One of the biggest challenges that I face in my daily life is navigating through the inevitable myriad of unplanned inconveniences that keep life from going just the way that I want it to. I am, I suppose, a creature of habit and an introvert. I like to start each day quietly and in a manner that blocks out any surprises. When more than one or two obstructions get in the way of my cushy routine, I tend to lose any sense of selflessness and “love others” aspirations that I may have developed during my five-minute morning devotion earlier in the morning. This issue can manifest itself when I’m trying to get out of the house in the morning, when I’m working through the morning to-do list at work, or when we have guests visiting at home.
I bring this up not because I’ve found some kind of magic bullet answer that has healed me of this personal flaw, but, because it is what I was reminded of this morning while reading the sixth chapter of Mark. It was the setting that led to the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. But, the part that caught my attention came before the miracle in the sequence of events.
The twelve disciples had just returned after being sent out to preach and they were all sharing what they had done, but, because of the frenzied atmosphere where they were all coming together, Jesus invited them to go away with him to a more secluded place so that they could get some rest:
31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
This is what struck me this morning as I was reading:
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Jesus and the disciples clearly had other plans to catch up on some needed rest, but, when he saw the crowd gathered he changed his plans and, instead, began teaching them, and eventually, serving them (thousands of them!) food.
How often do I, so dramatically turn my own plans on a dime from personal rest and relaxation to totally focusing on others and serving them? I can’t recall when I’ve ever been faced with such a prospect, to be honest. But, isn’t it worse that I don’t change my plans for even a small feat like exerting a small amount of effort to make someone (e.g., in-laws) feel welcome when they are visiting my house and disturbing my precious routine? Or what about the times when my own child wants me to “shoot hoops” with him in his bedroom where his Little Tikes basketball hoop is, but, I defer because I’m too busy writing a blog post or squandering time on Facebook?
In the book of Matthew Jesus said that loving God and loving others to the extent that we love ourselves are the two most important commandments and that all of the others are encompassed by those two.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Yeah, I’ve got room to grow.