Sunday, February 17, 2008

To See the Need...

Today was difficult. My DH (that's Dear Husband in flylady talk) went to Phoenix for a pole vault competition, so I had Quigley for the day and intended to leave him crated for longer than he'd ever been crated during the day (2 1/2 hours). Just as I was getting him prepared for this, the phone rang and it was the neighbor, whom I have known for 11 years, though only superficially. We rarely talk. She's never expressed any interest in Christianity only disdain, and speaks of various new age beliefs that she favors. Anyway, she called with a favor to ask...

Leaving out most of the details, what she wanted was my time. On a somewhat daily basis, in the morning, doing a task I really am not suited for and don't like doing. I would never know which day I would be doing it, and would only find out in the early morning of the same day. There was no near end mentioned for this arrangement, which means I could be doing it for months.

I was...completely blown away. I'd been praying for her salvation. Was this an opportunity? I wanted to help, but of all things on earth, this was not something I wanted to do. I told her that it was way out of my area of competence. She said she'd have asked another neighbor, but that one was sidelined with illness. I suggested a third, who seemed the perfect candidate. My neighbor said she'd call her and get back to me one way or the other this afternoon.

I hung up in shock. My thinking which had been mostly washed away by astonishment, began to kick in again. This was not a good thing I had somewhat agreed to. There was, in addition to the rest, the potential of the hour long task expanding to fill the whole day. Plus, I really dislike situations where you never know what you're going to do the next day. Not that I ever really know, mind you, but to have a semi-regular obligation that might suddenly materialize is not something I care for. It gets me all out of whack mentally.

But it seems the Christian thing to do. Shouldn't I just trust God for all that and go for it? Here's a person in need. Aren't we supposed to meet their needs if we have means?

In the past I've always thought that when something seemed the Christian thing to do but was something I didn't want to do, I should just suck it up and step out of my comfort zone and do it. The only thing is, in every case when I've done that, it's never been the thing God wanted me to do.

I hoped for a clear answer in today's class, and one of the things said was that we're to take Jesus's yoke and not our own. His yoke is easy. If we are weary and heavy laden, we don't have His yoke. I also began to think maybe I should trust the feelings I have. That if it was God's will for me, I would want to do it. I have had experiences like that, where I've wanted to do and have done, things that are very unlike me, things that normally would be way out of my comfort zone.

But I have a book to write, the time for which has already been severely compromised. This arrangement with my neighbor -- with no mentioned endpoint -- would compromise it even more. Not just in the time actually taken, but in the distraction the whole situation would be to my mental and emotional state. I've wrestled with the fact that writing is my calling, and that unlike other folks, I don't get to go out and do a lot of the personal interaction and helping that makes you feel like you're actually doing something. I don't get to do it because I'm at home, working on the book. The time has to be guarded. But there is a price.

When you actually get to help someone personally, you get a little charge out of it. It makes you feel good. Jesus wasn't kidding when He said it is more blessed to give than to receive. That goes for everyone, believer and unbeliever alike. It really is pleasurable. When you have a calling like mine, you mostly don't get to see what your work is doing. You especially don't get to see it during the time you are doing the work. It's not until months or maybe even years later that you might hear back from readers who were pleased or positively influenced by it, but even then most people who read it won't give any feedback. That's fine. I know it comes with the territory. But it does make me eager to fulfill in a personal way the needs of others when they come up -- and thus makes me vulnerable to distraction.

"To see the need is not to hear the call."

I think I heard that in Bible class. Or maybe I read it. Or maybe both. Anyway, it was one of the things God brought to mind today. One of the good things about knowing what your spiritual gift is, is that you will be better able to choose what good things you will do and what good things you won't. You will be better able to discern distractions from what is important for you to be doing.

I had a lot more arguments with myself on this matter throughout the day, (and thus got no writing done) and kept asking the Lord to make it clear what I should do. More and more it seemed that what was clear was to guard my writing time, to focus on the calling He's given me. I told Him that, but also asked Him to straighten me out if I was going in the wrong direction. Gradually the question arose as to whether I really did have the means to fulfill the neighbor's request. In this case, the means is the time. And I don't believe I do.

It was a hard decision to reach, because a lot of people will look at it and think that I've been unloving. Ungiving. Unsacrificial. I suppose it depends on who the object is of the love, giving and sacrifice. If it's my neighbor, then perhaps yes. If it's my readers, then perhaps no. In any case, it's not the favor of man I'm to seek, but of God, and I already know how He sees me, regardless of what I do: perfect and blameless and holy.

Which changes the whole perspective.


P.S. Quigley did great in the crate. So far as I could tell he never cried at all, and even played with his kong toy enough to get a couple of pieces of the dog biscuit out. His biting tendancies remain problematic, however. So far, despite many and varied suggestions, nothing has worked unequivocably. He still has times when you can't put your hand anywhere near his head without the teeth coming around and trying to bite. But he doesn't do it so hard, and sometimes he doesn't even really do it, just shadow-does it. His teeth might graze the side of your hand. He rarely draws blood any more. Today he mostly bit my sleeve and pants leg rather than me. Is that an improvement? I think it is. But still, it seems like we have a long way to go.