Last night I got together with a good friend at Starbucks. Having tried a variety of the chairs and tables at that particular Starbucks, I knew the best table to choose--the one that has a cushy seat on one side and a regular seat on the other. It's next to the wall, nice and private, and away from the speaker for when the music gets too loud.
So I used my influence to get her to agree to that table... "Does this one look okay?" (as if I had no opinion). She went to get her drink, and I sat down in the regular seat, leaving her the cushy one.
When she got back, she smiled. "You left me the soft seat, that was very unselfish of you, but I guess with four kids, you know a lot about self-denial."
We laughed, and I said something about mommyhood taking self-denial to a "whole nother level."
It does. Doesn't it? Really plunges the depths, testing our ability to give and give and give ...
I have to admit, sometimes it's really hard. Little things like never owning your very own Diet Coke. Honestly, sometimes I don't want to share it. "It's MY Diet Coke, and you can't have it! Mine! Mine! Mine!" I feel like that at times, but I usually end up sharing. Same goes for chocolate or a new perfect pen or even a just a few quiet minutes alone. Stuff that used to be all mine, now is shared with eight grubby little hands.
Self denial also hits on an emotional level. When my older kids pierce me with angry, painful attitudes, I don't always think, "Yea! What a great teaching opportunity. I'm going to help them learn a life lesson." No, more often, especially when I'm tired or overwhelmed, I'm tempted to indulge myself by throwing good discipline out the window and lashing out in sarcasm or manipulation.
How do I keep from getting sucked into this yucky cycle? Well, I learned a really great thing about self-denial. I do it not to somehow change the kids' behavior or make myself look like a good mom. I deny myself simply because that's what Christ did. It's not out of a sense of duty or guilt, but because I love Him, and His love, joy, and peace fill me up. If instead of focusing on the things I'm giving up--Diet Coke, chocolate, or an indulgent self-centered attitude--I focus on serving the Lord, self denial becomes a joy rather than a sacrifice. And when I serve out of joy, those grubby little hands don't bother me. In fact, there's nothing I'd rather do than serve them.
"Serve the Lord with gladness." Psalm 100