I don’t like being startled. It brings out my ugliness.
I am sitting here in the early morning semi-silence of compromise, praying. Scott is whirring away on the exercise bike and Libby is gnawing noisily on her bone. Those are sounds I have worked to be accustomed to and not distracted by. It hasn’t been easy. Carving out this quiet spot as my meeting place with God was my work, my choice, my space. I guard it jealously. Like a land grant of time, I homesteaded and put up a heart-fence of stone to protect it, first on the early mornings of Saturdays and vacation days for years, now every day before work.
Unfortunately, a conflicting need has arisen. My husband’s work-induced stress levels are such that if he doesn’t find healthy ways to arm his body defensively, he will implode. So, this need to share my time and space comes from a good thing. Every other morning he shuffles downstairs and enters ‘my’ space. I have to work hard to cast Resentment aside. Resentment is heavy and my muscles are sore from holding it away. God’s work continues and His Spirit moves me toward joy that my husband is working positively toward mental and physical health. I am proud of him, and tell him so nearly every workout session.
Then the TV news blasts on, harsh and loud, and my reaction is to snap at my husband. Why? The jarring sound came without warning, and is in such contrast to the semi-silence. And it’s in MY moment. I was praying, and now I am totally distracted and feel agitated.
“I’m being as considerate as I can. I want to see what happened.” Is he, really? I ask myself. I think not, not in this moment. But in general, absolutely. Still, now we’re both a little grumpy. *sigh*
How to smooth the ruffled feathers and regain the peace?
Pray and meditate on God’s power: Rejoice in His nearness. Nestle in to the dwelling with Him in me. Stay there until the change comes.
Get up. Move toward my husband. Climb over mySELF, who is looming large and scowling. Ignore the desire of my heart which does not match what I know is the right thing to do. Reach out and start a regular conversation, showing interest in what he wanted to hear. Tickle and tease him a little bit, until we both smile.
This does not happen without Jesus and His Spirit’s help within me. This is the hard heart work that comes in the unexpected moments. It is the hard work of marriage. It is the sweaty, easily avoided work of church fellowship. It is the draining task of being an employee, a coworker, a neighbor, a family member.
I had to stop what I was doing. It took effort, even in this small thing, to tame the lion of selfish anger that is so easily awakened. I am ashamed and frustrated that still, after all these years of the Spirit’s work in my heart, I so easily snap.
It’s so easy to be good when things are going my way. It’s so hard to do the right thing, even in the smallest of moments, when the situation conflicts with my personal interests.
I wonder how many times Jesus had to climb over and out of His humanity—the part that screams loudly to put self first—and be the Spirit-balm to a person that sparked the aggravation?
How many times did He need to “count to 10” and unclench His fists as His dearest friends, those He was mentoring, argued among themselves and tried to derail His plan?
How many times did He watch Judas, who He had welcomed and taught and loved, deal dishonestly with the funds of the group and live duplicitously? Did the man in Him have to work hard at holding his tongue in the grasp of grace instead of resentment?
Surely the Pharisees got under His skin. They claimed to know the Truth that He treasured, and that He was, but didn’t live it, over and over and over again. There was a little (ha!) bit of arrogance to work around in that particular religious leader camp.
In our women’s Bible class, we have been discussing God’s love in us, and living it with sandpaper people. You know them- those that just seem to rub you the wrong way. Maybe it’s their tone of voice, or bossy attitude. Maybe they always turn the conversation toward themselves or ‘one up’ you. Maybe they don’t consider your ideas or they talk over your voice all the time, or monopolize the conversation. Perhaps it is difficult for you to see any worth in what they’re saying because it’s buried in sarcastic arrogance.
All we can do is ‘be Jesus’ to them and in those situations. Climb out and over our humanity and be Jesus.
Satan’s attacks don’t come with flashing red lights that warn of imminent danger. We already got that warning. They sneak up on you, when you are tired, or hungry, or completely preoccupied.
Whoever would have thought the lion would pounce during prayer? Apparently I wasn’t paying attention while studying Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8,9
So, there I sat, heart pounding from the startlingly high volume of the television news blasting its way into my dawn prayer.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7,8
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
So submit I did. It took many more minutes than I would like to admit, but I sat there, breathing slow, praying my way to claim the peace that had been thrust from my heart and mind.
Here’s what happened: The Spirit did His healing work. Made me wait. Helped me calm. Made me able to move my feet and heart to my husband in that sandpaper moment.
Here’s what I hope, what I pray I will do the next time (and we all know there WILL be a next time…and another…): I pray I can stop. I pray I can submit to the time the Spirit calls me to take and calm my spirit. I pray I can climb out of my human selfishness and reach out to touch the sandpaper with Jesus.
Blessings on your day, and all your inflaming sandpaper encounters.
[Scripture quotations are]from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.