I like to know WHY… maybe its the bent I have towards teaching, or perhaps its because it makes difficult/frustrating situations more bearable if there is a discernible WHY.
Know what I mean? Where you can go, “Ahhhh. I get it now. THAT’s why that happened.”
At the same time, I’ve learned through experience, circumstances, & Scripture that sometimes “rain falls on the just & on the unjust.” That there is no easy correlation between something happening & the readily apparent REASON for that thing happening. Yes, it would be great if “everything happens for a reason,” or that the sources of frustration, pain, etc could be immediately & directly identified (& therefore, have the resulting pain mitigated, even if just a leeetle.)
But it doesn’t always. At least I think it doesn’t.
On the subject of patience & being content with trying circumstances… you may have heard me tell or write about the time we were on the way to Do Something in the City (back in the olden days, the 80s,) & my mom was driving our trusty manual transmission VW bus from our home in Golden Valley towards Civilization (it’s been a minute…. there was NOTHING in Golden Valley back in those days… just houses. If you wanted Things, you had to travel.) We were at the 4 way stop-light that was 395N, (now its a real life dedicated to Golden Valley off-ramp!) waiting for the light to change so we could hurry on our way (as fast as a 70’s VW bus could hurry.) The light changed & …. nothing. Clutch is popped. We’re not moving. This is Not Good.
This kind of thing didn’t happen much when my parents were driving, as both of them could navigate a VW shifter with the best of them. Just not this time. So, my mom went to start the car, & it took a bit for it to catch (not unusual for a VW bus – if you know, you know….) Finally the engine squirreled to life & we started to move, just in time to see & feel the WHOOSH of an 18-wheeler as it ran the red light at the intersection.
Any frustration we’d felt (ok, that I’d felt as an 11-year old backseat driver) melted away in awe… even I knew that if we’d pulled out when the light turned green, we’d have been a schmear of cream & tan German auto parts. Thank you Jesus – THIS was easy to see; we’d been spared from becoming schmear by a popped clutch.
But what about…?
Most Thursday mornings, we (me & some guys) meet for prayer & talks in the Loft at our church at the Crack O Doom/Dawn… 6 a.m. As a creature of habit & routine, I like to Be Ready & Prepped (whatever that means) so when its time to pray, I feel like its not the first thing I’m doing during the morning… (FWIW, this Ready & Prepped list involves coffee, reading & finishing my morning Bible time, & making sure our meeting space in the Loft is Ready-To-Go.
This Thursday started like they usually do: I rolled out of bed at 4:34 & hit the shower; quickly dressed & headed downstairs with My Stuff to make my coffee (& to prep theBean’s coffee cup so all she has to do is hit the “GO” button on the KCoffee machine.) Now, an aside – after talking with my friend Antonio before our last Snow Sunday at Hillside (where we only did online church because, SNOW,) I discovered that we both are what the kids might call “Bougie“/Boujee (aka “Extra Fancy) when it come to our coffee & how we like it/make it. I don’t know that I’d agree, but say I do – if Antonio is bougie, then I will be bougie with him. Good company, that man. Anyway, I digress.
In our pre-church discussions, we talked about how we USED to drink coffee (black as the night, strong as the universe,) & how we drink coffee NOW (you can ask Antonio how he takes his coffee & decide for yourself just how things have changed for him.) As for me – I like to PUT THINGS into my coffee:
That is it. And trust me. It is tasty & it is > black coffee.
I do this EVERY DAY, with little to no trouble, no mess, no wasted motion… except today, I dropped the plastic dish holding the chocolate salt. Which means I spilled the WHOLE dish on the counter & floor. This very fine, very powdery chocolate salt, all over. At 4:50 a.m. I gotta be on the road in 2, people.
Might have gotten a little huffy-puffy. I wasn’t leaving the mess for theBean, so cleaning it up NOW was a must. And so with broom (& vacuum) in hand, I made the best of the mess & cleaned it up. Even rescued some salt off the counter (hey! There’s a win for me.) But…
Turns out I overfilled the to-go mug I was using that day. My usual mug was in Eugene (my 2001 Land Rover beast machine, where it doesn’t belong,) so I used the backup to a backup. And I miscalculated the size of the cup. Which overflowed with coffee & MCT oil & creamer & chocolate salt. BAHHHH! (Or something like that) came out of my mouth – no big deal. I can do this. I’ve already conquered one dragon this morning – I’ll just take it sloooow & dump a little coffee out of the to-go cup into the sink & be on my way.. Except…
MCT oil is oily. Slippery even. So slippery on plastic that when I attempted to pick up my cup, I dropped it. And the liquid flowed as only liquid & oils & creams can flow. All over. Everywhere. On the counter. Into the cabinets. Into the drawers. Onto the floor. Here. There. Everywhere.
I saw red (& other angry things.) And then I KNEW I was going to be late for my routine. Late for prayer maybe. And this mess wasn’t going to clean itself.
And the second thought that came to my mind (the first one wasn’t helpful or constructive,) was this: “Ahhh. I remember the VW bus incident, & several others like it where I was spared something terrible by an unfortunate & frustration circumstances that bothered me tremendously in the moment, but turned out to be a Blessing in Disguise.. Maybe THIS is THAT…”
Almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I ‘heard/felt’ God speak, “What if this is just one of those things that happens? What if there’s no visible, easily traceable lesson to discover? What if THIS is just a THING that happened, & you get to CHOOSE how you will act/respond/move forward?”
Those thoughts stopped me in my oily, creamy, chocolate tracks… I didn’t like that idea. That was DUMB. Its better if there’s a REASON. Something I’m being spared from… But what if if IS just an opportunity to be patient, to slow down, to clean up, to laugh at myself? What if THAT is all THIS was?
It has to be enough, today. And so it was.
Got to the church at the same time as Matt – not late, but not on my schedule. Thought quite a bit about all the things I’d experienced that morning… All the frustrations. The messes. The (surprising) NEED for all of it to be more than just a life obstacle to navigate… one of those things that every single one of us faces all the time. Told the guys about it. Laughed together.
Been thinking about it for 2 days now. I aim to choose patience whenever it comes to mind that it IS a choice how I respond. To not have to see or know the WHY about my (petty) inconveniences… or even the not-so-petty ones. I’m asking Jesus for transformation in my heart, mind, & character. To reflect Him. To laugh quicker. To slow down. Even if I can’t see the WHY or the lesson in it.