For the last two weeks, I've been playing Nurse Ratched...er, I mean, Florence Nightingale, to five different family members, including my poor Hubs, who came down with various forms of fevers, chills, coughs, sinus issues, and general illness that kept them quarantined to different rooms of the house for days on end. While they worked on getting better, I worked on keeping everything going, running children who were well to and from school, staying on top of my work assignments, getting meals on, checking temperatures and doling out medicines, doing the bedtime routines single-handed, and generally rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off before falling into bed to do it all again the next day. It's been hectic, to say the least, but it's also been a fantastic opportunity to do some soul searching about my motivation.
You see, after the first week of caring for everyone, I found myself in a heated disagreement with my sick husband over the lack of appreciation for all that I was managing to do for him, as well as our five kids. I felt underappreciated and taken for granted, and I expressed that in no uncertain terms. The outcome was anger and tears, eventual nose blowing, and finally sucking it all up and realizing that I did, in fact, have the wrong motivations. While the Hubs was working on finding joy in his sickness - something God's been teaching both of us - I realized that I had a hard time serving without recognition. I wanted to be acknowledged for my service, and seen for my ability to juggle so many balls in the air at one time. I wanted someone to say "thanks" or tell me I was doing a good job and that I deserved to treat myself to a specialty $5 coffee for all of my sacrifices on behalf of others. In other words, despite caring for others, I was still totally self-absorbed.
Once I came to this realization last Sunday, week #2 of sickness was a different story. You see, my outlook had changed. My perspective was no longer as the poor martyr, suffering in silence as I took care of the myriad of jobs that needed to be done, but that of a wife and a mother, pulling up my big girl panties and doing what was necessary. Half-way through the week I shared this change in perspective with my mother and then my long-suffering husband. I was suddenly struck by the pathetic nature of my complaints. Sure, they were long days, and yes, I felt pulled in many different directions, but at the end of those days I was still sitting in a comfortable home, able to whip up dinner in a Crock-Pot or even pick up pizza using a gift card I'd been saving for just such a time.
Despite what I wanted to think of as my hardships, I finally had to admit that I wasn't Ma Ingalls. I wasn't following my husband West in a covered wagon, facing starvation, wild animals, and yellow fever while helping him build our one room cabin by hand or living in a dirt dugout along the riverbank. I didn't have to go out and trap my own food and skin it, or save seeds to grow a garden and hope something survived the swarms of locust. No, indeed! I was a 21st century working mom, married to a man who normally goes above and beyond to help out when he's not stricken with fever and snoring on the couch. I had access to easy meals, live within walking distance of a Starbucks, and am able to hand out Tylenol when fevers spike. In other words, I needed to suck it up, buttercup.
And that started me thinking about how often I incorrectly view perceived hardships and trials. Trials, in fact, being much on my mind over the last month. How often are the trials that I complain about, in fact, messes of my own making that I've either put myself into by my poor choices, or made into a mountain when they should be a molehill? Probably more often than I care to admit - to you, or even to myself. Whatever happened to denying myself in order to pick up my cross (a method of torture and death) and follow Jesus? How could I possibly justify my quest for recognition and praise when Paul tells us in Galatians that we ought to serve one another, humbly in love, not gratifying the desires of our flesh? Or Christ's command that he who wants to be greatest shall be a servant of all? Servant of all...I didn't even want to be a servant to six!
As I type this, all who have been ill in our house are now well on their way to recovery and back out in the land of the living (which, in this instance, means allowed out of their rooms and back at the dining room table with the others). I, however, am still pondering the selfishness and wrong thinking that God revealed to me over the last two weeks. While they have all recovered health and moved on, I have a feeling that my trek is just beginning, but the outcome, Lord willing, will be one that makes a long-term difference. Here's to serving the Lord with joy, no matter what the situation.