When I was four or five, my family lived in an old little rent house outside of town. We only lived there for maybe a year or two, but I have so many pleasant and amazingly clear memories of our time there. My brother and I shared a room, and I remember lying in our beds chatting in the dark just the way my own kids do now.
At some point during that time, someone gave me a plastic Christmas snow globe. I remember that it had some trees in it. Maybe a little house. The snow was white and a little too large. The paint on the objects inside was slightly off. It had all the markings of one of those treasures of childhood that cost a dollar or less. Who knows where it had been or how many countries it had seen before it made it to my nightstand.
I was fascinated by this snow globe. I would sit for what seemed like hours, shaking it, watching the snow fall. Something about it was just so peaceful and serene. A real pastoral scene, even with the garish, misplaced paint and the snowflakes that were a little too large.
One day I noticed on the bottom of the snow globe there was a little plug. It was just a little piece of plastic, and it was designed to keep the water from leaking out of the globe. I pulled on it, and to my incredible surprise, the little piece popped right out. I sat there on my bed, shocked that I had figured out this secret opening that gave me access to the water and snow inside my globe. So, I did what I’m guessing any preschooler would have done. I drank some.
Just a little bit. I just had a sip. Then I put the plug back in and I set my prized possession back on the nightstand.
I waited a few days before I drank any more. I was really trying to forget that I had discovered that secret spot on the bottom of my beloved snow globe. After all, I felt fairly certain that my mama would NOT want me drinking out of it. And, I had plenty of other ways to get fresh water any time I wanted. Water that was clean, that didn’t come from who knows where, that didn’t have little white “snow” particles floating in it, made of who knows what.
But, I couldn’t help myself. It seemed like the snow globe water just tasted better. It was so refreshing. I could sneak it at night when I was past the point of being allowed one more drink.
Well, after a few weeks of sneaking snow globe drinks, I noticed that the water level in my globe was about half of what it was before. The snow that was left in there didn’t peacefully float around the house and the trees anymore. It just kind of collected on the top of the water and got stuck to the roof of the house. The serene little picture that the globe had once displayed looked kind of gross. Kind of not at all right. And, before long, I didn’t enjoy seeing it sitting on my nightstand anymore. The allure of looking at it had worn off. And, drinking out of it didn’t seem quite so tempting anymore.
I’m not sure what happened to my half-full snow globe. I think I may have tried to add more water to it at some point, but it was never the same. I had ruined my prized possession by using it in a way that it was never intended to be used. And, the result was that I lost the joy that I once had for it.
I suddenly remembered that snow globe today when I was chatting with my kids. I told them the story and they thought it was so hilarious that I was in my room chugging the water out of my snow globe. It is a funny and ridiculous thing for even a preschooler to do. But, I had to chuckle to myself later when I realized that we do the same thing to our churches.
We get involved and we get all pumped about this beautiful experience of being part of the body of Christ. We are sure that we’re going to cherish and adore the church for the rest of our lives. We start trying to figure out the best way to be a good church member, the best way to dig in and really get invested in this thing, and for awhile it works. We really feel like we are serving. We feel like we’re running the race. We take on what we feel we are called to do, and we are in it for all the right reasons: for the glory of God. For the love of Christ. To serve each other.
But, then we start feeling unappreciated. We want some recognition. It just looks so good in our minds, the thought of being praised for what we’re doing. We get proud of ourselves and we start feeling entitled to some respect. To some pats on the back. And, before we know it, there we are, drinking out of the snow globe. At first it tastes good, that desire for our own glory that keeps cropping up. But, pretty soon we have chugged enough of the bitterness that comes with pride that we have lost all joy for serving in the church. We feel slighted and used, and before long we are either resentfully serving, or we have quit altogether.
But, there’s hope. It’s difficult for us to get ourselves out of a pit of bitterness and pride. In fact, it’s practically impossible. It’s like a little kid trying to replace “magical” snow globe water with regular old tap. But, if we want to return to a true love of serving in the church, if we long to go back to the days when living for Christ was a real joy, we can run to Him and ask Him to replace all of the bitterness that we swallowed and replace it with that beautiful picture that we once loved, of the body of Christ loving and serving together, and us doing our part for His glory alone.
It’s really the only way, you know, when the church is shaken here and there, for us to remain beautiful. For us to shine like a prized snow globe on a preschooler’s nightstand. We have to put our own agenda, our own pride, our own desire for spotlights, awards, and glory aside. And, we have to serve from a deep love for our Lord. After all, serving Him in humility is the very least we can do for a King who made Himself a servant for our sake.