Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Paradigm Shift: Switching out the Preposition

A few weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook...

It was much to my surprise that someone I grew up playing ball with told me that she wanted to get it for me. To be honest, it made me a little uncomfortable because I definitely had not actually expected anyone to actually get it for me. I have been learning the very humbling lesson of how to accept gifts, though, so I gave her my address and that was that.

Only, that wasn't that. I kept thinking about it. Why in the world would she even give that post a second glance? What prompted her to do this... To go out of her way and buy something so trivial for someone she hasn't seen since high school? I haven't done anything for her... Oh my goodness, I need to think of a way to thank her. Why is it that she thought about doing this for me and is asking nothing in return? THIS IS SO WEIRD!!

These questions continued to plague me. Maybe they bothered me so badly because I just didn't understand the 'why' behind it. I didn't understand it because it wasn't a part of how I operated. Not that I have some hidden agenda behind every gift I give, or every act of kindness I do... But I can assure you that, for the most part, they are not expectation free. There's usually something in it for me. Even if it's just a hug, a kind word, or even being a little but more respected in their eyes... There's something.

So after a couple of weeks had passed, my mind wasn't quite so occupied with my previous dilemma. Not to mention, snowpocalypse came about and pretty much everything else besides getting myself and the baby home safely was driven far far away from my brain.

Then yesterday came and I got a lovely surprise visit from Brooke. As I sat talking with my precious friend, she told me something that completely shifted my way of thinking.

We shouldn't do things for others, but to them.

I remember staring at her with uncomprehending eyes for at least three seconds before understanding unfurled in front of me. Everything I knew about serving others just did a complete 180 in the moment that I understood what she was saying.

As she was telling me about her situation, the picture became more and more clear. This precious friend was telling me that she had been hoping to get love and acceptance by doing little acts of service for someone. When that person didn't react in the way that she expected, when she didn't feel loved or accepted, she was left feeling hurt and betrayed. After God began changing her heart and showing her what it meant to simply serve others with no agenda, she began questioning her motives behind her actions. As she was able to start doing those acts of service without any expectations or even desire for something in return, she began feeling at peace with the situation. 

When we do things for others, there is some expectation of repayment. We may not even realize it, but we expect something in return from that person. Even if it's simply to be treated with respect or to receive a compliment, there's an expectation.

On the other hand, when we do things to others, there's no expectation of anything in return. For so long, the word 'to' in this capacity meant that the action was negative. Think with me for a second at the wording that usually accompanies these two separate prepositions...

"Did you hear? She just did the nicest thing for him."
"Did you hear? She just did the meanest thing to him."

When you do something not quite so pleasant to someone, of course you don't want any payback! When I was younger and my brother and I would get into a fight, we wouldn't do something mean to the other hoping that they would pay us back in turn. That would be stupid.

The flip side indicates that when you do something nice for someone, you would like to at least get a "thank you," if not something more. Whatever the motive is behind it, it is still doing the deed for gain. 

As I have been pondering this over the past couple of days, I've asked myself how in the world I would even know if my motive behind doing something for someone was purely out of love or if I had my own expectations attached to it. By my reaction to their reaction, of course. How many times have I done something for someone, no matter how big or small, and been disappointed by that person's reaction? Umm, 1,673,249 times. Or at least close to it. 

Although touch is my primary love language (I'm sure that surprises you), acts of service and giving gifts are my secondary ways to show someone that I love them. If I'm completely honest, I have to admit that most of the time, if the person that I am giving something to or serving in some way doesn't react the way I think they should, my feelings will be hurt. Now, that doesn't mean that I walk around weeping about it or that I show my disappointment outwardly in any way. Eventually, though, these little moments of disappointment will chip away at the relationship until I walk away, leaving it to crumble. 

This, my friends, is SO NOT FAIR to the other person. I am essentially expecting them to read my mind and do things the way I think they should be done. So... Note to self, Erin; people are not mind readers. 

This habit of mine will be something very hard to conquer. It is ingrained in us from an early age that when someone gives you something, you promptly give a thank you note. When someone does something for you, you look for ways to "pay them back." This also works in the reverse.

This, thank God, is NOT the model that Jesus lived out for us to see. 

Jesus didn't die for us, He died to us. He doesn't expect repayment. In fact, there's nothing we could ever do to repay the debt. There's no amount of money that would be large enough, there's no amount of service hours that would be long enough, there's no amount of good deeds that would cover that debt. The debt is too large. But the good news is that it's technically not a debt. If Jesus did expect repayment, it would be. But because it was given to us freely, free and clear of any future payback or expectations to be met, it is a gift. The gift.

Therein lies my motivation to give freely and without any strings attached.


One of the funny things to me about God is His sense of irony. There is absolutely no way that the timing of this could have been due to anything but God...

As I walked up to my front door yesterday afternoon (after having had my hefty conversation with Brooke that left my mind reeling) lugging a giant school bag, purse, diaper bag, and car seat, I spotted a little box on my welcome mat. I honestly couldn't remember what I had ordered. Interest piqued, I opened it as soon as I got inside and found the object that had started the process of priming me to be ready to hear and take this new way of thinking to heart...

Ali, thank you for being a part of this... and coincidentally... I. LOVE. IT!!

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