My husband and I recently joked about not being invited very many places. The conversation kind of went like this, “Hey, remember when we were first married and we used to get invited places all the time?” “Oh man, yeah, I remember those days.” With the final reply, “Now we are too much to take on for most people. I guess that means we need to start inviting people to our house.” There began our season of serving others… but not without some sandpaper refinement.
I remember being in the NFL and there was another family who had seven kids of their own. The parents were phenomenal human beings. They realized early on that most people are not used to having six children running around “destroying” their house so they decided they would always be the host family. People could come to them—their house was always open. Little did I realize back when we only had our first son. How naive I was to think this may one day become our reality. Fast forward four years and four babies later. How I hope to be like this family!
We recently hosted a family with ten children at our house. The oldest is married and has two children herself. Add our two families together and we may as well have our own school. We love this family dearly. And what a joy it was to host them. I found myself relaxed, calm and more than willing to serve them in whatever way I could. One kid asking for more pizza, one kid asking for more popcorn, another asking, “Is the battery done charging yet” for the 8th time. Yes, yes, and it’s almost ready sweetheart! I responded to each request promptly and with joy.
Now why do I say this? Not because I am this great person, but because I may just be the opposite when it comes to my very own family. How disheartening is that? Can I just confess something here… when it comes to my own husband and children I do not immediately respond with patience, calmness or any emotion that even comes close to joy.
After our friends left that night, I found myself smiling. Yes, smiling as I was cleaning up plates and cups. Smiling as I was picking up all the random toys found outside. Smiling as I wiped down counter-tops and sweeping the floor. Smiling as I thought to myself, “How else can we serve this family?” My cup had been filled with so much joy that night.
And that’s when it hit me like a lightning bug to a semi-truck’s windshield on one of these hot Nebraska summer nights. BOOM.
“Why don’t I serve my own family with this same sentiment?”
It was as simple as that. I was convicted in that moment. I realized that as much joy I found in serving others, I was experiencing a self-pity attitude and a “why do I have to do everything” mentality when it came to my own household.
I could probably come up with a handful of reasons why there is this stark difference in serving, but the reality is, there shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s because others are more apt to say, “Thank you!” Maybe it’s because I can tangibly see others being filled with as much joy as I am in that moment. Maybe it’s because my perception of “doing everything” is just brutal and so demanding every minute of the 1, 440 minutes in a day. But those are all crutches. Those are all deceptive ways my mind tricks me into thinking I can’t serve with joy if I’m serving my family. Joy only comes when I’m serving those outside my family, right?!
All those reasons are selfish because I am gaining something palpable in return. It is easy to love those who love you, but should I get rewarded for that? If I do good to those who do good to me, should I get rewarded for that? No. I should love, serve, and give without expecting to be repaid—without expecting anything in return. If I am going to be a servant-hearted woman, I cannot pick and choose when to serve others with joy and when to throw myself the biggest pity party of the year as I serve my husband and children.
I’ve heard it said that your husband and children act as sandpaper. And you know what sandpaper is used for: to remove material from surfaces. Sandpaper’s main use is to smooth out a surface from splinters and different grains. Sandpaper comes in up to 6 different grades ranging from coarse to very fine. Each grade has its specific purpose. It’s comical to me to think 6 different grades for 6 different purposes. Between my husband and children, I have 6 different people I am caring for each and every day. Is the picture coming together for you yet?
I am genuinely grateful to be a wife and mother, two roles that are shaping and refining me. If something is created using sandpaper, the creator knows the exact sandpaper needed to produce the finished product. I have been given more than enough opportunities to be shaped and molded by my own “sandpaper”, but obviously there is a thick, sticky layer of material called “pride” that is still being smoothed out moment by moment. I can’t help but believe that the One who created me, knows the exact grade of sandpaper I need to produce the finished product…. But until then, I’ll just be a “work in progress”.