Return On Investment

Ps 37v3aIt was late on Saturday night when I remembered the cupcake promise I’d made.  Ugh.  Graciously my incredible man offered to make the trip to the store to purchase the gluten-filled ingredients.  And then he stayed up and baked the 18 fluffy cupcakes because, even though I was the one who had promised to make them, I cannot be around flour.  The fine gluten dust makes my face and throat itch and swell.  An hour later, with bleary eyes, we left those glorious cupcakes cooling on a rack and I set my alarm to get up early.  Frosting was my job.

I was up early.  Before the kids were awake.  The beaters whirred and swirled the butter, sugar and freshly made strawberry puree.  The smell was amazing.  Suddenly there were whining, hungry children pulling at my legs.  And my husband was walking out the door.

His lack of communication.  And my oblivion.  A one-two punch that left me really mad.  How could I have forgotten that he goes to church early every week to help set up?  He does it every week. Ugh!  Suddenly I was dreadfully behind schedule. Kids and I still in PJs. Hungry for breakfast. And it was only half an hour before church. I tried to block out the sounds of their crying while I frantically piped the sweet pink icing onto the stupid white cupcakes.

Why had I offered to make them?!?! 

Well, these cupcakes are for my very dear friend.  My friend who has given so much to be my friend.  Has served my family and cared for my children.  Has literally gone halfway around the world to help me.  This is a very special friend.  Rare and of immeasurable worth.  She has changed my life.

These cupcakes are for her bake sale.  To raise funds for a trip to serve at an orphanage and school in Thailand.  An orphanage that I have visited.  A mission that I believe in.  An organization that is doing incredible things to change many lives.  My friend had asked us, her friends, to bake for the sale.  How could I not?

These cupcakes are a symbol of my love for her and for the orphans.  These cupcakes will result in actual funds raised.  Yes, these cupcakes are worth all the bother, inconvenience, and stress.

But, these cupcakes did not sell.  Apparently they weren’t pretty enough to attract buyers. Apparently not worth their one-dollar price tag.  DON’T THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THOSE CUPCAKES COST ME?!  Nope.  I was mad upon mad.  Upset.  Really disappointed.  I whined and complained.

“Why does it matter if they sold or not?” My friend asked.

Sigh.  She always does this.  Makes me look at my heart.  Makes me pause to consider the fire issue that is burning away behind the smoke I’m all caught up in.

Well, it matters because I stayed up late and made my husband stay up late.  It matters because we spent grocery budget on the ingredients.  It matters because the frosting adventure put unfair pressure on my little family.  It matters because… well, I put a lot into these crappy cupcakes.  And I want… I want… I need… return on investment. Profit.  Success.  Reward.

And there it is friends. I’m totally surprised. The fire behind the smoke:  A need for instant gratification. A need to see that my efforts bear fruit.  A need for measurables.  For metrics.  I’m stunned and embarrassed to say, it seems I have become addicted to fruit.  And it seems that unless I get to see the fruit of my labors… I don’t want to give. Or serve. Or invest.

Oh yuck.

Now listen. I’m really shocked. This is not me. This is not who I am.  For goodness sake, I was in Youth Ministry for 15+ years.  I know what it’s like to invest with no return.  I know how to give and serve and sow without the satisfaction of seeing the harvest.  And often even without the satisfaction of seeing the seeds sprout.  I know what it’s like to have teens and their parents never see all you did for them. I know how to invest without the promise of fruit.  (P.S.  If your kids are part of or were ever part of a youth group, you should shower those youth leaders and pastors with gifts and thanks and prayers on a weekly basis. Ministering to teens is awesome and wonderful and very, very, very hard.)

Hmmm.  There’s a twinge of resentment there.  A little bitterness?  Hmmm, it seems I’ve grown a really wrong attitude.  But, it’s totally justifiable.  I’m a mother of two little ones.  My life is crazy.  I don’t have time to waste.  I don’t have the luxury of doing things that aren’t fruitful.  That’s why it’s important to be able to see fruit.  Everything I do NEEDS TO YEILD FRUIT.  Right!? Right! Right? … erm.  Sigh.  Wrong.  Even though it seems true.  It’s a lie.  It’s a lie that everything I do needs to yield fruit.  It’s a ridiculous lie. A crazy expectation. An impossible and self-righteous goal. It makes my efforts far too powerful.  It makes my works far too important.  It makes Yahweh less than He is.  It takes Him off His throne and puts me there.  Me and my efforts.  Me and all my works become king.  Become more important than everything else.  And that is not good. Not beautiful. Not godly.

I needed this little cupcake fiasco.  I needed a reminder that YAHWEH IS GOD.  He is the One who causes fruit.  He is the One who grows the seeds.  He is the One who gets to see with an eternal perspective.  He is the One who knows what will come from my efforts.  It’s not my job to know.  My job is to be a loving, generous, giving, obedient daughter.  To be part of His Kingdom work.  To put my hands to the things He leads me to.  To do my part with no strings attached.  To trust Him.

And so, my dear little unwanted cupcakes, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t sell.  Because God doesn’t need my cupcakes to raise the funds.  What He wants is my heart and attention.  Those cupcakes drew my heart towards my friend and her trip and the orphans.  Those cupcakes drew my husband towards serving and caring for his wife.  Those cupcakes drew my friend to see that she’s loved and supported. And those cupcakes drew me to see that I had grown a disturbing heart attitude.

Doing good.  Serving.  Giving.  Investing.  Should be enough. It has to be enough.  Otherwise, we will becoming performing seals.  Doing things just for applause and fish-treats.  And we end up only doing the things that benefit us directly.  We end up becoming self-absorbed and limited.  But Jesus died and conquered sin and death in order to set us free from that life!  To give us the freedom and vision to be part of His huge and amazing Kingdom plan.  To be part of something so much bigger than my efforts and any fruit I could produce.  God is working things together in ways that I cannot see.  And trusting Him means letting go of my expectations and simply embracing the things He does in me and through me.  The harvest is ahead, beyond my view.  The harvest is His.  The glory is His.

I much needed reminder as I prepare to preach this Sunday:  He alone is God. He alone brings Life. Selah.

Trust in the LORD and do good ; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3 NAS)
Sow righteousness, reap love. It’s time to till the ready earth, it’s time to dig in with God, Until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest. (Hosea 10:12 Msg)

What do you think?