It's All About Who?
My son was about seven when he and I went to shop at Target (hey -- only the best for us). In the checkout line a lady looked at me and asked me where I got the shirt I was wearing. I told her I got it from a youth rally I had spoken at... and she cut me off. "I was talking about him," she said, pointing to Duncan. Duncan told her about his shirt and then we walked out to the car. On the way, my little guy said, "You know, dad, sometimes it isn't about you."
Good thing to remember. This week has been a roller coaster ride as I spoke at two different treatment centers for the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled, one in Toledo and one southeast of Canton, Ohio. I was there to encourage the workers and get their morale up. When I arrived, I was given a grand tour and treated like a king... but I couldn't help but notice that those who were lauding me were better people than I will ever be. Let me explain.
In Toledo, the Sunshine Children's Home was started by a family who had five MRDD children of their own. Their family gave them some land outside of the city so that they would raise their children away from the city; so they wouldn't embarass the rest of the family. Rather than become bitter, this family placed signs on roads around the area saying that they would take any unwanted child. People took them up on it and they would find babies left on their doorstep or on a counter in their kitchen. Years later, as they aged, the Mennonites came in to keep their work alive. They are still a huge part of the funding and oversight of the home that now serves 76 residents and many more on a day care basis. The servers, nurses, administrators, and aides were happy in their work and the smiles of caregivers and patients alike were so genuine they jarred me.
Two days later I was speaking at St. John's Villa, a larger treatment facility for children and adults with MRDD. It is run by nuns of the Order of Saint Francis and I am here to tell you that his spirit is still alive and well in them. The facility was spotless, the children and adults were smiling, busy, working, laughing, making things and -- yes -- finding meaning and place. The people glowed with purpose and kindness. I was humbled and -- in an odd way -- ashamed to be in their presence. Here I am, a man with a lovely wife and two incredible, healthy kids. I am blessed to be the preaching minister for the largest church of Christ in the north and people pay me to come and talk to them about a wide variety of subjects. And yet... here are people who work 24/7 for pitiful wages, working with people who will never, ever get better. There are no goals they can realistically set for the kids. They are there not for glory, money, or even professional advancement. They are there out of love.
So I gave my talks, but part of me was screaming inside my head that I should shut up and just follow them around instead. Here are people glowing with the love that Christ told us about, that John declared was the mark of the true disciple of Christ in First John, and who took seriously Christ's admonition to care for the weak, fallen, poor, and needy. And they did it with a joy and peace that is still resonating in me days later.
These are people who get it: it isn't about us. We are a part of the journey, but we are not its point.
The most worshipped God I know is the god in the mirror. We spend our money on him, our time on him, and want to make him happy and comfortable. Even in our worship we want to please that god that stared back at us as we shaved that morning. If something upsets us we act as if the True God was offended for... He would have to be offended if we were, right? Somehow we have bought into the idea that this life, this world, and this church are about us. And yet, God -- remember God? -- doesn't act like that even though it really is all about Him! Instead, He stoops to conquer us with love. He gets on the floor with us even though -- like those lovely little souls in St. John's Villa and Sunshine Children's Home -- we have no real hope of getting much better. He feeds us, cares for us, showers us with rain and sunshine and, more than this, loves us deeply just because we exist.
My son was right. It isn't about me. I will only have value in this life to the extent that I reflect Christ in all I do and say. "Dear Lord, let me this day begin to fade away. May each day of the rest of my life find me looking less like me and more like Jesus. Make me as wise as a serpent, as harmless as a dove. And make me invisible. Let no one see me, but only You."