The first thing I noticed was the smell of rotting meat.
I’d just flown back from a two day conference, where I’d sat elbow to elbow with CEOs and marketers for million (or billion) dollar companies, learning from a multiple time bestselling author and renowned speaker.
Before the conference, I obsessed over what I would wear, over how I would introduce myself, over the chip in my nail polish that would surely give me away as an impostor who didn’t belong there. The stunning location and beautiful event materials made me want to shrink inside my navy blazer and disappear.
But then, the conference got underway. I stumbled through introductions, and to my shock, no one told me to leave. In fact, they actually listened to my ideas and took my suggestions seriously. No one interrupted me, or made me feel like I was too young, or too idealistic, or just didn’t understand the way things worked. They actually listened to what I had to say, and found it valuable. By day two, I felt like I belonged – like I could be confident and speak up, because I’d be taken seriously. I was taken seriously.
And then the conference ended. And that brings me back to the smell.
As soon as I walked through the door to my office, I smelled decomposing meat.
While my colleague and I were gone at the conference, some other team members had been using our workspace, without asking. They’d had some BBQ for dinner, and left their trash on our desks.
Dirty napkins, empty coffee cups, and of course, the rotting carcass that I’d smelled when I first walked in.
These just happened to be the same team members that we’d just spent hundreds of hours of our time over the last few weeks in planning for a project for them, and then my colleague spent two solid weeks of travel, and several late nights, early mornings, and squeezing in their phone calls and helping them even while we were at the conference. They’re the same team members who don’t fill out request forms, and demand 24 hour turnarounds without apologies or even a thank you.
I bet it’s happened to you too, even if you don’t work in an office. A few hours after your birthday celebration, you realize that you’re the one they all expect to wash the sink full of sticky plates and silverware, and clean the cake out of the carpet. After the Mother’s Day service at church, your husband complains about the laundry not being finished, and the kids are whining about what you fixed them for dinner. You come home from coffee with a friend feeling refreshed, only to find the house is in shambles inside and your husband is so happy you’re home … so he can go back to cleaning his car.
The injustice stings. These are the people we’re trying to help, and instead of showing appreciation, they just demand more, or respond with outright disrespect.
I set off to find those co-workers. I was going to show them the photos I’d just taken of the evidence. I was going to demand an answer to why they thought that was an ok way to behave.
They weren’t in their offices. I felt a little thrill as I thought of being avenged, and I swung by my boss’s office. But she wasn’t there either. Still angry, I marched back to my office.
I cleared off and threw away all the trash. The injustice of it still burned.
Driving home, my mind drifted to weekend plans, and I remembered suddenly that Good Friday was in two days, followed by Easter Sunday.
And then slowly, like sunlight rising over the edge of the horizon, it began to dawn on me.
Two thousand years ago this week, Jesus suffered mockery, abuse, torture, and finally death at the hands of the very people he came to serve.
But it wasn’t just for those people in Jerusalem that he willingly suffered and died. It was because he knew that I would sin that he died, so that I could be right with God.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Friend, sometimes we will be despised. We may actually suffer at the hands of those we’re trying to help.
But thank God, we have a savior who knows what it is to suffer. And he modeled for us servant leadership, and true love. And when he calls us to love the unlovely, he’s already shown us what that looks like.
Because he first loved us, when we were still sinners, trash and all.