After You

It was my turn to speak to the children during one of the Sunday morning worship services. The highlighted scripture that day was Luke 14:1, 7-14. In this passage Jesus had been invited to dinner at an important Pharisee’s home. It records his observations of the guests’ behavior as they maneuvered their way around the table trying  to get the most honorable seat. As an adult I understood Jesus’s implications, but translating it into understandable words for a five or six-year-old child proved to be a challenge for me.

I spent several days scouring the internet for relatable children’s sermons, but none of them seemed quite right. Finally, I talked to my daughter about the difficulty I was having and she gave me sage advice. “Mom, the stories Jesus told were always about what God wanted him to reveal about His character. You should ask Holy Spirit to tell you what He wants you to say.”

I went to bed Saturday night without a plan of my own, but prayed that Holy Spirit would teach me what to say about the character of God. The following morning I awoke with this story spinning in my head.

Once there were two little boys. One was named Me First; the other was After You. Although Me First and After You were members of the same class at school, they were very different characters. When it was time to line up for art or music class, Me First elbowed his way to the front, never caring that someone got their toes stepped on or was pushed to the ground. After You didn’t mind where he stood in line. He was too busy helping up the little girl who had been pushed to the floor as Me First ran by. 

When it was snack time Me First jumped from his seat to retrieve his snack, then gobbled it down with gusto. After You was slow to rise because he’d noticed the distressed look on the new student’s face. He soon found that the new boy had not known to bring a snack so After You graciously offered him half of his.

At recess time Me First made sure to get the purple ball before anyone else could take it. It bounced the highest and flew the furthest when he kicked it. He would surely be the winner of all the games if he had it. After You didn’t care which ball he played with. He was too busy helping others clean up their area before stopping to hold open the classroom door for his wheelchair bound friend.

At the end of the day the teacher told the children that she was going to give a reward to the child in the class who had the most humble heart. Me First didn’t know what a humble heart was, but he was sure that he would receive the prize. After all, he was so good at everything.

Then the teacher did a surprising thing. She asked the class who they thought should receive the reward. One by one, hands went up telling of the kind and humble things that After You had done for them.  The teacher smiled as she called After You to the front to present him with a giant candy bar.

Even though this story was intended for children, Holy Spirit impressed upon my own heart how it was also for me. The truth of the matter is this – try as I might not to be a Me First kind of person, my efforts often fall short. I get irritated when someone cuts in front of me in traffic, takes something I had my eye on, or even overlooks the good job I have done. “Me First!” my heart cries out. “Not fair! I deserved that place of honor.” It is only when I say “After You” to Jesus that change occurs.

Allowing his supernatural love to permeate my heart reminds me that being like Jesus means coming to the party to serve, not to be served. Looking at life as an opportunity to share God’s love with others even at my own inconvenience is the place where I can truly be the kind of woman I long to be. The kind of woman who lives her life in a constant state of After You.