THE ABIDING LIFE
Nephews, Play-Doh Fun Factories, and the Church Body
By Gwen Sellers
I have four nephews, one of whom just celebrated his second birthday. The thing is, he doesn't live in the same state as I do. So, as is tradition in my family, I shipped his gift and called to sing him happy birthday. As is also tradition, after the nuclear family party and opening of gifts, my sister called to have him say thank you. It was adorable to hear how much he enjoyed the Play-Doh Fun Factory I'd chosen for him. What was more striking, though, was talking to his older brother (soon to be five). This nephew requested to talk with me and then proceeded to tell me just how cool the Play-Doh set was. "Awesome" is the term he used. He was simply thrilled with the new toy and wanted to say thank you to me as well.
First, it's always fun when the gift hits the mark. Thank you Sister for making such good suggestions! I also love that my nephews are so easily delighted and so quick to be grateful. The exuberance of a child does something sweet to my heart. It's as if they are so pleased they can't hold it in and want to share it with you. Getting to be part of putting a smile on a child's face is one of life's joys. Plus I appreciate that my sister is fostering the "attitude of gratitude" in her children. Her mothering abilities amaze me. I'm proud of my nephews. But aside from all the family feel-goods, I was struck with how my nephews are doing what the Church should be known for.
Later that night I attended a young adults' group in which we discussed the role of the Church in the world. Part of what came up is how we are to love one another (John 13:34-35). And part of that is to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). Technically, the Play-Doh Fun Factory was given to Birthday Boy. But it was Older Brother who was more thankful for it. Of course siblings share toys with one another and Older Brother will no doubt be the beneficiary of the gift as well. But it struck me that he was also thankful for it. He turned to me, the giver, to say thank you for a gift I didn't even give to him. His thanks didn't stop with thanking his brother for sharing or his mom for deeming it communal property. It extended to the source of the gift, not just the managers of the gift. I think this is reflective of something Christians should do.
When a friend receives a blessing, even if we won't also directly benefit from it like my nephew will the Play-Doh set, do we turn to the Giver and say thank you? When we see someone receive a cool new toy do we get jealous, or do we look to God and say, wow, this thing is "awesome"? When others manage their gifts well, do we extend our thanks to God, the Source of those gifts? We should be grateful to others and give honor where honor is due. But we must not forget the Source.
The Church is a family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We share in life together. That means that when one member rejoices, we can rejoice. They're part of the family and it should stir our hearts when good befalls them. Equally, when they mourn, we mourn. Again, they are part of the family and it should stir our hearts when ill befalls them. My nephews reminded me of this truth in a tangible way. Looking at pictures of their family party, it is evident that all the brothers were engaged. No one looked jealous that Birthday Boy was center of attention. No one pretended not to care. They leaned in, explored his gifts, helped him use his gifts, enjoyed the food he had chosen, sang to him, and then even said thank you to people who gave him gifts. It was Birthday Boy's day, but the whole family was celebrating and rejoicing. The Christian life is like this in many ways. We engage with those around us. What happens to one member of the family is experienced by all.
As important as community is, though, the Christian life is also an individual experience. It was only Birthday Boy who opened the packages. And it will be his name signed to the thank you notes. We experience life with our family and relate with God as a family. But we also relate to Him individually. He does not see us as just a bunch of kids, but as His children, each with a different name. He knows each hair on each head in fact (Luke 12:7). He knows our specific design and relates with us in a unique way. I knew the Play-Doh Fun Factory would be for all the boys, but I chose to give it to Birthday Boy because it best fit his interests in this current stage. I think God does that with us in some ways. He entrusts certain things to each of us specifically and on purpose, yet also with an expectation that it will benefit the community. As Paul wrote, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7). Spiritual gifts differ. We're different parts of the Body with different functions, but all still members of the body (Romans 12). The importance of the one is not sacrificed for the community, but neither is the community nonessential.
And, thus, we are called to love not only God but one other. To rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. To say thank you to our God for what He does in our lives and for what He does in the lives of others. To come to Him with our grief and to call on Him to minister in the grief of others. Church. Family. Looking to God and thanking Him for being truly awesome.
Image Credit: Lynda Giddens; "08-11-10 - Elias Play-Doh Serious Face"; Creative Commons
Note: This is not the author's nephew. But he sure is cute.
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Personal-Life | Family-Life | Ministry-Church | Personal-Relationships
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