FIRST-PERSON: When company shows up early
I love to entertain in my home. But if our invitation reads 6:00, that means I may be ready by 5:55 with little time to spare!
It's my own character flaw, and I am working on it.
As a young missionary, I wanted to do something special for our national pastors. It was Christmastime and I thought a party would be just the thing. We were expecting 125 to 150 people. Our house was not big enough for that large of a crowd, but our yard was quite large and cold weather is not an issue in the tropics.
For weeks before Christmas we bought food to cook as well as food to put in small baskets for each family as a gift. All of us were excited and looking forward to our special event.
More than 100 people showed up the day BEFORE the party, expecting to sleep at our house! We had purchased a lot of food but not enough for supper, breakfast and then Christmas lunch!
That night there were wall-to-wall people sleeping on every square-inch of floor in our house along with a large group of men and boys sleeping in the yard. Morning came ... and so did more guests.
The party was great fun. Our guests enjoyed the food, the games, the Christmas carols, the devotional and the gift baskets. My boys had a great time playing Santa Claus by helping with the distribution of gifts. Soon everyone would be going home ... or so I had thought.
The party lasted so long that no one was able to go home. Remember, they had to walk, and it is not safe to walk in the dark. Once again we had a house and yard full of people!
And just when it couldn't get worse, the electricity went out. There is nothing like a house full of guests and no power. I was getting close to a meltdown. All I could think about were the M&Ms that our friend Chellie had sent us for Christmas, but I sure did not want to share them with 140 guests.
In Matthew 14:13-21, we read about Jesus feeding thousands. He probably did not start off His day wanting to be with 5,000-plus people. He had just gotten word about the death of John the Baptist. He wanted to be alone. (We can all relate to those times in life.) I'm sure He was sad and needed some time to mourn. He got into a small boat to withdraw for a while.
Before He could get to His destination, the people heard He was coming. When He arrived, they were waiting. Have you been there?
It would have been natural to become discouraged or frustrated. He wanted to grieve the loss of His friend, and now that time was taken away. But read what He did: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14). If He'd had M&Ms, He probably would have shared them.
Challenges are just a part of the world we live in. We are always going to have challenges and demands of ministry colliding. However, we cannot allow those kinds of challenges to overshadow the need for compassion. As a matter of fact, challenges are all the more reason to have compassion; compassion for believers and nonbelievers alike who are facing their own challenges.
I love using the phrase "active compassion" because it puts action behind the feeling of compassion. Certainly Jesus was the master of living a life of active compassion.
Active compassion is about sharing burdens, concern, and offering hope to others, regardless of our own circumstances. It was OK for me to keep my M&Ms for myself that night and enjoy them later with my husband and children. But it is never OK for me to keep Jesus and His compassion hidden from someone in need because I am overwhelmed with my own circumstances. "Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Take time this week to read through the miracles of Jesus in the Book of Mark. What obstacles did He face? How did He overcome them? What does the attitude of Jesus teach us about being inconvenienced by one person or by a crowd? Share your thoughts. Let us as women be all about carrying each other's burdens and learning to be more like Jesus along the way.
This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Gayla Parker has served in ministry for more than 30 years as an International Mission Board missionary, pastor's wife, state convention and WMU employee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).