Sometimes I need a little perspective. God's word is always faithful to provide perspective. It's meant to be a mirror which reflects our image framed by His word. Some days, there are quite unsightly blemishes and a little salve or concealer won't do the job. Only the correction, conviction and cleansing of the Holy Spirit will bring about a more Christ-like complexion.
I may not complain outwardly everyday but I admit my hourly prayer dialogue is more often complaining and begging than actual prayer. I also like to tell God and other people all the work I do as a mother or wife. I tell friends or my husband about how life is so hard and how under appreciated I feel. At days end, I recount the list of all I have done in a day to make myself feel good and prove my value. Some might casually say I'm martyring myself. I even find myself throwing that word out when someone is annoying me with their so-called tragic life.
So what is a martyr? It is defined as someone who willingly lays down their life and is killed for their religious beliefs. A look into scripture shows us the life of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Stephen's story is told in Acts 6,7, and 8. He is described as being full of the Spirit and having the face of an angel. Stephen stood before a seething crowd and gave them an account of the coming of Christ from the very beginning of time. He told them about their faith's founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He showed them how their great rescue from the Egyptians and exodus by Moses was all a part of the coming of Christ.
In the crowd's collective mind, this was blasphemy and for the lack of a better word, crazy-talk. They began to stone him. We might take that lightly but some research tells me that depending on the method used, it could take 20 minutes to two hours for a person to die this way. It is gruesome and gory. Before dying, Stephen then cries out that he sees heaven open and asks God to forgive them for killing him. His face was described as angelic but it sounds more Christ-like to me.
There is nothing I do in my daily life that measures up to martyrdom. As I read this story and meditated on these words, I realized families do not need martyrs, they need mothers and fathers willing to do whatever it takes to help the family thrive. Businesses and communities need workers who will work as if they are working for the Lord, Himself. That means work the job, drive the commute, strip the pee soaked sheets, wipe up the vomit, dry the tears, sit up late with the angst filled teen, scrub the floors, run the errands, shovel the snow, check the homework, make the appointments and on and on. Complaining and seeking attention for what is expected, required and frankly, for what we often volunteer for, is a perverted attempt at self-martyrdom.
None of those tasks compare to the heroic acts and death of Stephen. Our lives do not come close. In recent years, brothers and sisters of our faith have knelt down on sandy beaches only to lose their heads for loving Jesus. Sometimes I don't feel worthy to be called their sister because I'm not sure I'd face such a thing with such grace and dignity.
Some speakers like to say they may have stepped on someone's toes when presenting hard truths. My own toes are stubbed, black and blue - I'm not here to condemn, this was simply what was revealed in the mirror or Scripture. With some perspective we can do the tasks set before us with more joy and thanksgiving and perhaps have an angelic complexion of our own.