Monday, October 18, 2010

Serving Others and Listening for God

Today was a busy day.  When I prayed this morning, I had made few plans for the day and asked God to lead me to what God wanted me to do with my day.  I spent most of the day serving others, which is what God must have wanted of me.  First, I set with my 92-year-old father in the doctor's office for much of the morning, took care of some paper work for him, and visited with him and other family members.  Next, I helped my wife with a task that wound up being more time consuming than either of us had planned.  My last act of service was to take our sixteen-year-old cat (one of five who allow us to feed, water, and pet them) to the vet to be put down.  She had a terminal illness and was slowly starving to death.  This was an extremely difficult task for me.  Though her life might have been prolonged, our decision was based on the fact that prolonging her life might be easier for us to accept, but it would have been a miserable existence for her, with painful tests and probably even more painful treatments that would have kept her alive for only a little while longer.

It seems that my longest uninterrupted "think time" is during my daily bike ride and that was a present I gave myself at the end of the day.  After I returned from the vet's office, that's where I headed, so that I could sort out the emotions of telling our oldest cat good-bye.  As I rode, I thought of the joy Louise had brought to our lives.  She had come to us as a "gift" from a relative who asked us to take her to be spayed and then refused to take her back.  She was long-legged with beautiful black fur accented by white "boots" and chest.  She was awkward and shy, but always greeted me every morning as I went out the back door to feed the outside cats.  To see her so emaciated, stumbling along rather than walking, sniffing at her food dish rather than eating was so painful, and if her condition was painful to watch, it was even more painful for her to live that way.  Thanks, Louise, for all the love you gave us.  I pray that my decision was indeed the most loving gift I could give you at the end of a long life.

Over the past few days, I've been praying for sensitivity to God as God helps me deal with the sin of pride.  In my last post, I wrote about one kind of pride that God is helping me move beyond.  It is not completely gone, but I am able to examine the reasons that underly it, to look at it in an objective way, and to  replace that false competitive pride with pride in work done well and with joy.  I will continue to pray for openness to God's working to completely remove pride that manifests itself in the desire to outdo another person.

One other type of pride that I am praying to be removed from my mind and heart is a pride that looks at others with contempt because I perceive that I am in some way superior to them.  I find myself thinking like the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like that sinner over there . . ."  As I walked through the grocery store the other day, I saw several obese people, and I found myself putting on a mental air of congratulatory superiority, thanking God that, though I could stand to lose a few pounds, I was not obese like others around me.  One woman in particular was so large that she had difficulty walking and had to lean on her shopping cart to move around.  As I followed her out of the grocery store, I realized how wrong my thinking was.  I began to pray that I might open my heart to God leading me to the right way of thinking.  As I prayed, I thought of what life must be like for this woman, how there might be emotional problems that caused her to overeat or a deep pain that eating helped assuage.  I thought that perhaps her weight problem was caused by a medical problem.  There were so many reasons that she might be overweight, and I knew absolutely nothing about her beyond her appearance.  Inside, she might well be a beautiful, kind person, a deeply spiritual person, a person that it would be a great pleasure to know.  Then, I realized that God was answering my prayer.

Now, my responsibility is to continue to listen for the voice of God within me that wants to transform me into a more faithful servant.

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