It was the first time I had seen her in almost a year. She called me over, right outside the grocery store, and told me all about the past months. About the new baby that filled her life and her arms, about the way her relationships were growing better, the way God was working in her life.
And I’ll be super honest with you all: I felt a bit perturbed.
See, I was the one who gave up time for her and cared for her son when she could not. I was the one who sacrificed and said the hard things and stared her right in the face and told her that God had a plan for her that didn’t involve getting beat up by a drunk boyfriend.
Then one day she disappeared from my life. I didn’t know what happened or where she was.
And for a year, my story didn’t intersect with hers.
When it did, on that humid summer day, I wanted to roll my eyes at God. “Why,” I wanted to say, “did I have to wade through the rough stuff without getting a chance to be part of the turn-around? Why did I get the crap and other friends get the joy?”
I gave her a hug goodbye and then climbed into the car, with the questions swirling through my head. It was there, with sweat dripping down my back, that I felt the answer. The truth I needed to face.
John the Baptist faced it centuries ago. His disciples came to him and said, “Hey, John, remember that guy, Jesus, whom you testified about? Well, He’s baptizing people over on the other side of the Jordan, and all your followers are going to Him.” (my paraphrase)
And John looked at them and said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
All the people that I minister to and encourage and disciple? The hope is that they will walk away from me and go find Jesus. He must increase and I must decrease.
Because I can’t save anyone. I couldn’t save her. Only Jesus can.
It doesn’t matter how much of the picture I get to show up in. It doesn’t matter if I ever see the good stuff. All that matters is that I remain faithful to speak His name and prepare the way for His truth to enter hearts.
Sometimes that means all I get is the dirty part. All I see are the filthy feet that need washing. Jesus says, “If you follow me, you will do as I do.” I’ll bend low and wash the feet of those around me. And in doing so, glory will rest on Him. Not me.
And that’s okay, because it’s not about me.
It felt as if God’s grace poured over me that afternoon as I drove home. His gentle, loving presence. And I knew the whole truth: as He becomes greater, I am blessed more than I could ever be otherwise. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And with His presence comes all that is good.
We need to learn to let go. Be willing to do the dirty work and never be named as the one-who-cleaned-up. To wash the dishes and care for the children and do the hard stuff, and then be ignored. Because the whole point of all of it, is not to bring glory to ourselves, but to show the world who Jesus is. We need to take John the Baptist’s words and make them our own.
“Jesus must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”