Surprise Party

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7 NIV

When I was in grade school, I always wanted to have a real birthday party – you know, when you invite the whole class at school. Every year when I asked, though, my mother’s answer was always the same: “No.” Maybe the class size of nearly fifty had something to do with it.

“Please, Mom,” I’d plead. “Everyone else has one. Why do I always have to be different?”

No amount of begging, whining, or pouting, however, changed her mind. Her lopsided cakes were for family only.

One year, though, I was determined to have the kind of party I wanted, in spite of my mother’s usual “no.” So I invited all the kids in my third grade class to come to my house on Saturday, November 5, for my birthday party. My mother, of course, knew nothing about it.

I bowled in a youth bowling league on Saturday mornings, and when I left the house that day, I still hadn’t told my mother about the party. The walk home after bowling was the longest walk I ever took in my life! I trudged the eight blocks home in the cold, damp November wind, thinking of how much trouble I was going to be in once the kids started showing up at my door.

Not only was I going to be in the doghouse at home, but I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school once word got out about the party with a lopsided cake, and not enough ice cream and pop. Don’t even mention games. That was not my mother’s forte.

When I stepped into the dining room at few minutes before two – the time I told everyone to come – I gasped in surprise. There in the middle of the table, set for a party, was a big, decorated birthday cake!

“How did you find out?” I blurted to my mother.

“Vivian’s mother called to ask me what time your party started,” she said.

Thank you, Mrs. Bludis, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’ll talk about this after the party,” my mother said quietly as someone knocked. “Go answer the door.”

For the next three hours, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d probably be grounded for the rest of my life. When the last guest left, I hurried to help clean up, grateful to my mom for helping me save face and hoping my initiative would lessen my punishment.

“What would you have done if Mrs. Bludis hadn’t called?” my mother asked me after we were done.

I shrugged.

“I didn’t understand how important this was to you. I’m sorry,” Mom said, “but I hope you realize you were wrong to go behind my back.”

I nodded.

As it turned out, my only punishment was three agonizing hours imagining what my just desserts would be when I could have been enjoying my birthday party.

My mother taught me an important lesson in mercy that day. While it isn’t easy to forgive someone who has done something wrong, showing undeserved kindness blesses both the giver and the receiver, and brings healing to broken relationships.

I deserved justice. Instead I received a birthday present I never forgot.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thank you, God, that Your mercies are new every morning. I sure need them everyday. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.

When Life Isn’t Fair

 

 

Read and meditate on Matthew 20:1–16

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. –Philippians 4:11 NIV

Cheryl (not her real name) worked for one company for more than 25 years, faithfully showing up on time and putting in a full day’s work and then some. One of her responsibilities—for which she was not compensated—was to train new hires.

One day she discovered the girl she’d been training, who’d just passed the probation period, made the same hourly wage as Cheryl did. Compensation, she learned, was based not on seniority but on job position.

I never understood the point of the parable Jesus told in today’s reading. It just seemed unfair that those who worked only a few hours received the same pay as those who’d slaved all day under the hot sun.

But when I finally got past what I perceived as unfairness, I gleaned not one, but four lessons.

First, life isn’t fair. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers then thrown in jail, where he languished for years, on a false accusation. Paul faithfully pursued God’s calling, only to be shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, left for dead, chased out of town more than once, and arrested on false charges (2 Corinthians 11:21–33). If that wasn’t enough, a “thorn in the flesh” (no one knows what it was) plagued him. Even though he prayed about it, God didn’t remove it, instead telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10).

The second thing I recognized was that we humans are a grumbling lot. The Israelites complained all the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. We’re no different. You know what it’s like to spend time with a grumbler. They’re miserable, so they make everyone around them miserable. Our complaining has an effect not only on our perspective, but also on others. Both Paul (Philippians 2:14) and James (James 5:9) tell us not to grumble or complain.

Instead we are to let everything we say be good and helpful so that our words are an encouragement to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29). Every morning I pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

It helps to have a good perspective, and that is attained by allowing God to transform our minds (Romans 12:2) and think only that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

The third lesson I gleaned from this parable is to stop comparing myself with others, my situation with their situation, my pay with their pay. Instead, I am to be content with what I have (Hebrews 13:5), in whatever circumstances I find myself (Philippians 4:11–13).

Either I believe God is in control of everything that touches me—and has a plan and purpose for it—or I don’t.

And finally, once I got past the unfairness, I saw that this isn’t a parable about fairness at all. It’s about God’s grace. God’s amazing grace.

If He wants to give the deathbed conversion the same heaven as the lifelong servant, He can. It’s His grace to dispense as He chooses, and His home to open to whomever He welcomes.

I still struggle with unfairness, and I will as long as I tread this sphere. But I have the assurance that even though life may be unfair, God never is.

Help me, Lord, not to focus on “fair” but to focus on You. Amen.

© 2017, Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Image in public domain.