Because when it comes to cake making, we are the odd couple. She is awesome. I am not. Actually, I am horrible at making birthday cakes. Hor-ri-ble. Atrocious really. But my husband encourages, and my kids make well-meaning stabs at enthusiasm, and in the end it is edible and soon gone forever.
But one of the things that makes the shortcoming more palatable is complimenting my sister-in-law on her skills. She loves it and she's good at it, and I would gladly come up with any excuse to celebrate if it meant she would make us a cake.
And when I praise her for her mad caking skills, I take a moment to realize it's not all about me.
Or is it?
I imagine that if I complimented her and she completely disregarded it, or responded with a "tell me something I don't know" kind of comment, I would actually be hurt. Of course, that is completely against her nature, but complimenting anyone and having them treat your praise as garbage can be frustrating. Infuriating even. Because deep down we would like to think that our opinion matters to someone other than ourselves. We'd like to think someone esteems our praise enough to smile or feel heart flutters of fulfillment that warm them the rest of the day at least.
Deep down, it's actually kind of a pride thing.
Now let's stop here- I do not mean this to be a downer. I would hate for anyone to think they give compliments purely out of narcissism, or that everyone who compliments them is doing it for their own prideful reasons. I'm just pointing out a truth- our opinions can become an idol. I mean, you wouldn't want someone's livelihood completely dependent on what you had or had not told them, correct? A lot of pressure there.
And I really point it out only because I so enjoy giving and getting compliments that it takes a deliberate effort on my part to recalibrate what has value in my life.
When things are going well, the recalibrating takes a backseat to the limelight.
When I struggle, that is my godly nudge to remember what matters.
So, when I have the holy task of baking the birthday cakes- even with all the sweet encouragement in the face of my glaring deficiencies- I have to ask what really matters anyway? That my family loves me no matter what? That is a gift I cannot thank God for enough, but it just takes a quick gloss-over of Job to remind me that all flesh is like the grass, and we are all of us certainly flesh here today-gone tomorrow.
My husband's opinion? I sure do love and value his amazing support, but if he's ever not around for a birthday the cake isn't going to set or flop based on his two cents.
My kids' opinions? Ok, it is my goal to be the best mom ever for them, but even the best moms have their shortcomings and chances are cake-making won't be the biggest one they discover about me.
In the end I have to ask, what does God think of it? Because when people are praising or pouting about little-ole-Lauren's words and actions, in the end I only have One opinion that matters. And so it does me all the good in the world to take the focus off me and put it onto the One who cares for me, because His truth is life-giving:
He is My Father and He Loves Me!
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;
and so we are. 1John 3:1
He is My Everlasting Love!
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3
He Thinks I am Worth Fighting For!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He Has Made Me His Bride, and Rejoices Over Me!
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
In this line of work it is amazing to be recognized for the good in the middle of the chaos.
But more than that, it is amazing to be recognized as God's child, His bride, His love.
May God remind us that when we are tempted to fly high or sink in the mire of public opinion, it is His true love of us that makes all the difference.