Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How Can I Stop Being Taken For Granted?

Melissa is a caring sister, daughter and mother. Her siblings really count on her help with their parents. She’s also busy at church and on her kids’ school's PTA. Apparently for some time now, Melissa has been feeling that her husband, children, parents and especially her brothers and sister, have been letting her do all the work. That, and she’s not hearing anyone say thank you. “How can I keep from being taken for granted?”

It’s very simple, Melissa. Try to be more incompetent. About 22 years ago, God led me to live in a Christian community of about 100 people. I really wanted to fit in! We lived and ate communally. During my first weekend rotation on kitchen duty, I wanted to make a good impression. I was asked to make the Jello, and so started cutting up some fruit to enhance it. As I stood chopping quickly, one of the staff, having sized up the situation, came over and said, “Don’t make it memorable Tom, unless making Jello is your calling.” I asked why and she smiled. I knew she was joking, but I have never forgotten her point. “We love one another here, Tom. Trust me. Don’t make it memorable. If you make it memorably terrible, then we will have you do it all the time until you get it right. And if you make it memorably well, then you’ll be making it for all of our special functions.” I think the Jello was green that night, but I really don’t remember.

Is being taken for granted a bad thing? For people who don’t consider eternity, this life is all the time they think they have, for results and recognition. And so for such people, being taken for granted feels bad. Watch any popular talk show, and you’ll see some unsuspecting sap, being dragged onto stage, to be talked to, because someone feels they “take” them “for granted!” The audience then boos and applauds at all the right moments, while the talk show host reprimands the guest, while encouraging the teary complainer to complain sooner next time.

What about us Christians? Jesus became a servant. He also calls us to serve. I’m not talking about creating dependency in those around you. And parents are to raise their children to be responsible. Serving does require discernment. But while the world sneers in dismay crying, “I’m being taken for granted,” we might want to pause and consider if this is even bad.

Do people take you for granted? In order to be taken for granted one actually has to be considered: reliable, trustworthy, faithful, consistent, honest, forgiving, and effective. That people take your care for granted is evidence that you have been all of the above. And while you aren’t getting the thanks that we all appreciate, God has taken notice of your service, and your love in deed is appreciated.

God appreciates our secret devotion to Him, whether it’s the widow giving her two bits quietly while the big donors conspicuously give, or hiding prayers, while the Pharisees pray on the street corners for all to see, Jesus tells us in serving, to do so quietly. He said:

“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:3

In other words, we are encouraged to quietly bless, knowing that God sees. Jesus assumes we’d rather our reward be from God than from people. Those who insist on being thanked here and now will have received their reward from people. Concerning our devotional life, He says:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:5,6

This doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be thankful. But we needn’t be waiting for them to thank us. Enjoying God should be our motivation to bless. That said; Jesus did appreciate it when someone thanked Him. Remember the 10 lepers?

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:15-17

God always does so much for us! We do not ever thank Him enough. Yet He continues to give and to bless us, that we become more like Christ. I know Melissa prays to be Christ-like. But pop culture tells her something is wrong with her relationships if her attitude is to serve.

Melissa is appreciated! And who is greater than God? God loves, notices, esteems as a daughter, and is raising-up, His servant Melissa. When her focus is on Jesus, you see an energetic woman doing for others with a glad and full heart. But sometimes, when nobody seems to appreciate her, and nobody thanks her or offers to help, some talk show host and their audience will mercilessly take pity on her. This world does not esteem servants. They call servants “doormats,” and cry foul. But Jesus said:

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
John 13:14,15

We must decide either to serve God, or to seek recognition. Talk show audiences applaud complainers. But God rewards quiet servants. When He washed His disciples feet, Jesus was being Himself. Besides washing feet, He was willingly punished and killed in order to pay for our personal sin? This is Jesus. Christians pray to become like Him.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

I pray my best prayers in repentance? If I lose patience I pray to be more like Jesus. Etc. Jesus came, not just to pay for our sins. He’s restoring us to God completely! We are being “transformed into His likeness.” Will we be more thanked than He? He actually healed lepers and only one thanked Him. We do friends a favor, and get peeved when they don’t mention it. Even if we said, “Don’t mention it!”

Let’s keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, and keep our eternal perspective. I had a friend in college who took Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 so seriously that he asked me to stop thanking him. He felt that when I did so, that my thanks were his reward. He wanted God’s reward more. That’s more than I know, but I remember responding, “So you want me to be an ingrate so that you can get more rewards in Heaven?” (College kids have so much time to think!!!) We finally agreed that I would just thank God whenever my friend blessed me, so that I could remain “thankful” and so he could receive God’s reward, much to the relief of those who had been standing in the lunch line behind us.

Satan wants to rob us of joy. I’ve known people who have stopped ministering, simply because they felt unappreciated. They loved to minister but stopped. Don't be robbed! Jesus has set us free to use our gifts! The more unnoticed your service is on earth, perhaps the greater your reward. Kindness done, when you see no earthly personal gain, requires faith in God’s noticing. Those who serve people, seek thanks from people. Those who serve God, discover that He appreciates.

We can rejoice when we are taken for granted. It may even be a good indication that you are becoming like Christ. Doesn't God want us to take Him for granted, with thanksgiving? We would go to Him much more, if we took for granted, His love for us, and His ability to do all things well.

As far as I’m concerned, you can make your own Jello. But I have to ask myself too, whether or not I’m someone people can even take for granted. If I’m never taken for granted, then perhaps I lack a servant’s heart. But for you, if you want to avoid being taken for granted, simply stop being: reliable, trustworthy, faithful, consistent, honest, forgiving, and effective. Ah! But you've probably been praying to become more like Christ. So forget that.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,…”
Philippians 2:5-7

1 comment:

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