This morning there was an interesting but not unusual altercation in the boys’ bathroom. I had been called in because someone had put small pieces of bark in the sink drain(?) Of course this was high drama for all the Kindergarten boys and they were crowding around, watching me deftly remove bits of bark from the drain. Of course this is when the scuffle erupted, “So-and-so was behind me and then he cut in front of me!” Then the other chimed in, “No, I was FIRST first and then he cut in front of me.” The first thought that popped in my mind was, “am I in the middle of a bunch of Kindergarten boys or am I sitting on I-90 at rush hour.” Although I find the metaphor of how I sometimes behave [or want to behave] behind the wheel convicting, the thought reminded me of an experience in my checkered past that has something to do with the sad human predicament known as, ME-FIRST.
I was the Associate Pastor of a wonderful church in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. It was an early Saturday morning in the dead of winter and bitterly cold. The dip-stick oil heater for my car had quit in the night and it took too long to get my old Volvo started. A friend was waiting for me at the Original Pancake House where we did Bible-study over breakfast every Saturday morning—and I was late. There was only one problem with this best of all pancake places; there was always a line to get in and the waiting area felt as uncomfortable as a crowded elevator.
Finally the car started and I was off. It wasn’t far to the Pancake House but the roads were slick with the previous night’s snow fall and I had to take it easy. I pulled off from the Crosstown and turned right on France Avenue. There were only two blocks to go when I looked in my rearview mirror. A very tense and angry-looking woman driving a very expensive car was right on my tail. Confession time: I do not like it when people tailgate me! What little patience I could muster that morning had already been spent on my frozen car, and now this woman. I was in the left hand lane because I had to make a left hand turn. I moved into the turning lane hoping she would blow past. Nope, still on my tail. I moved into the right lane for the right hand turn into the already-crowded parking lot. She was still glued to my bumper. I then realized that she was also going to the Original Pancake House—and I snapped–the race was on. There was no way I was going to let this woman get ahead of me in the wait line at the Original Pancake House (and she was clearly thinking the same thing about me). The parking lot was full. I went to the right and she went to the left. We both found spaces about the same distance from the door but in opposite directions. I got out of the car, took two paces, and then realized that I had left my Bible in the car. Drat! About face, grabbed the Bible, and now to win I had to walk fast—but not look like I’m walking fast.
Ever been in a situation like this? Yes, to be human is to find ourselves in these situations all too often.
Truth is, there is precious little to be gained from “Me First,” and thankfully that truth actually dawned on me in the seventy five feet between my car and the front door of the restaurant. Here I was, Bible in hand, meeting a friend to talk about God’s Word. There would be a line in the pancake house regardless and I would be standing next to this woman, either in front of her or behind her. Did my place in line really matter? You bet it did! If she was going to hear me tell my friend how much I love Jesus, then I’d better be standing behind her; I needed to serve her, not beat her. But, I was beating her to the door, and she knew it. Well, in the flush of victory I took the handle of the door—drumroll—and then ushered her in ahead of me. The look on that woman’s face was worth the cost of whatever hubris was at stake, let alone how good it felt to back away from my own destructive pride and arrogance.
In fact, it was a victory; one that happens too seldom in my life. We may live in a me-first culture, but Jesus is not a me-first Savior. When His disciples were arguing over who would be greatest/first in the Kingdom Jesus replied, “. . .whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28). I don’t serve Jesus by serving me-first. The Apostle Paul ups the ante, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God [i.e., God down to His very core], did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:5-7). We need to connect the dots; it’s not about Me-First.
So, there I was with two Kindergarten boys howling “Me-First!” and what was I to do? Grasping for straws I had the suspected perpetrator step aside and repeat after me, “so-and-so, allow me to let you wash your hands first before me.” So-and-so washed his hands. I then had so-and-so repeat after me to the other, “Please allow me to wait on you while you wash your hands and let me hand you the towel” (they were both dying to get back out to recess and time will tell if my intervention will have any impact). How many different ways are there for us to serve one another? If you’re anything like me the question is really whether serving the needs of others is even on my radar. It’s not about me-first. It’s about putting others first and Summit is comprised of a fabric of relationships in which we want to see the value of servanthood flourish. I think that’s what it means to put Jesus first—even in the boys’ bathroom.
Heads-up for the coming week:
- Parents, please submit your re-enrollment contracts ASAP. Deposits and emergency forms are due the end of April.
- The next Summit board meeting will be Monday April 8, the public session of which will be from 7:00PM-8:00PM.
- Please remember to bring your empty cartridges which can be given to teachers, or can be placed directly into the Cartridge World box in the library.
- By all indications the Summit student body will grow by half-again as much next school year. Please continue to PRAY for our school: 1. That our good God will bless us; 2. That God will give the board and administration wisdom and discernment as we wrestle with decisions about facilities and staffing!