July 1, 2011

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Do your best to be right with God each day

Patti LambA few days ago, we had to make a quick run to the grocery store for some key dinner ingredients.

Maybe they have completely shifted into “summer mode,” but my son and daughter, ages 6 and 3, were hooting and hollering throughout the store like savages.

They played catch with an apple in the produce section then attempted a sword fight with stalks of celery. I won’t even mention the incident in the cereal aisle.

Because the kids were in especially rare form, I tried to make the trip as quick as possible. But their antics continued, my embarrassment grew and enough was enough.

“Stop it, kids!” I demanded. “They will think we’re a bunch of heathens.”

An hour later at home, the phone rang and my 6-year-old son, Henry, answered it since I was preoccupied with an overflowing pot on the stove. I heard him tell the neighbor, “She can’t come to the phone right now because she’s busy burning dinner.”

I shook my head and said, “Oh, what that neighbor must think.”

My son is a bit more observant than I had considered, and innocently posed this question. “Mom, why do you care so much about what other people think?” he asked.

His question caught me off guard. He’s right. Too often, I’m overly concerned with what other people think. I am conscientious about the glances from passers-by at the grocery store. I’m sensitive to fleeting comments made by my peers and, more often than I’d like to admit, I look for their affirmations to be content.

Instead of being so concerned about what others think, I need to consider what matters most—What does God think? And is the way I’m living making God happy?

In this world, we will always have fans, and we will always have critics. Some people will like us, and some will not. But what is most important is whether God likes the choices that we’re making. We must look to God instead of to those around us.

At the end of the day, it’s between me and God. When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see the many people I was hoping to impress or make an impact on during the day. It’s only me. I must remember that I am accountable by God’s standards instead of by the world’s standards.

I don’t think God consults our neighbors for references when we try to get into heaven. He won’t be swayed by fancy clothes or the amount of square footage in our houses.

In the end, he will see us as we truly are. So we shouldn’t consider others as our judges. And we should never consider ourselves as the judges of others, either.

There’s a beautiful quote from a devotional titled God Calling, which says, “Never judge. The heart of man is so delicate, so complex, only its maker can know it. Each heart is so different, actuated by different motives, controlled by different circumstances, influenced by different sufferings.”

So the next time I catch myself worrying about what others think or how they might see me, I will return to my son’s question in my mind. I realize that I cannot control what others think of me, but I can do my best to be right with God.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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