Let me tell ya somethin’ — I am a MAJOR grudge holder and scorekeeper, like about EVERYTHING. Okay, I feel a lot better now that I have gotten that out. I believe I have always been this way, “tit for tat.” I am the second child, so I grew up thinking that, naturally, my parents loved my brother more and always gave him special treatment. (joking . . . well . . .) I am sure that no one else is like this, only me. Seriously, I remember my mom telling me that I needed to “just let things go,” even when I was in elementary school. However, for me, everything was and still is, unfortunately, always a bit of a competition. And now, as I see more Santa Clauses and Christmas “specials” pop up in my inbox, my old “friend,” the score sheet, starts running through my head. (Can I just say, as a side note, that I do not have anything against Christmas, but I CANNOT STAND that we start seeing and hearing about it months before December, especially the commercial side! I mean, goodness, we can’t even finish a Pumpkin Spice Latte before we must start a Mocha Peppermint Latte — PEOPLE, IT IS STILL 90 DEGREES OUTSIDE!?! That said, I admit that recently, I tried to wear my cable knit sweater, because let’s be real — I much prefer hiding my “mom roll” in jeans hiked up well past my normal waist line with a sweater that allows me to have seconds and dessert! Ah, holidays . . . I think God knew what He was doing when major holidays coincided with cold weather, at least where I live.) Back to keeping score — truthfully, I don’t know if it is really about the competition; maybe it’s more about me making sure that I am getting what I am owed, that I am not giving more than I am receiving. In my case, it is not actually about gifts, because in that area, I sincerely enjoy the giving more than the receiving. My struggle is with special holiday events like parties and dinners, which evoke in me the all-around feeling that I make more of an effort in this area than those around me, a competition that I don’t always want to win!
Let me explain. . . I have always been the party planner of my group because I am a “doer.” I like to keep a full schedule and often feel “less than” if I do not have a checklist to tick off for the week. At times I make myself sick because I literally over plan, over do, and, well, wear myself out. See, if I don’t have a list of things to do then that means that I might have to be alone to think about things, and goodness knows I don’t want to be left alone with my thoughts . . . AHHH! As a teenager and even throughout my college years, I just accepted the role of planner, knowing that I was always going to be the one to bring people together. After I landed my first real job, got married and bought a house, I was eager to have people over. See, I really enjoy hosting parties. I love to cook and bake, (and I also love talking to people one-on-one while doing so, wearing my yoga pants — again, so I can have seconds and dessert without passing out from loss of circulation). Sadly, over the past few years, I have lost some of the joy in hosting and have begun “writing people off” because . . . they did not (or perhaps could not) come to my Christmas party, or because they did not invite me to their wedding after I invited them to mine — real mature, I know.
Now, I believe that the actual turning point in all of this was when I started to get seriously involved in church and community. About five years ago my husband and I decided that we were going to be in “ALL IN” (thanks, Dabo, for that phrase). We were excited, and I was especially excited because normally my husband is not a big fan of event planning. We were passionate about getting young couples and families together to fellowship and to grow and learn more about God. Well, fast forward to a few events we hosted — truth is, since we did not get the turnout we expected, we began to feel completely worthless. Yes, worthless. Needless to say, we developed a really bad taste for “outreach,” so we said to ourselves, “Well, you know what? If people around us don’t care, then neither do we!” Hey, I did not say that we were taking the most godly approach here! But life continued, and God revealed something to us — the grace that He had shown to my husband and me, in our lives, when we were “less than,” we were not showing to others. We also had been working off of our timeline, wanting to see big changes, people instantly jumping on board, but, well, that was just not the case. In Proverbs 19:21 it says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Wow! I felt God calling me to reach out to my community, pushing me to make friends with people around me, people with whom I never thought I would connect, not to mention becoming some of my best friends. I allowed Satan to make me feel rejected and hopeless, like my efforts were doing no good, so I stopped inviting people over and stopped trying to get people together. In fact, we didn’t have a Christmas party one year because I felt that we had been slighted by too many friends who had “better things to do.” (Disclaimer: no one said that to me; that is how I felt.)
See, my husband and I, if we receive an invitation, we accept and go. We have a pretty close circle of friends, and, likewise, if we send an invitation, we expect them to accept and come. Okay, not we, (my husband is perfectly normal about realizing that legitimate things for preventing this do happen), but I expect them to show up, no excuses. For about a year, I let these feelings of what I thought were rejection and just people not caring enough about me, to rule my thoughts. But one day a friend asked me, “Do you enjoy having people over to your house? Do you enjoy getting your home ready and making food for people to fellowship? And more importantly, do you feel God uses you to minister to others by planning events and bringing people together?” The answer was “YES” to ALL of those questions! So that same, sweet friend said, “Then tell Satan to flee and don’t let him have power over you anymore.” I had become so focused on keeping score instead of enjoying the time spent with the friends who did come over. It’s like this — we cannot see how what we do today is going to affect someone tomorrow or for eternity because we think in worldly, temporal terms — like how much time and effort we put into the planning and the making of an event and how much afterwards, we want the praise for it all. The Bible tells us many times, that if our lives are just about leading one person to Christ, then our work is not in vain. I often quote Galatians 6:8-10, “The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith.”
So I encourage you, especially as we enter the fast approaching season of gift giving, parties, festivities and simply life in general, DO NOT let Satan steal your joy; DO NOT let him turn your zeal for the Lord into disappointment; DO NOT give up on reaching out to others in your community, church, workplace or even your family. Christ was rejected many times, and He still is; yet, He has not given up on us. He always loves and cares for us, and I KNOW that I am NOT deserving of His faithfulness to me. How many times have I not “shown up” when He asked me? How many times have I let my relationship fall to the wayside when something “better” came along? TOO MANY — I am thankful that a merciful and gracious Heavenly Father has given me a second, third chance — a BILLION chances! So how about we exercise some of God’s grace and give people the benefit of the doubt, throw away the scorecard, open our homes and ultimately our hearts to those around us, no matter what the response or outcome? If I can do that, with the Lord’s help, even when things don’t turn out as I hoped, that would be something!