Well there’s an eye catching little title. Nothing to do with this post.
Except for that first word, “do.”
And perhaps, the “Wha.”.
(Leave it to me to get something obscure from a song lyric).
The “do” and the “wha” refers to the “do what?” of my life. Because so often I’m questioning what I do or don’t do. Am I doing right? And if I’m doing right, am I doing right?
Let me explain. And I’d better hurry up, before I lose you. One of my primary issues is keeping boundaries. And it’s not just the fact that people can take advantage of me. I volunteer myself and my resources. Nobody asked! It’s “What do YOU need?” versus “What do I need?” Then, when everybody’s happy, and I do mean ev.er.y.body, then I’ll sit down and do my stuff. Complaining all the while, don’tcha know. But to do otherwise, to ignore someone’s need, to leave someone unsatisfied, feels very selfish, and just plain wrong. Sound familiar? (Cough: Martha)
This hurts me. Because after a while I’m feeling disjointed, disoriented, disorganized, and dissatisfied. It’s feeling like life is out of control. My laundry is weeks overdue, I haven’t made that phone call or done my writing, and I’m neglecting my job search and exploration. But maybe that’s the point. In seeing to someone else’s needs, I get to put off the things I need to do, or face, or feel. But that only works for so long. Soon I am in dire straits, and worse, blaming you.
So what is my business? How do I know? What is my responsibility, to you, or to me?
To know this, it starts with prayer. A common prayer of mine is the prayer Paul prayed at the time he was converted to Christianity (and isn’t that putting it mildly?). Having persecuted Jesus and His followers,, and having just condoned the stoning of Stephen, Paul (as Saul) meets Jesus on the road to Damascus.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord,what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:6)
Simple, huh? Just ask God, and He will lead.
So why don’t I do it? Why don’t I make a habit of taking the time, first thing in the morning, to ask what He’d like me to do during my day? Why don’t I pause, before I say “yes,” or volunteer myself? It only takes a moment. Is it because I think I know better what’s best? Is it because I enjoy that adrenaline rush that says “Ooh, what have I gotten myself into?” “It sure has gotten hot in here.” Or, “Where’s the fire extinguisher?”
But there are concrete things He’s asked of me. I don’t need to pause and wait to be told; it’s in the Book. I can pray for others, one of the finest things that can be done for another human being. I can study and meditate upon God’s word. I can serve in my local church. I can spend time with other people the Lord has given me. And I can do my laundry.
Ok, perhaps that last was my mother talking. But you get the gist. There are many things I don’t make time for, and end up a mess. And if you’re like me, you’re spending time recuperating from time with others as much as you’re actually spending time with them (see: introvert). Maybe more. So you still don’t get things done.
It doesn’t mean I can’t drop everything in the event of an emergency, but it does mean that God has specific tasks for me. He has helped me, through a long history of anxiety, depression, and bipolar illness, to figure out what I need to do to take care of myself. He has helped me to know when it’s time to take steps forward in my recovery, and when I’ve taken on too much. He’s given me specific people, family and friends who know me well. They can see if I am “off,” they can give me that refreshing of the spirit that only a true friend can give, and it is mutual, I hope. If I’m neglecting all of that, or ignoring red flags, a lot of sour notes will ensue. And it’s not just me on the piano, or the Mexican food I just ate.
This is not to mention the fact that if my “good deeds” do proceed from my flesh, and not from the Spirit’s call, it’s not worth a whole lot. I am thoughtful of the following scripture in Romans 8:5-8:
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
There is a whole lot in that there little portion of scripture! Among other things, it makes me evaluate things: Is my motive selfish, even when I appear to be focused on others? Am I looking to be comfortable, to be honored, to be liked? Am I trying, in my flesh, to make others happy? Maybe God’s intent is for that person to seek their own solution, or to sit with their own discomfort. Or, more than likely, for them to turn to Him, rather than to this friend who wants to make “aw better.” Sometimes, making it easier on someone else is not making it easier. It’s not just the two-year-old who needs to know they can do it themselves. And sometimes the attempt to “mother” someone does more harm than good. After all, “mother” and “smother” are pretty close.
Of course, there is such a thing as analyzing something to death. Sometimes I am procrastinating. Sometimes I am “enabling.”
But sometimes, I’m just loving.
And isn’t that what Christ has begged for us to do all along? As it is written:
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 2 John 5: