I just finished reading this book, thanks to Grier's and Jeff's encouragement. I have to admit that after the first couple chapters, I wasn't that impressed. I didn't like his writing style-short, choppy, sentences-abrupt thought changes, etc. However, the next day, after reading about Penny's conversion, I had changed my mind. The book definitely put me in a contemplative mood as I thought about what Penny said about reading Matthew and learning that Jesus never showed partiality but all of us humans do. By the time I finished the Confession chapter, I was completely hooked and extremely convicted. I felt I needed to go set up a booth to confess and also have a booth next to it where I was giving away hot soup to the poor.
In a nutshell, Donald Miller challenged me to put my Christianity or as he would call it my "Christian Spirituality" into practice. Like Don's friend Andrew the Protester who really believes that Jesus's command to feed the poor was meant for him directly, so he serves breakfasts on Saturdays on a busy sidewalk downtown. Not only that but he actually talks to and more importantly listens to what the poor and homeless are saying.
One thing you can say about Donald Miller is that he's real. He says things that we've all thought or wondered about at some point, but haven't had the guts to say.
And God convicted me throughout the book. One of the main things God showed me was that I am not showing Christ's love to those around me-indeed I can't-when my focus is all on myself. Don talked about how he likes "efficiency in personal interaction." I'm often the same way. I'm on the phone with someone, and I say the right things that make them think I'm listening, "Uh-huh, wow, interesting..." but secretly I'm wondering, "Why can't they just get to the point?" I'm thinking about the next thing I need to do and how they're holding me up from doing it. How backwards is that thinking???
Christ doesn't care about things; He gave His life for people. And that is exactly who I should be spending my time on. How many times have I been at the grocery store and just thought about what I needed and how quickly I needed to get out of there before Ella had a meltdown. Yes, I smiled to the lady at the deli counter who was getting our turkey and cheese, but secretly I was thinking, "Lady, can you just go any faster? No small talk; come on, I've got things to do." How very un-Christlike of me. And shouldn't I bother to learn her name? And truly act like I care about her b/c after all Christ does. As Don points out, when we act rushed, all it does is leave people with the idea that we don't value them. I want people to feel valued when they are around me because I truly value them as God's creation. Because God values them. Because God loves them just as much as He loves me.
I sat down to read the book some more yesterday after putting Ella down. I was frustrated b/c I had wanted to read a magazine article in the restroom (where all good magazines are read), but of course, I couldn't. Ella was in there w/me. Pulling things out of cabinets, putting her hands on the magazine, and saying in her own special way, "Pay attention to me, Mommy, all the time, every second when I'm awake, even when you're trying to poop!" Right after that, I had to go change her poopy diaper. I was just tired of it! I needed me time, so I put her abruptly down for a nap. "No, Ella, no time for a story; you have to take a nap."
As I settled in my chair to read, I arrived at the Community chapter and felt God gently rebuking me as I read Don's thoughts.
"Life was a story about me because I was in every scene...If somebody walked into my scene, it would frustrate me because they were disrupting the general theme of the play, namely my comfort or glory."
He went on to describe how
"The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me."
"...There is no addiction as powerful as self-addiction."
After spending time at a bed and breakfast that was set up for people who were doing ministry and seeing how the host constantly cleaned up after people and put his needs aside, Don questioned him. How did he have "such a good attitude all of the time with so many people abusing his kindness?"
The host responded, "If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we are really following Jesus."
Piercing-instant rebuke. Had I been speaking loving words to Ella that day? No, I was frustrated b/c she was getting in the way of my plans. And have I mentioned that a 19-month-old isn't very appreciative? She doesn't care that I sit with her for 45+ minutes every meal while she eats. Ever. so. slowly. But God sees and God wants me to do all things as if I'm doing them for Him. I would imagine that would mean to do it with a cheerful heart, a thankful spirit-certainly not complaining. God is showing me that my first ministry right now is my child and my husband and that they deserve my respect and my love.
Even when I don't feel like giving it. Especially when I don't feel like giving it.
As Elise so aptly said in her post, "The Manner In Which We Walk," my job right now is to "Feed, Love, Lead."
If I am to be like Jesus, I must learn to die to self-not just every day, but every moment of the day.
So, I'm currently reading Matthew. I want to rediscover Jesus. I want to read and not just grope for a verse to speak to me. I really just want to see how He lived on this earth, how He interacted with so many different people and responded to their questions and their hurts. I want to learn so I can start living like Him.