True confession time: I can be a little obsessive. I can get easily become fixated on certain things that are out of order: a crooked seam in a quilt, papers at school stacked up a certain way, crooked pictures hanging on the wall. Sometimes I am able to fix them, and sometimes I can’t. There are times it takes all I have to force myself to move on and believe that my day or the success of the project does not rise and fall by how lined up something is. Making my daughter’s wedding dress was interesting, as you can imagine. So is preparing materials to teach. I recognize that this occasional compulsion comes both from a need for external approval—to appear good, capable, and strong– and a desire to control the outcomes of my actions. If I gather all the papers and materials for the school day, and lay them out in perfect order, the day will run smoothly and seamlessly. Anyone who works with children and in a school system is laughing right now as they read this. They know that aiming for a smooth and seamless day that proceeds exactly as you planned, is much like laying a beach blanket out on the sand– flat and clean, corners straight– and expecting it to stay that way. Five minutes with children at the beach has it curled up and damp with salt-sticky footprints running through its center.
One day I was sitting on the farmer’s porch, trying not to feel rushed, praying, when I glanced down and noticed that one newly polished fingernail was smudged. All that layering of lacquer and splaying of fingertips while waiting for things to dry was unsuccessful. I knew I’d be ridiculously distracted by it all day as I sat through school district inservice. I didn’t have time to repolish and dry the nail before I left for work. So, here’s what I decided:
God was in the smudge. I put Him there.
I decided that everytime I glanced at it or rubbed it, I would pray. I would meditate on His glory in the midst of my 8 hour long workshop day and turn it into a worship day.
So THERE! Just see if I allowed my job to take time away from Him and distract me! I will turn the distraction into a call to His heart!
I need to do this more often—turning irritations and dissatisfaction into an invitation to God to dwell with me in the moment. Stained and marked kitchen floor, dog hair tufts rolling like tumbleweeds throughout the house, a protesting and whiny car steering mechanism, an in-your-face social weakness of a child—they can all become objects of invitation to God’s presence. He’s in it all anyway, I am missing something if I don’t acknowledge it and absorb it’s power.
While not exactly a weakness, a smudged fingernail did ‘keep me from being conceited’. It did cause me to recall God’s grace and power in my own imperfections. This small, insignificant irritation turned into a reminder of how God speaks to us:
*even in the small things, He calls our hearts to Him
*life’s bumps and mountains, the irritations and trials, both big and small, are places where God works
Here I am today, a bleating sheep, inviting the Shepherd into the small things.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 1 Cor. 12:7-10 NIV
Abide in me, and I in you. John 15:4 RSV