44430749 - empty plate of food after meal on a table

We’ve been making a lot of meals for church functions and church folks lately. New babies, potlucks, funeral meals, and just because meals – the kitchen around here has been busy, and the girls are always nosing their way in and checking out what’s being made. More often than not, they want whatever it is that I’ve cooked and shamelessly plead that I make a double portion so they can enjoy it as well. And more often than not, I’m worn out by making one meal and have no desire to make a second meal just like it, which is just exactly what I tell the girls.

“Sorry,” I’ll tell them, as I’m wrapping up whatever deliciousness I’m sending to someone else, “but you’re eating sandwiches tonight.”

In other words, you’re getting leftovers, girls, because the church got my best.

It’s a sad metaphor for life, isn’t it? Especially life in ministry. I’m sorry that you’re getting an irritable mommy, but the people at church got the happy mommy. I’m sorry that you’re getting a rushed time in God’s Word with me, but I used up all of my time preparing for a study at the church and have no time left for you. I’m sorry that you haven’t seen Papi for three nights in a row, but the church needed him for meetings every night this week.

Leftovers. You get what’s left after the church got theirs.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for our girls to learn that we give our best to others at certain times and in certain situations. Because there are those moments when that’s exactly what God is calling them to do. But when that becomes the normal, I think I need to take a step back and assess what exactly we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

It’s easy to give the church everything we have. Whether you’re in ministry or not, there’s a temptation there, almost a guilty insistence, that it’s spiritual to give everything you have to the church, to serving the church, and to being part of the church. In doing so, though, it gets really easy to give even the good things – serving others and being in community with others — so much of yourself that they become idols. I think serving in the church can even become an idol that you worship more than Christ Himself, at which point it’s all worthless, and you find yourself sacrificing your very faith and self, all in the name of being in ministry. Our identities become wrapped up in what we do, to the detriment of our relationship with the Lord, the family we care for, and the lives we build for ourselves.

My children aren’t going to be with me forever. We’re racing towards a day when they’re going to be on their own, and I will have lost the gift of these days. I want to use every moment that they’re here and at an age where they’re listening and looking to lead them closer to Christ. And when I become so busy with the work of ministry and neglect just being here, loving Christ and following Him by example, I miss the greatest opportunity He’s given me to disciple them in the truest sense.

I had to take a step back the other week and remind myself of this. If I continue to give my family leftovers – literally and figuratively — I’m doing a disservice to them and Christ, who had called to serve and care for my family first and foremost before I rush out the door to take care of everyone else. And I win no fans when I tell people that I can’t do whatever it is that they need me to do, but it’s time to stop giving leftovers to my husband and my children, when it comes to my attention, my time, and my efforts.

Keep first things first. Learning this all over again…

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