Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
My kitchen garbage can is one of the most overlooked things in my home. It does its job; collecting all the extra, all the unnecessary, all the stuff nobody wants. Day in and day out, filled to the top, and then to overflowing. As its contents reach the top of the can, family members will cram more in, pushing down the waste to fit more inside. For some reason, emptying the garbage can and relieving its load is not something my family thinks to do.
Don’t worry, family … I got it!
Do they not see it? Do they not want to deal with it? Do they take it for granted? Think they can pile stuff in there continually? Do they assume it will always be there, ready to serve, to consume all the mess?
Yes, the kitchen garbage can is one of the most overlooked things in my home; but sometimes, I feel like I am too.
You don’t have to be a woman, or a mom to feel this way. Do you ever feel like you are quietly, dutifully performing your job; yet no one seems to notice?
You give and you give and you give, and you take on everyone else’s ‘stuff’. When you get too full, you push it down and take on more. There you sit, arms and heart open wide, ready for the dumping.
Maybe it is stress. Maybe it is sadness. Maybe it is one of the 1000 feelings that fill my heart this time of year. I look at that garbage can, filled to the brim, the end of a wet paper towel sticking out from under its lid; and I feel a kinship. My heart shouts a silent, yet exasperated, “Me too!” as I lift her lid and lessen her load.
It may sound crazy, but my mouth utters an audible, “thank you” to my cylindrical faithful servant.
I feel like she needs to hear it.
I need to hear it once in a while, too.
Excuse me for a moment while I imagine what that might be like …
“Thank you for that extra jar of peanut butter in the pantry, the one you bought when you saw it was getting low.”
“Thank you for staying up and washing that shirt I need tomorrow. Sorry I didn’t tell you until 11pm that I needed it.”
“Thank you for making dinner. It was fabulous!”
Or maybe the phrases in your mind sound a little different…
“Thank you for covering my shift, for the third time this month.”
“Thank you for always getting things done, even when it isn’t really in your job description to do it.”
“Thank you for taking on Joe’s duties, while we look for his replacement.”
Dare to dream, right?
Now I know (deep down) my family appreciates me … way more than they appreciate that poor garbage can; but when all those little tasks I do day in and day out pile up, I start to feel like the garbage can. Or maybe more like the bag inside. Like those displays of ingratitude are the sharp-edged containers that puncture holes in the bag, and let all that nasty liquid pooled at the bottom leak onto the floor.
Only my heart leaks something else – it leaks sadness and hurt and sorrow. It leaks anger and bitterness and the sting of being unseen.
Do you ever feel that way?
Unseen. Unnoticed. Unappreciated.
Do you feel like you give and you do and you clean and you help? Do you feel like you encourage and maintain and produce and manage? Do you feel like you give every last drop of yourself…but it still isn’t enough?
There are days I want to plan a strike, a walkout, a termination of my duties. I want to leave the dishes in the sink, the clothes on the floor, and the pantry bare. Maybe you want to leave that report unfinished, that time clock unpunched, that load undelivered.
I feel you.
I want to tell you that I see you, too.
You, Mama Bear, carting those little ones through the store, praying that none of them lose it at the checkout, and that no one falls asleep in the car; because that means that naptime, sweet naptime, won’t happen … and that means the laundry will have to wait until bedtime and it will be grilled cheese for dinner again, and all you need is just one.minute.to.yourself…
You, Front Cashier, working on your day off again because the new girl didn’t show up; and you need the money because your car needs brakes and your daughter needs braces, even though you need a new pair of shoes, because you have had the same pair for 5 years now. You know, the ones with the hole in the toe that lets the rain water seep inside your socks …
You, Dutiful Son or Daughter, taking care of your children and your parents and your elderly next door neighbor. You’ve got a handful of calendars organized in your head; and not one of the appointments on your schedule is your own…
You, Cancer Patient, going through chemotherapy again, trying to stay positive for your family, trying to stay faithful and hopeful, trying to smile through the pain and the hurt and the fear and the unknown; because you can’t bare the thought of your loved ones suffering…
I see you.
God sees you.
All those times when your back and your arm and your hip hurt, but you dare not move because your sick child finally fell asleep. All those times when you just sit down to steal 10 minutes of silence and rest your weary soul, but your phone rings and someone needs you. All those times when you go to work when you don’t feel like it, when you complete a project but don’t get credit for it, when someone has to stay late and you wonder why that someone is always you.
God sees you.
All those sleepless nights and temper tantrums and spilled juice.
All those extra shifts and unfair workloads and misfired credit.
All those errands and pop-in visits and delivered meals.
All those encouraging words and tireless efforts and voluntary burdens.
You don’t need recognition. You don’t expect a standing ovation for every completed task … but sometimes, it would be nice if someone would just see you.
God sees what you do, even when the world doesn’t notice.
God knows how tired you are , even when the world doesn’t care.
God understands how you feel, even when the world doesn’t try.
Even when the “thank you”‘s are non-existent.
Even when the “good job”‘s don’t come.
You do it because God gave you a servant heart. You do it because you love your people. You do it because you love your job. You do it because it needs done.
God bless you. God will continue to bless you.
Let us not be bitter about the efforts we make. Let us feel honored that God placed us where we were needed, because He knew we were right for the job.
Let us be thankful for our willing hearts and our able hands. Let us be joyful that we can perform the tasks before us. Let us be thankful that we can be there for those who need us, appreciated or not.
Let us remember that what we do, we ultimately do for the Lord. We can look past the unintentionally ungrateful children, the assuming yet often overwhelmed bosses, the demanding but dependent loved ones; because we serve a God who sees our actions, our hearts, and our weary souls.
All of it. And loves us for it.
Also, let us remember always how it feels to go unnoticed; and, then let us make a point to notice others.
If we are honest, aren’t we guilty of doing the same?
Let us provide the ‘thank you’ and the ‘good job’ that the world does not. Let us give encouragement to those who encourage others.
I know I will be looking at others with fresh eyes; and I will be generous with my gratitude.
I know I will go back to the grocery store and the laundry room and the stovetop, with renewed purpose.
I know I will notice the unnoticed, like God notices me.
For one day, I will hear the words, “Well done, my faithful servant”…
and it won’t just be me talking to my garbage can.