"For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."
I wish I could say that this is my life verse and I have always lived by it. Unfortunately, I am prone to selfishness, and God has convicted me of some selfish ways just this past weekend.
As a mother of younger children, I'm sure every mother of young children, or even older children can attest, it is nice to have a getaway day. Not a getaway day where you have to run errands for the household, just a day of pure chore-free fun. Saturday was to be that day for me, and I hadn't had one in quite a while. Our church ladies went on an outing to a huge craft fair held at a town about 50 miles distance from our city. I even had money to spend, a rarity. Apparently, everyone else within a 50 mile radius decided to go to the craft fair too, because it was crowded. Almost instantly, our whole group was separated. It became the running joke for the rest of the day. Many of our ladies ended up looking at all the craft booths solo. I had been waiting for my sister-in-law, who lived in this town. I wasn't sure how much assistance she would need in her power wheelchair.
One of our elder ladies, who had a lot of trouble walking, had come with us for this outing. I don't think I'm the only one who wondered why, when it was made clear that there were not a lot of places to sit, and there would be a great deal of walking. I had assisted her with buying her ticket and making sure she got inside the entrance alright. I know others from our group would have helped her as well, but as I said, they were all swallowed up by throngs of people immediately upon setting foot inside the gates. She impatiently wanted to know where the booths selling baby items were, as she wanted to buy an item for a baby shower the following week for one of our pregnant young ladies. I told her I would help her as soon as I met up with my sister-in-law. She did not seem to want to wait. So she wandered off on her own, in search of the baby boutique booths. She returned from one building (there were two more buildings and several tents) saying she had found nothing. I was still waiting for my sister-in-law. I told her just as soon as she was there, we would search out a place that sold baby items. Her other demand was that we go to Culver's which is one of the options we had offered for lunch suggestions. Since as a group, we had not had a chance to agree on what we would do for lunch, I told her I couldn't say for sure we would be doing this. We had brought a van full of ladies, I didn't know who would want to do what. She became more insistent that we do what she wanted. As it was barely 10AM, I told her we would make a decision closer to lunch. I suggested a nearby bench for her to rest on, because I hadn't even been in the first building yet, and wanted to see what was there. I browsed through the map handout given to us on arrival and spotted a booth that sold baby items in the second building. As she did not want to go through the first building again, I told her that when I was done there, I would come and get her to find this particular baby booth in Building #2. My sister-in-law, having arrived, we navigated through the sea of people, into the first very crowded building of arts and crafts, eager to spend our money.
My sister-in-law and another of her friends motored along into the next building, while I went back for our older saint, who, when I left, was settled on a bench. Only when I returned, she was no longer there. Scratching my head, a part of me thought, well, she was becoming burdensome anyway, I can't help it if she didn't stay put. But, the better part of me (thank goodness, I sometimes have one) said, better go look for her. She had not wandered too far off, with soda in hand, complaining loudly to a lady trying to sell her items. I sighed, probably an audible sigh. How did I end up with this task? I was not planning to be caretaker for the day. And it wasn't so much that I minded looking after one of our elder ladies, but this particular lady has always been demanding, selfish, and socially backward, saying inappropriate things in every instance. Her favorite topic of conversation (I think because she used to work as a labor and delivery nurse) is every church ladies choice of birth control or lack thereof. She feels it is her business to comment on every pregnant woman's timeline of having children, and even insinuated to me on this particular trip that if I had tried the different "recipes" out there, I could have had a girl instead of my third boy. Insulted as I was by this recommendation, I have dealt with her for a very long time, and knew the best thing to do was just to ignore the comment.
I mustered up as much patience as was in me, and guided her through the second building, in search of the baby booth. We arrived, but did not find anything that appealed to her. I asked what she would like to do next. She wanted to go back to the bench. I walked with her back to the bench, when she dropped the bombshell. She told me that she could not get up without assistance, hinting that I should wait with her until lunchtime, another hour or so away. My selfishness had shifted into fifth gear. When was I going to get a chance to see anything? I had paid admission money too. A barrage of complaints welled up inside me. I had come to enjoy myself. I had wanted to fellowship with our ladies. I wanted a day away from caring for people. I did not utter these thoughts out loud. And I think what I did next was the most selfish thing I have done in a long time. I told her I would be back at lunchtime, salving my conscience, by asking if she needed anything before I went back on my merry way. Now most people will say, I absolutely did the right thing. I shouldn't have been expected to be nursemaid to this lady, who would not have even appreciated my "sacrifice". But I know in my heart, especially after reading this passage, that I was wrong. I should have let go of my selfish desires and been a servant. I should have sat with her. I think about her alone on the bench, waiting for lunchtime, and others who may have passed by. What kind of a testimony was that? How many people, would have seen this older lady sitting there, while the rest of her group (namely me, since none of our other ladies knew her need) hunted for treasures? How heartless that must have seemed. Some may say I did enough, but I didn't. And thinking about it guts me.
Lord, I pray that the next time I want to act so selfishly, you will bring this occasion to my mind, to stop me. How many times would Paul want to move on to a church who would have cared for him properly? How many times would Paul have returned to preach to a church who hadn't grown and just didn't seem to get it? How selfish I was this weekend? Lord, help me to be a servant, and not just in actions, but thoughts as well. I'm sorry for failing you so miserably, and for failing to be the witness I should have been. Help me to do better next time.