He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.
My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers
It wasn’t teaching me to whip up apple pie in a flash, and always from scratch. Real butter for crust, and always topped with cream, fresh-whipped in a frost-covered bowl. But that know-how has come in handy.
It wasn’t showing a sulky furrowed-brow little lass that A smile is the prettiest thing a girl can wear. Surely, no one was more qualified to teach that than a girl nicknamed Mary Sunshine. Some friends call me Smiles.
It wasn’t explaining that A quality product doesn’t need cheap advertising. Mom gave that sage advice on Sunday in May when I chopped half my new blue jean skirt off and wore my new mini to church. Dad was our pastor there.
Which taught some even better lessons.
Like, Better to bend than to break. My mom lives like a willow. She bends with the wind and rolls with the punches. With mud on a fresh-mopped hardwood floor and with a thirteen year-old’s mini. I can’t bend half so low.
And as vital as it was to instruct me and rest of her honest-to-a-fault brood, If you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all- this wasn’t the best. Though that wisdom from Mom has maintain the unity of the Spirit so many times.
Nor was it her steadfast prayer, her constant refrain, God, give me a pure heart. Which was, I think, as crucial for a preacher’s wife as for a farmer’s wife as for a teacher and mother and friend. I pray this now, too-for Mom and me.
As valuable as these lessons are, they’re not the best.
The most precious advice mom gave is this: To have a friend, be one. Although she didn’t say just this way, I knew what she meant: Stop thinking of yourself, Abigail. Look around and love others.
To an introspective, insecure ten-year old in a brand new school in a brand new town, her words hit home. She didn’t let me pine away the weekend, feeling left out and alone. Let’s have a hayride and invite your class. Be a friend, she said.
To a still introspective, somewhat more secure fourteen year-old in a brand new high school in a brand new town, her advice still struck a chord. So without knowing a soul, two weeks before school began, joined the brass and met Tom and Chris and Pete and Angie in marching band.
Then, as a still introspective, and slightly lonely newlywed, I remembered what Mom said and a dinner group was forged with Shelly and Jay and Jen and Steve. Fifteen years and oodles of grace later, the group still gathers one Friday night each month.
When alone and unknown in a new church and alone and unknown in new job and more often now, well-known and let-down, Mom’s words to her introspective ten-year old, still echo through, her words about being a friend.
Plus these other two.
The Words That Blow My Self-Pity Away
To have a friend, be one is first. Then these two join forces with that advice. Together, they’re my Three Self-pity-busting Musketeers.
Don’t wait to be served, serve. Don’t wait for thanks, thank. To have a friend, be one.Those three are all for one and one for all. And the one they’re for is healthy, happy, humble me. Because self-pity is the weak side of pride- wounded ego, not-getting-what-I-deserve- pride. And this self-pitying pride cannot abide humility.
It cannot abide the God-Man Christ, who took on the form of a servant. Self-pitying pride can’t believe he really said, It’s more blessed to give than receive. And that truly blessed is happy. And happy is what a giving, serving, befriending me is bound to be.
So when Mom’s words come to me, by grace, I go. They come when I feel left out and I go invite a friend. They come when I start to feel unvalued and I go send a thank-you note. The woe-is-me monsters still come and want to throw me a pity party. But I’m learning to look outside of me and go.
I don’t wait. I can’t. Because if I do, I know melancholic me will join that party. So I don’t wait for someone to comfort or reach out or thank me. I’m learning that when I want thanks, the best thing to do is give it. And when I want to be served, the best thing to do is serve. Because I know it’s more blessed to give than receive.
Four days ago, an introspective eight year-old burst in the front door and burst into tears. Between massive, shoulder-shaking sobs, I gathered that a bump on his nose garnered teaching on the bus ride home and that he missed recess because of late work and-horror of horrors- outdoor gym class.
The world conspired against Gabe Thursday.
Imagine my surprise when my wounded second-grade warrior entered the kitchen ten minutes later, hands full of comb and brush and spray and gel. And with “One pass to the barbar.”
Mom, I know you like me to do your hair. Can I fix it for you now?
And so I was blessed by the best 40 minute barbar job any girl could ever get.
But the bigger blessing was knowing that this regal treatment came from a son who was learning to look outside of his pain.
Who was somehow learning that focusing away from his pain to show others love is the best way to brush a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad, day away.
So thanks, Mom, for all your good advice. And for the way you lived it. We’re learning to live like you.
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
*This post was first published on Mother’s Day, 2018. But it’s as true today, on mom’s 70th birthday, as it was then.