His response caught me off guard. My mind was racing to produce a response that would disguise my true feelings.
I called to schedule a time to deliver a meal to the family of a hospice patient that recently passed away. The meal would be for Christmas Day.
“We plan to drop your meal off around 4:00. Will that be ok?”
“4:00? I guess if that’s the best you can do.” His tone of voice wasn’t what I was expecting.
“Oh, I’m sorry. What were you expecting?”
“I was expecting 10:00 am.”
I stammered. 10:00 on Christmas morning. Right in the middle of Christmas morning surprises with my children. It would be impossible. Realizing this man and I were in completely different phases of life, I tried to be sensitive to that. I was unsure of his relationship to the patient who had passed. However, there was something else that was bothering me. Some emotion, a feeling that I hadn’t expected.
“Sir, I’m preparing a fully cooked meal and it will be really hard for me to have that ready by 10:00 on Christmas morning. I can bring it by 10:00 unprepared if you prefer. Or I can try for about 2:00?”
“2:00 will be fine.”
Honestly, I was bothered by the response. I had expected someone to show appreciation for receiving a cooked meal on Christmas Day from a stranger. That wasn’t the response I received.
The response I received bothered me less than the response of my own heart.
Our expectations can set us up for feelings of disappointment and frustration. Had I only had appropriate expectations from the beginning I wouldn’t have experienced the feelings of disappointment. But it went way beyond my expectations. You see my expectations were completely off-course. I was the one in the wrong. Not this stranger I was providing a meal to.
The Lord challenged my motives. He refocused my heart.
As I pondered the conversation, and tossed around my thoughts on it all, the Lord whispered to my heart.
Is this for Me or for you? Do this for Me. When you do this for Me, there should be no expectations.
The Lord convicted my heart. I wanted to provide a meal. I wanted to bless someone. But deep down, I wanted to experience the joy in the blessing. My motives had been called to the table, and the Lord was gracious to allow me to see it.
To show true compassion, I should serve out of love for Christ. Period. Regardless of anything I receive. I should expect to receive nothing.
Christ died for the sinner. He gave himself as a sacrifice. For the ones who appreciated the sacrifice and for the ones who didn’t appreciate the sacrifice. He gave anyway. Out of a deep, profound love he gave.
Christ showed compassion to us when he hung on that cross. In my daily life, I rarely show Him the appreciation He deserves. Why should I expect any different in this life from others?
Our acts of mercy don’t earn favor in God’s eyes. They come out of a place of deep love for the One who gave it all for us. Why do I expect something from a stranger that I myself don’t give to my God who died for me?
I opened my Bible, which naturally opens to the Psalms as it is the most worn part of my Bible. But on this day, it fell open to Zechariah 7.
“….The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?” And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.”
I read this and paused. What an unbelievable God we serve. His gentle rebuke had taken the thoughts I pondered in my heart and turned them completely.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Lord, thank you that you love me enough to continually correct me, rebuke me, and pull me back to you. Thank you for your word that is alive and active and speaks to my daily life. Thank you for giving me the means and ability to serve, and I pray it comes out of true compassion. I pray I would serve you and not me. Forgive me for not showing true appreciation for your sacrifice. Amen.