I never had so much fun remodeling a house. I usually did it for money, but not this time. I was able to set aside my greed and selfishness long enough to think about someone else. And it changed me.
This remodel was for Marcie, a woman who was working 3 jobs to provide for two daughters, one in college at the time. She wanted to pay for her older daughter’s education even though money was scarce. Her husband had abandoned the family and left her alone to provide. No complaints, no excuses. She had 3 jobs to do and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her, not even an estranged husband.
Some of the exterior walls in her house had holes in them. Portions of the house were falling apart. So our church decided to step in.
Remodeling homes is what I do for a living, and I didn’t exactly want to do more of it in my spare time. But I was involved for a different reason than making a profit. And that made all the difference. We had fun on the job. There was a spirit of joy and cooperation that I wasn’t used to on a construction job site. The crew, some professionals and some volunteers, worked to repair and improve the inside and outside of her house. The spirit over those few days was not laborious and the work didn’t seem tedious. For everyone there, it was an honor to make a difference for this admirable woman.
For several years afterwards, I would run into Marcie in the most random places. The Eddie Bauer Store, Sam’s Club and a couple of other places. And she would always come up to me with a spirit of gratefulness that nearly moved me to tears. She would vigorously shake my hand with both her hands, as if we had just performed the work the day before. But something tells me that is wasn’t coincidence that we kept running into each other in a city of 1.2 million. It was as if God was reminding me where the real value in life is; in the place of serving others.
From the moment we’re born, we completely rely on others for our needs. We are unable to do anything for ourselves as others nudge us unto maturity. In a sense, we learn to be self focused by the very design of our upbringing. And many of our pursuits reflect this trend. But a transition must take place if we’re to live full lives.
Most of us value the love and attention that would come our way. But I’ve learned a strange thing about life; the love that we give has a lot more to do with the value in our lives than the love we receive.
I believe this is true because life in fact is lived outwardly, whether we want it to or not. “No man is an island” as the saying goes. And I think it’s true. We were not meant to live unto ourselves, and I don’t think it’s even possible. We are wired to love, give and express from our being, outwardly. Yes, we need incoming love. But I’m convinced that the person sending love our way benefits more than we do.
If we’re selfish and inward focused, we are merely projecting our self-centeredness onto others. In fact, the whole idea of living inward is really a farce. Whatever we do, our lives are an outward expression and a gift to those around us, for better or for worse. And this is why when I live selfishly I’m hurting those around me as I become a witness to fear and hatred. But the wise live and love outwardly for the benefit of others.
Jesus said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Mathew 10:39 NIV
Slowly, I’m learning to lose my life to the cause of Christ and the needs of others. And the more I do, the more alive I feel and the more gets done for others. But the transition is slow.
Our selfish ways don’t hurt others because of what we hold back, it’s because of what we project; One way or another, our lives are a giant bill board advertising a message of true living or apathy.
What determines what we have to offer to others?
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 NIV
If our heart is full of any kind of evil, then that is what we’ll project outwardly. But if love, humility and purity find their home in our hearts, this can’t help but come out in helpful actions towards others, kind speech and a desire to serve the interests of others. When I live this way, it is the closest thing to a full life I’ve ever known. And we could use more of that in our world.
But to live this way, we must settled one crucial issue; our faith in God’s incoming love for us. In fact, the more I trust and lean on God’s love for me, the more affectively I’m able to serve and love others. After all, it’s God’s love and joy we bring to others, not our own. And we’ll only have that love if we abide in him.