Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

1.31.2012

My Pleasure

“Most of them want to come for reasons other than serving or helping, so I require something of them. Those kids have money to burn and closets full of designer clothes!” I overheard a friend talking about his ministry to the homeless in Portland, OR. Of course, my conscience contentedly patted me on the back—I had gone to help him this past fall, doling out hot breakfast, warm clothes, hygiene essentials, encouraging words, and friendly smiles for four hours in the pouring rain.

My friend, however, wasn’t done. “So, there’s a few junior-highers that still come every month. And you know what they say to me when we’re done? ‘I had fun.’ And I think, ‘I didn’t bring you out here to have fun! I didn’t want you to have fun! Tell me you were shocked or humbled or embarrassed—but don’t tell me you had fun!’” He paused a moment to consider. “Maybe these kids can’t be shocked anymore…maybe ‘I had fun’ is the only way they can express themselves.”

Photo Credit
I moved on, but my thoughts stayed on this conversation. I could have just as easily been one of those flippant teenagers saying, “Thanks! Watching five year old homeless boys come out of the woodwork to get a hot meal was fun! I had a great time!” In fact, I could remember many serving opportunities I had judged by the measure of enjoyment they provided.


We insincerely say “it was my pleasure” as if our entertainment is the highest compliment we can pay to another human being, when it is often just an indicator of our sinful hearts. In this egotistical, self-centered, instant-gratification society of ours, we seek one thing above all others: amusement. The US spent $10,632,527,005[1] (yes, that’s BILLION) on movie tickets alone in 2009—and that doesn’t even begin to include the total entertainment budget. As the world becomes increasingly humanistic and men fall on their faces in awe and worship of themselves, the highest fulfillment—the greatest compliment—the most rewarding purpose has become fun. We are becoming “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (II Timothy 3:4).”

A commercial I recently saw was advertising a website with thousands of movies available for instant streaming. “In fact,” the geeky guy exclaimed as he touted his company, “It would take you an entire year to watch all of the titles we have available!” Then he got a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes (or maybe it was just a dumb, idle stupidity—I couldn’t tell). “That would be the best year of my life.” Everyday, men and women pursue the fleeting sensation of fun—and this cotton-candy-like experience claims costly, nonrefundable hours of one’s time. Time, though, is pocket change compared to what many people sell to fuel their addiction: their souls.


So what is a Christian to do? Shun all movies? Live like a medieval monk? Read only the Scripture? Boycott Monopoly? Ultimately, of course, we must come to terms with Hebrews 11:25: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” John Piper offers a practical and sobering suggestion too: "think about your death. Think about your death a lot....I think about the impact of death, and what I would like to be found doing, and how I would prepare to meet him and give an account to him (see the endnote to read his excellent article in its entirety).[2]" When we have chosen to suffer with God’s people and shun sinful amusement, then we can experience the ecstasy of a God Who fulfills the desires of our heart above and beyond what we could ever imagine. Psalms 35:27 says, “Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.”


However, may we remember in all our doings and prosperity to say first and foremost, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelations 4:11).” Therefore, the next time you go out to brighten your corner, consider changing your typical “Oh—it was my pleasure!” to something more profound and honest. It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about fun, but it certainly is all about God.


 

"My Pleasure" was originally posted on One Bright Corner on January 12, 2010.

Photo Credit: Cliffjamester. Used by permission under the Creative Commons License.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,
   Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



[1] "Movie Market Summary for Year 2009." The Numbers - Movie Box Office Data, Film Stars, Idle Speculation. Nash Information Services, LLC, Jan. 2010. http://www.the-numbers.com/market/2009.php.

[2] Piper, John. "How Can I Break Free from an Addiction to Entertainment?" Desiring God. Desiring God, 25 May 2009. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/how-can-i-break-free-from-an-addiction-to-entertainment.

14 comments:

  1. Oh sister! Talk about a post hitting directly at my heart! A great reminder on this Tuesday morning. You are bold in your writing - it is well received.

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  2. great thoughts! Thank you for sharing Mikaela!

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  3. "as if our entertainment is the highest compliment we can pay to another human being"

    Well said! I recently had a "serving" opportunity and it was truly enjoyable. Partly because it was so easy. But I don't think I would have so readily (or willingly, in my heart)accepted the "job" if it would have stretched me more...
    *convicted*
    Thank you so much for this. I will be mulling over this all day, I know.

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  4. Brandy--you're such a sweetheart! Thanks for your humility. I have been on something of a media fast for the past several months, and it has been a good time of God refining me.

    Charis and Emily--You're welcome! Thanks for commenting. ;-)

    Penn--I know well this feeling. It is very much our natural sin nature!

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  5. Like some others have commented, I, too, found this post to be convicting. Thank you for sharing, and definitely giving me some good food for thought.

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  6. You're welcome, Ruthie! You wrote a particularly insightful comment on the original posting of this article, which caused me to add in a clarifying sentence this time around. So thanks for that too! ;-)

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  7. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Mikaela! It means a lot that you are willing to share what you are learning with all of us.

    Just one thing... Do you really think those junior highers' joy/fun came from watching the suffering of others, or was it instead rooted in being able to brighten the lives of those less fortunate than them (the truest joy/fun comes from serving others, no?)? I don't believe that it is selfish to find pleasure in helping others. In fact, the Bible even tells us that "God loves a cheerful giver." Not a shocked, humbled, or embarrassed giver, although those feelings certainly are not bad, and can be helpful. It IS possible to be shocked, humbled, and embarrassed, seeing the suffering of others, AS WELL AS being joyful and finding pleasure in helping them. God created us (in His image) to be others-centered, which would naturally mean that doing things for others would give us pleasure. We serve a God who finds pleasure in our happiness, and has fun giving us blessings, gifts, and good things! I think the fact that those kids were having fun doing what Jesus asks us to do--and what He Himself did while on this earth--is merely proof that the Holy Spirit is working in them...

    Nevertheless, I understand and agree with your main point: how life is not about fun or ourselves. I just think that the gentleman who said those things about the junior-high kid should have been joyful and having fun, too, seeing youth enjoy serving others, as well as showing those younger than him that there is something out there better than the kind of "fun" this world has to offer.

    Like I said before, I really appreciate how you share what you are learning with the rest of us. God bless you!! :)

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  8. Oops! I forgot I was signed in on Mom's account...the above comment is actually mine (Joanna's). :P

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  9. Joanna--thanks so much for reading and commenting carefully! I do not know the junior highers of which my friend spoke, so I have no idea as to their motives. I'm sure they did not gain joy from the suffering of others, and I know for a fact that my friend would not criticize someone finding joy in serving Christ.

    Personally, I spend much too much time focusing on my pleasure, joy, and delight and shunning those things which do not portend pleasure for myself. So this is definitely something of a one-sided post, with all the fingers pointing directly at me. Yes, suffering for Christ's sake is cause to rejoice (see Matthew 5), and I am commanded to count it all joy (see James), but that does not mean I find all experiences pleasureable or fun.

    You are so right in pointing out the fulfillment, ecstasy, and JOY that comes from serving God and others, and I do not mean to imply that this is wrong by any means. Those are beautiful and essential components of daily Christian life. Perhaps your apt observations will just have to be another blog post for another time. ;-)

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  10. I, too, spend way too much time thinking about myself, and what I want. This post is such a good reminder to turn our motives and actions away from self and to God and others. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Mikaela; discussing these things with you is such a blessing! Really, you and Lauren's whole blog is a blessing--to many, many people, including me. :)

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  11. Wow, Jo--you are so sweet. Thank you for the compliment! And thanks for keeping me in balance! ;-)

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  12. I work full-time for a non-profit organization that does work in the inner-city. Through our program, thousands of people have experienced the inner-city for the first time. They get to tour the youth correctional center, serve at the food pantry, and attend a church service for the homeless, among many other things. A large portion of our participants are middle school and high school students, although we also get a fair number of adults. For most of these people, they have had virtually no experience with inner-city life, extreme poverty, or getting outside of their comfort zones and serving the underprivileged.

    Naturally, there is initially a level of discomfort and nervousness. It is our job to help make them comfortable and to provide a fun experience. I say the word fun, because we believe that serving should be fun. While I very much hope that these participants do leave burdened, humbled, and grateful for everything that they are blessed with, I also want them to leave feeling like they had a fun time. When you have fun with something, you are more likely to do it again. If you get excited, then it causes others to catch the vision, too. We encourage people to find what avenue of serving makes them enthused.

    Your friend was upset that the junior-highers had fun serving. We need to realize that a lot of youth often hide their emotions and do not vocally express their feelings. Just because a young person had fun, doesn't mean that they weren't impacted internally by what they saw and experienced. We ask all of our participants to fill out a evaluation form. Occasionally, the students that were the most quiet and reserved actually were the ones that were impacted the greatest. The same goes for the students that seemed to goof off the most. To read some of their comments, the experience was truly life changing. And they also had lots of fun.

    I agree with what the other poster, Joanna, had to say. I love my job. I get excited helping others, and I have fun doing it. While God has certainly opened my eyes and brought me to my knees, the enthusiasm He's given me has birthed new ideas and avenues for serving the less fortunate. God delights in giving us good gifts, and we, in turn, should delight in giving gifts to others. Furthermore, it's perfectly okay to feel a sense of self-satisfaction from helping others, provided we have the right attitude when doing so.

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  13. Very true, Julie! Thanks so much for the great work you are doing--especially that of involving this generation in learning to help those less fortunate. You are certainly walking in His steps.

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