His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
A Few Things
In our examination of The Lord’s Prayer these past few days, I’ve sensed an undertow of anxiety mounting with each post. What it says about our lives—and what it asks us to do—is basic and sound, yet nonetheless daunting to embrace and accomplish. Live up to the highest standards of God’s name. Activate His kingdom in us. Step aside so His will can be done. Trust Him daily for our needs. Forgive heinous wrongs against us before asking His forgiveness. Maintain vigilant awareness of temptation’s pitfalls. Dispel evil’s prevalence and influence in our lives. Day after day, the Prayer's requests of us seemed to get tougher, more intimidating, and ever more thick-skinned about personal emotions and history it expects us to rise above.
These are big-ticket items. They require sober introspection and willingness to let go of responses ingrained in our character. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to dig up facts and feelings we've buried in deep graves piled high with all sorts of denial, magical thinking, and rationalization. If we acted on all of the Prayer’s principles simultaneously, we’d be overwhelmed—completely lost, actually—at dealing with so much at once. It makes more sense to attend to a few things at a time. When we get one or two under control, we can take on others.
What We’ve Got
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of three servants whose master gave them small sums of money. The first took five coins he received, worked with them, and returned with 10. The second likewise doubled his two coins. But the third servant, who got only one coin, was so afraid of losing the little he had he buried it. When time came to account for his actions, neither he nor his master was any better off. The master lambasted him as “wicked” and “lazy,” and handed his coin to the servant with 10. To the other two, however, he said, “Well done!” He rewarded their faithfulness over a few things by placing them in charge of many things and invited them to share his happiness.
This story is most often associated with positive gifts we’ve been given, primarily because the Bible calls the coins “talents.” But we might also apply it to everything we receive in life, good or bad. Instead of focusing on what insults and abuses steal from us—and, no doubt, they leave huge deficits in our lives, our psyches, and our emotions—we should recognize they’re also given to us. Perhaps we should work with what we’ve got, all of it, including the worst.
Some of our issues spring from such traumatic experiences it’s inconceivable to imagine they conceal a higher purpose. Their impact has resulted in withdrawal into feelings of alienation, fear, emotional insecurity, and spiritual homelessness. Yet if we can look past our suffering, we’ll see God transforming pain into profit. Here’s how Paul charted the process: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5.3-5)
Burying pain because we’re afraid of handling it, as the third servant did with his coin, yields nothing positive. It gets us no more than what we’ve always had. It fails to increase perseverance, improve character, or inspire hope. But, like the other two servants, we can invest all that we’ve received toward personal and spiritual development. We parlay it into empathy and concern for others. We use it as a springboard to love our neighbors as ourselves—including those responsible for the pain we suffer. Being faithful in a few things, we take charge of many more. Our Master welcomes us to His happiness. And after years of feeling ostracized, abused, and alone, we experience the joy of His acceptance. We’re home at last.
Rather than burying our pain, we need to work with it, investing it to reap rewards for others and ourselves.
(Tomorrow: Step On It)