked hard enough.  You must not have surrendered enough to Him.  There must have been something you didn't do enough of.  It's a hard feeling to get past when you want so desperately to show Him to those He has placed in your life for you to care about.

In my family and our life with the children who come into our home, we inevitably wrestle with this feeling at times.  Sometimes we do our best to love them, to show Christ, to teach them about Him and what it means to have a relationship with Him, to be their family and share our lives with them, and they throw it back in our faces.  Sometimes they are so certain we're going to reject them, that they do everything in their power to make sure they reject us first.  And when they reject us, we feel like we failed.  Somehow, someway, somewhere, we messed it up.  Because if we'd done it right, things wouldn't have turned out that way.

Today, God showed me something different.

Matthew 25:34-36,40 says,
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'"

I always envisioned this verse in the ideal context: handing food and drink to a happy, grateful homeless person, giving clothes to adorable children who have none, inviting strangers into your home and becoming best friends with them--in my mind, this story always has a happy ending.

But today the Lord opened my eyes to an important fact:

This verse doesn't tell us the ending.

This verse doesn't say, "I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat and I accepted gracefully and politely."
It doesn't say, "I was a stranger and you invited Me in and everything went smoothly and we became great friends."
It doesn't say, "I was sick and you looked after Me and I fully realized and appreciated everything you did for Me."
It doesn't say, "I was in prison and you came to visit Me and the Lord changed my heart and I was miraculously converted."

This verse says nothing about the response of "the least of these" to the efforts of "the righteous".  Nothing.  All we know is what the righteous did that caused Him to call them blessed.

They gave.
They invited.
They looked after.
They came.

They gave...whether or not it was received.
They invited...whether or not the invitation was accepted.
They looked after...whether or not they were appreciated.
They came...whether or not they were welcomed.

The response of the least is not the source of the blessing for the righteous.

Let me say that again in case you missed it.

The response of the least is not the source of the blessing for the righteous.

The blessing comes from knowing we're being obedient to what He places in front of us at the moment.  When He places someone hungry in front of us?  We give them food, and we're blessed by Him.  When He places a stranger in front of us?  We invite them in, and we're blessed by Him.  When they reject our giving and decline our invitation and we feel like we've failed?  We trust that we did what He asked of us in the moment, we leave the results in His hands, and we're blessed by Him.  If we live our lives gauging our effectiveness in the Kingdom by what we see in the responses of others, we will always end up feeling like we've failed.  We must gauge our effectiveness by our obedience and His ability to work in ways that we can't see.

When you were little, did you ever try"help out" your mom by pointing out something that one of your siblings was or was not doing?  If you did, you probably got a response that was something to the effect of, "You worry about you and let me worry about them."  I think that's what the Lord expects of us.  "You worry about you"--give, invite, look after--"and let Me worry about them."  It's a hard thing to do, but it is incredibly freeing to let go of our perceived responsibility for the responses of those to whom we minister.  When we let go of our need to be blessed by their responses, we free ourselves up to be blessed by Him simply because of our obedience.

We must obey, and let Him worry about them.   Because He will.  He's not going to abandon them.  He's not going to give up on them.  He's not going to let them down or turn them away or forget about them or let them go.  He will never leave them or forsake them.  He will watch over them.  How precious are His thoughts concerning them!  When we finally break down and accept that the end of their story is out of our hands, we find ourselves releasing it into far better Hands, where it belongs.