Is life fair? Do all siblings always get exactly the same treatment in life as they grow up? Does the boss always equally give out bonuses, raises or special treats? I live in a world where the people/teens around me have keen eyes and elephant like memories where they know exactly what I have given to others, regardless the reason and quickly take account. I know that as the older brother growing up my middle brother was usually quick to point out any inequities.
This last weekend was incredible with 150 volunteers who helped do serious cleanup and painting in our neighborhood. It was a challenge deciding whose house to paint, which meant there were a few who asked who I didn’t paint. I know this one grandma, Dorothy, I was going to paint her house but her brother threw a fit because he wasn’t included in the decision making process. So we didn’t paint her house. I explained to her friend Doris, who’s my friend too, that I needed this resolved before going back to the house. So now I have a call from Dorothy obviously wanting her house painted.
I followed the lead of my neighborhood grandpa; Earl and we painted one of the little churches in South Phoenix. It was a great experience with the many hands helping out. This I know will be a huge blessing to his church family and their friends. Now, I am known as the guy who paints churches for free. The reality is that I spent way too much money on paint to do this. So how do I tell this other pastor who showed up that he needs to help raise some of the funds to help cover the cost of the paint? Now it will be easy for someone to say that I play favorites to a certain ethnic group because the word has spread amongst their friends.
I was brain dead on Sunday and didn’t realize that we had multiple birthdays. I am blessed to have a special friend in one of my college interns who thankfully made some birthday cookies. So it was easy to spread these out between Julius, Jalil and Christy. I also gave these b-day people combo meals and some cash. So the response to someone else who was there, “I didn’t get a combo meal for my birthday!” Wow – what does someone do in this situation or maybe it is that I choose to do nothing?
I think of the parable that Jesus gave with the workers that were hired at different times during the day. At the end of the day the workers were shocked that the owner decided to pay the same to all workers regardless of how many hours they had labored. Did the workers that slaved away all day really have anything to complain about? They got paid what was promised but why would the master pay the same to the guy that worked just an hour?
This weekend I had a variety of people help with the painting. I had a couple, that had heard me preach at a downtown church, come because I had invited everyone to help. They were your good-looking upwardly mobile type of people. She actually worked at a T.V. station. It would have been easy for me to sense the need to shadow them to the house they were helping and purposely hang out around them hoping I might get to know them and just maybe might get some type of return, i.e. a donation or some air time at her station. As we finished up I was introduced to a group of people from the church we had painted. Deacon Jones had an amazing smile that revealed his need for dental work. It would have been just as easy to let my awkwardness to stop me from talking to him.
Last night I had a late night discussion with two teens, which are living with me. It was a ‘come to Jesus’ type of format. I was frustrated with the lack of initiative and follow through especially with the brother. He was playing the game of hide and seek. Some things had happened around the house, which, he knows he is one of the prime suspects. The sad fact is that he had been given freedom and trust with a lot of our computers and cameras and had taken advantage. He felt bad, primarily because he got caught in taking and using equipment without asking. My heart is one of grace and mercy and as I explained this I said that there are still consequences to foolish choices.
I know there are some in our group that would be jealous of the special perks this guy has gotten. Little do most know that these have been taken away because of taking one of the laptops to school without permission. He is wounded and a little bit afraid of me. I don’t picture myself as a screamer usually. I asked why he chooses to lie to me instead of just laying it out in front of me? His response was I thought you might scream at me. I asked the obvious – don’t you deserve to be yelled at for what you had done?
I just finished an amazing book, “Heart for Freedom”, that chronicles the life of a college student dissident in China. She was one of the key leaders of the revolution in 1989. She looks back at her life and feels guilty because she got all of the perks and special treatment and didn’t experience any suffering. She asks daily why did my friends die or get seriously hurt and I am perfectly fine? She had the burden and guilt of having had 3 abortions during her student years. This became something that stopped her from being free to share her real story with everyone. Why – because she felt that she had gotten special treatment because of her role in the revolution when she really deserved to be judged and found guilty after having had numerous abortions.
Simple fact is that no one is ever totally fair or capable of treating everyone the same. I don’t have the mental energy to keep track of what I do for someone each day. Today I had someone ask for $20 because it is the end of the month. Do I have to tell this mom that I gave another mom $60. Dilemma – should I give this mom $60 so she doesn’t complain about my being generous to this other mom?
The real focus in my life at present is my dad who has failing health. He has lost steam in just a few weeks because of having a stroke. His ability to get around has almost totally stopped. His ability to help himself is almost gone. He is still able to communicate the basics but not capable of explaining really anything. So is it wrong if I give him most of my emotional energy and not give as much to my Anne or my kids? The reality is that God treats us all of the same with his mercy and grace but I feel as if I am his favorite when I see how great his love is for me who is a total dirt bag!