One Saturday, I could hear my wife in the basement and when I asked what she was doing, she answered,
“I’m cleaning up the bathroom.”
As I walked backed to do whatever it was I was doing, I wondered, Why? It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to me the words,
“It’s something which needs to be done.”
I decided I would attempt to clean a bathroom.
A few weeks later, I was cleaning that very same bathroom in the basement and my wife came to the top of the stairs and asked,
“What are you doing?”
“I’m cleaning the bathroom.”
“If you're doing this because you think somehow it will change things then you might as well stop trying because this isn’t going to change anything; so there’s no point in you doing this.”
“I’m not trying to change your mind; I don’t have any hidden agenda. I’m cleaning the bathroom because it needs to be cleaned.”
That could have been the end of our dialog but I realized that I had more to say.
“Look, I accept total responsibility for being selfish and arrogant and insensitive; I ruined something good. You’re hurt and angry with me and that’s cool. But I want you to know I still love you and I care about you; that’s not going to change.”
Looking back on that moment in time, I realize I could have responded to this as I had so often before. She’d gotten in my personal space and my typical response would have been to vanquish my opponent; complete annihilation and total victory for me. I don’t mean physically, but I required emotional victories to validate my manhood. I was too smart for anyone (including the Lord) to truly get me; I alone could climb the top of my own apex.
Her words echoed in my mind, “This isn’t going to change anything.”
Was I doing this to convince her I was now different or had I found a true purpose in doing household chores?
I told myself I was the same selfish, arrogant guy she’d married but piece by piece, little by little, things were being swapped out.
I’m going to break my geek out for a moment to try and explain my concept of swapping. At some point when software instructions are executed (running), they execute in memory. When those instructions are not being executed, they get swapped (moved) to secondary storage. This is similar to you remembering a birthday. The thought of when a specific birthday occurs is in your memory. You may also have a lunch meeting, parent-teacher conference or something else scheduled which you’ve noted in your planner, PDA or post-it on the refrigerator. The reminder of that event is stored elsewhere (secondary storage).
So the Holy Spirit is my task manager, swapping out these long held attitudes and behaviors and bringing into my memory the instruction set of cleaning toilets.
Last night I was thinking about hidden agendas because something in me was triggered and I was concerned that maybe I was still that same guy with just a new coating of paint. I questioned whether I was doing things for the right reason or did I have my own agenda running parallel to the outward things I said and did.
I talked it over with my wife and sought her insight, thinking I was too close to the issue to see clearly. After talking, I asked her to pray for me but I still felt no release from my thoughts. I desperately wanted to acquire the Lord’s clarity on this.
I knew that I had discovered a joy in doing work which I’d previously viewed as the kind of tasks which were menial and beneath me. Questions regarding my motives for blogging were triggered by my historical past attitudes; I was experiencing self-doubt. But it wasn’t the same kinds of doubts I felt when I couldn’t sense the presence of God. I had kept God at arm’s length for so long and when I called out to Him, He was silent. God obviously had His reasons and He definitely got my attention, so that when He responded to my cries, I was overwhelmed by His presence, love, forgiveness and grace.
My thoughts were clouded, I couldn’t discern whether God wanted my attention about my motives or if I was being attacked with doubts about my ability to follow Christ fully.
And then the Holy Spirit came and showed me something which gave me the clarity I needed. I read five verses in the tenth chapter of Luke about two sisters:
“...a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”1
Two sisters who are focused in two totally different areas:
- Martha is busy with the preparation and serving of the meal.
- Mary is busy listening to the message of Christ.
Certainly there was nothing wrong with Martha wanting to be a good host, serving food to Jesus and his disciples. But in carrying out this task, Martha became offended that Mary would not help her fulfill this labor.
Was I seeking favor by doing something for Christ?
I found myself questioning my attitude while cleaning the bathroom.
Did I seek the acknowledgement and approval of my wife regarding my taking ownership of these duties or was I doing them for the joy experienced in the activity?
Do I seek acknowledgement and approval from Christ and others regarding my writing?
Was I doing these things out of a sense of obligation or did I truly find a passionate and spiritual joy in doing them?
This seems like a good breaking point so I'll stop and resume this discussion tomorrow.
"For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy..."2
"For you will go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands."3
Almighty God and Father of all,
I give thanks to You my Lord for giving me joy. It may seem selfish of me to say this but I bask in this joy as if I shall never experience this moment again. I treasure the privilege of following Christ. I face challenges for sure, but I rest my confidence in Christ and not in myself. I am reminded by the Holy Spirit that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My thoughts aren't solely on myself but on the challenges so many others who call on your name face. You are the God who sees me and them. You know the needs and I know you are concerned to the degree that you will perform that which concerns them. Thank You that I have an audience with You through prayer. I bless Your Holy Name and give You all my praise. Amen.
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6