How do we truly live the life of JOY. We are told to live the life of Joy: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. I find that there is quite a struggle to put this into practice. Whatever our vocation may be, we must put other's first.
This idea of "offering it up" is so important to our Catholic faith. In our daily lives, be it single or married, we all come across a special type of offering up that we must do in relationships. Perhaps its grinning and going about our duty despite an unkind co worker who just seems to be getting positive recognition all the time while we get passed over. Perhaps its biting our tongue when our loved one seems to be overlooking what we want and focusing on him or herself. Perhaps its complying with a request from our spouse when they haven't been very gracious in meeting our requests. Perhaps its driving that trip to the grocery store for a needy family member who hasn't been particularly kind when we were really looking forward to watching a tv show. Or maybe its folding that last basket of laundry when we really just want to get on the computer or dive into a good book.
Its clear that we are supposed to put others before ourselves. We are to serve others and follow Jesus' example. One of the most beautiful images to think of is when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. How do we do it? How do we live out JOY every day despite the trials in our vocation, whether that means cleaning up the house for the 50th time, listening to a co worker, trying to deal with yet another irritated customer, etc.
I think there is a certain attitude that interferes with the life of JOY. Its the "But I want" attitude. Our society has contributed to the attitude of but I want....But I want to watch this show and after all I deserve it. But I want to spend an hour reading and I am tired of always taking care of this place. But I want to have my desire fulfilled this time ....But I want him to say he's sorry this time...But I want to be recognized...Instead of but they want this....But I could do this for them.... But maybe she needs it more...A great trick of the enemy is to make offering your wants up for someone else harder by trickery. I think that this trickery comes in because while we are stuck saying "But I want", the lie is slipped in. We we give in to the fear (and lie) that if we say But I will do this instead of But I want, we will never be satisfied or complete. We are scared that if we give in here and swallow this retort or give this when I want to do that, how will I get my needs met? If I do this, how will my husband ever know what I want and how will this pattern change?
We must realize that this worry is largely based on my getting my needs or wants met in a very human way. I am worried about if I give in, how will this fellow human being ever "learn" to do what I need? I forget that when I give to God through others, He will always repay me. He will take care of me, its not about how I will get what I want or how I will be happy in a relationship, its about trusting that if i learn to be humble, to smile with the struggle, and give in to what I can to put other's needs first, I have learned to put Jesus' needs first. I have just then learned to carry Jesus to a world so desperately in need. Instead of worrying about how this fellow human will recognize what I want and meet that desire or how I will get that thing I want or how this need will get met if I just don't do it this way, I realize that if I give even when it feels like it breaks me a couple of things happen;
#1 i become a little less attached to the temporal things of this world and realize what need is vs want
#2 i learn a little of Christ's way to give when it hurts to make someone else live better
#3 I learn that my faith must be in Christ alone and that I must not depend on how this will get met by this person or that, because those people can not meet my needs anyway, only through Christ can those gaps be filled.
There is no need to worry that if I give in here or there somehow a pattern will be set and I will never be satisfied because I didn't teach that person to give me what I want. A pattern must be set where I lift up whatever I have given, whatever daily annoyance I have offered to be filled in by God. I think that this pleases God because we come to Him as a child, learning to lean wholly on Him for our needs, emotional, physical, temporal, and eternal.
I think about how it pleases me when my child looks at his brother and says, you take the first turn, or I want you to have it. Then, I think about how it makes me so happy that I desire to take my child who was giving and far from depriving him of whatever gift he gave, repay him for his kindness. He has learned to put someone else in front of him. If I being as imperfect and broken as I am have these thoughts toward my children, isn't is possible that God would think the same? The scriptures tell us if we being evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more so does your Heavenly Father (paraphrasing). Do you think God may want us to put others first to be a part of the breaking? The breaking of self and egoism that permeates our culture?
When we sacrifice this prideful response, or put someone else first even though we are tired exausted,etc. perhaps we please God because we have somehow learned a little of Christ. We have somehow peered a little closer at the Christ who, exhausted from his beatings, completely innocent, struggled to carry a cross for us. A cross He didn't deserve, a cross that bore all of our sin and shame. He carried it for us. Yet, I struggle to keep my mouth quiet when it should be silent. Its tough! I try and fall and try and fall and try again. If we keep trying though, I think we will begin to learn that far from being left behind and out in the cold with our needs left unmet, he who is first will be last. We have learned that we have come to serve. And we will always be taken care of.
Perhaps God is whispering to us, "don't give into the lie that if you deny yourself here, I won't take care of you." Perhaps God wants us to give and offer it up as a beautiful gift to God, for we must remember as I tell my boys, when we are kind to each other we are kind to Jesus. In that other person, is the image of God. In the giving and offering up, we also learn to say Ok God, I with your help can do this, knowing that instead of setting up a pattern where my emotional needs may not be met, I set up a pattern where I trust that God will meet those emotional needs. Somehow in the giving, God will ensure that my emotional needs are met and that I will have grown closer to him. Closer to the Christ who carries that cross he didn't deserve.